This article will discuss the best LA-2A compressor VST plugin simulations.
The LA2A compressor is no stranger to the audio world! Ever since its inception in 1969, it has been a constant in the recording and production studios. Its smooth compression sound is attributed to the gentle compression curve because of its electro-optical circuit behavior.
It produces subtle compression while preserving the dynamics and adding warmth & punch to your sound. It sounds great on vocals, bass, drums, and any instruments!
The LA2A sonics got even more valuable in the DAW era, where it’s easy to sound artificial and digital! However, it’s only because of that technology that we have many digital simulations and VST versions of the LA-2A compressors. These plugins replicate the behavior of the analog machine and its optical and photo-resistor behavior.
We have combined a list of the best plugin simulations of the LA-2A. I will describe the best features and benefits of each of the plug-ins in the list so you can decide which one you want to try or buy. However, I recommend taking a trial before buying. Let’s dive into the list now!
10 Best LA-2A Compressor VST Plugins 2024
1. Waves CLA-2A
Waves CLA-2A is their emulation of the LA-2A compressor and limiter.
Along with the huge range of effects and mixing plugins that Waves offers, the LA-2A is also included. It operates under two analog frequency hums and noise floors, at 50 Hz and 60 Hz. Additionally, all its controls and responses are programmed in an analog style, keeping in mind how the voltage-induced parameters respond to them.
- Analog Compressor/limit switch
CLA-2A has an Analog Compressor/limit switch and allows you to toggle between the compressor and limiter modes, offering different compression characteristics suitable for various audio sources and dynamics.
- Non-linear Peak Reduction control
The plugin’s Peak Reduction control adjusts the signal compression, following a non-linear scale akin to analog gear behavior. This nonlinear scaling ensures that specific steps might provide more compression than anticipated, akin to the behavior of the modeled LA-2A unit.
The typical LA-2A’s compression range lies between 30 to 50, offering nuances in compression levels.
- HiFreq knob
Waves integrate a HiFreq knob with the plugin, enhancing voltage amplifier gain in the peak reduction circuit for frequencies beyond 1 kHz while preserving lower frequencies.
The control’s positioning affects the compressor’s sensitivity to lower frequencies: as it moves away from the ‘Flat’ position, lower frequencies experience reduced compression. This feature can double as a de-esser for handling sibilant elements.
- VU meter
The VU meter in the plugin provides visual monitoring options for Gain Reduction (GR), Output (Out), and Input (In), offering real-time feedback on various stages of the compression process, aiding precise adjustments and control.
2. UVI Opal
UVI Opal offers precise modeling of the LA-2A in seven well-crafted/recreated optical compressors, providing a range of vintage-style compression effects.
Opal is known for its accuracy and dynamic control and is made specifically for those who want to add warmth and character to their audio tracks. It combines vintage authenticity with modern convenience and can also act as a limiter. It offers a VU meter and waveform as visual feedback for the compression.
- Seven models or algorithms
Opal has a total of seven models or algorithms that you can select from. These models have different combinations of different compression curves and attack/release times. SFO Neat, LAX Swift, PAR Sharp, etc., are some of the names of these algorithms.
- Friendly Interface
UVI has integrated quite a friendly interface with the plugin, as it shows the compression and attack/release curves of each of the models from the dropdown menu in the ‘Models’ section. Additionally, the plugin also shows the real-time waveform and reduction done on it! The VU meter showing gain reduction and output levels is also quite helpful!
- Sidechain switch
The plugin allows you to activate the sidechain input by using its sidechain switch, allowing external audio signals to control the compression applied by the plugin. It’s useful for creating dynamic effects and manipulating the compressor’s behavior based on an external audio source.
- Tube simulation feature
Opal’s tube simulation feature mimics the warm, harmonic characteristics of analog tube circuitry. This emulation adds depth, richness, and subtle saturation to the compressed signal, imparting a classic analog vibe to the audio. Additionally, it also has a Mid Presence knob and a Treble on/off switch for more tonal control.
- Responsiveness Knob
This knob adjusts the responsiveness or reaction time of the optical cell simulation within the compressor. Optical compressors, known for their smooth and musical characteristics, often offer controls to adjust how quickly or slowly they respond to incoming signals.
This parameter can affect the attack and release times, influencing the overall dynamics and feel of the compressed audio.
UVI Opal is available in Audio Unit, AAX, VST, and VST3 plugin formats and works with MacOS 10.14 Mojave to macOS 14 Sonoma and Windows 10/11 operating systems.
3. BPB Dirty LA
BPB Dirty LA, a free VST plugin by Bedroom Producers Blog, channels the essence of classic limiting amplifier designs.
Emulating vintage compression, it streamlines workflow with its musicality and optional “Dirty” saturation. Its versatile design suits vocals, synths, drums, and bass, offering a Limiter mode for tighter compression, ideal as “mix glue.” The “Dirty” saturation adds character and is easily toggled off for transparent processing. This parallel compressor boasts a Mix knob for New York-style drum compression.
- Compression/Limiter Modes
BPB Dirty LA embodies the musical compression of vintage limiting amplifiers inspired by classic hardware designs. Its compression algorithm delivers smooth, musical results across various audio sources.
You can also activate the Limiter mode for increased compression intensity, offering faster attack times and higher compression ratios. That is ideal for tightening mixes or adding cohesion to drum buses and master channels.
- “Dirty” saturation algorithm
The plugin implements the “Dirty” saturation algorithm for added flavor and character and (optional) analog-style saturation. This feature enhances tracks with warmth while gently controlling transients, suitable for drums and bass recordings that require presence in the mix.
- Oversampling & VU Metering
BPB Dirty LA utilizes 4X internal oversampling, enhancing audio quality when the “Dirty” mode is engaged. VU metering provides visual feedback on signal levels and compression intensity.
- Optimized for low CPU consumption
You can control the output volume with a range of ±12 dB for matching the gain to the dry signal. The plugin is optimized for low CPU consumption, enabling multiple instances in projects without performance issues.
BPB Dirty LA is available as a VST and AU plugin and is compatible with Windows and Mac operating systems.
4. Native Instruments VC 2A By Softube
The VC 2A is a vintage compressor plugin by Native Instruments and Softube that emulates the LA2A and is available with its Vintage Compressor plugin bundle.
Replicating its predecessor, the VC 2A provides a simple interface with two primary knobs for ease of use. It incorporates features like a side-chain input and parallel compression, augmenting the original hardware’s capabilities while preserving its iconic simplicity and vintage character.
- Compressor/Limiter Modes
You can toggle between Comp and Limit modes, adjusting compression ratios and gain reduction curves. Comp mode offers a softer curve and lower ratio, while Limit mode intensifies compression akin to a limiter for greater control over dynamics.
- Dry knob
The plugin lets you blend original and compressed signals with the Dry knob. Enhance depth and dynamics by mixing these signals, granting control over the level of the original signal in the compressed output.
- High-pass filter
There’s a high-pass filter in the VC 2A applied to the control signal sent to the compressor’s detector. That allows you to tailor the control signal by excluding low frequencies, influencing the compressor’s response to different frequency ranges.
- Peak Reduction knob
VC 2A simultaneously adjusts compression ratio and threshold levels by using this knob, dictating the amount of compression applied to the input signal. Using that, you can fine-tune dynamics and threshold levels seamlessly.
Native Instruments and Softube’s VC 2A requires macOS 11, 12, 13 (latest update) or Windows 10/11, with Intel Core i5 or equivalent AMD CPU, 4+ GB RAM or Apple Silicon Mac (native mode or using Rosetta 2), and is available in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin formats.
5. UAD Teletronix® LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection
LA-2A Classic Leveler Collection is a plugin simulation by UAD and Teletronix, the original creator of the hardware LA 2A.
LA-2A has recreated the three models—Silver, Gray, and early LA-2A of the original hardware, each having unique characteristics and utilities. Overall, these plugins faithfully simulate the T4 photocell’s program and the frequency-dependent response of the original processor. In simple words and application, it sounds very authentic and closest to the LA2A.
- Three units with variations
You get access to a spectrum of controls with these plugins, so you can leverage fast, medium, and slow compression variations across different units. Additionally, the collection consists of presets by Darrell Thorp, Vance Powell, and Ross Hogarth, offering starting points for achieving desired compression settings in various contexts.
- Comprehensive controls
Each LA-2A model features consistent controls for peak reduction, gain, VU Meter, compression/limit, emphasis, High-frequency filter, and on/power switch, ensuring familiarity and ease of use across units.
- Integration with Apollo interface
What’s unique about this collection is that it also lets you record through the LA-2A/LA-2 in real-time via the Apollo interface, allowing you to capture the legendary warmth and character of these iconic compressors in real time.
Compatible with macOS 10.15 Catalina, 11 Big Sur, 12 Monterey, and 13 Ventura and Windows 10/11 operating systems and works with Audio Units, VST3, AAX 64, and LUNA host applications.
6. Black Rooster Audio VLA-2A
Black Rooster Audio’s VLA-2A is a meticulous emulation of the iconic ’68 analog unit, replicating its distinctive sound and feel.
Through real-time component-based circuit simulation, it faithfully captures crucial elements like transformers, tube stages, filters, and the T4A cell. This plugin combines authenticity with optimized SSE2 code for high-performance operations. It ensures audio transparency via auto-adjusted oversampling, efficiently reducing aliasing artifacts.
- Low latency linear phase Dolph-Chebyshev polyphase design
VLA-2A efficiently attenuates aliasing artifacts. It automatically adjusts the oversampling rate based on the session sample rate for optimal CPU usage and transparent sound quality.
- Easy switching
The plugin’s controls consist of bypass processing and toggling switch between compression modes. You can also control compression and gain, monitor levels via a VU meter, and toggle between input, gain-reduction, and output-metering modes. Additionally, GUI size settings allow customization for your preference across all installed Black Rooster Audio plugins.
- User-friendly interface
You can also adjust VLA-2A’s GUI size between small, medium, normal, and large. In addition, its HighDPI/Retina Support lets you monitor and view the plugin on high DPI displays.
VLCA-2A is available in VST, AAX, and AU plugin formats and is compatible with Mac OSX 10.9 or newer (M1/M2 supported) (Intel Core CPU or Apple SIlicon M1/M2 Processor) and Windows 7 or newer operating systems.
7. Mellowmuse CP2V
Mellowmuse CP2V is a simple and easy-to-use vintage compression plugin with a smooth and mellow sound.
It consists of only two knobs, two switches, a dB meter, and a preset menu. The switches allow you to toggle between fast and slow attack and release times, and the knobs allow you to set the compression and makeup gain. Unlike conventional compressors, you cannot apply the threshold and ratio on the plugin. That is automatically set by the plugin based on the Compression value you set.
- Multi-stage analog modeling
It delivers nuanced and rich compression using multi-stage analog modeling, providing depth and character to audio signals across various sources.
CP2V implements 4x oversampling, effectively reducing aliasing artifacts and ensuring detailed and transparent sound reproduction, which is particularly beneficial in maintaining audio integrity during intense processing.
- VU Meter
You get classic VU-style compression metering that offers intuitive visual feedback, allowing precise monitoring of compression levels for optimal adjustments and control.
CP2V is available in 64bit VST, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin formats and is compatible with Windows and Mac operating systems.
8. TBT TLS 1295 LEA
TBT TLS 1295 LEA is a free opto-compressor plugin.
The operation of the plugin is quite simple and is condensed in a single window only. It lets you adjust the attack time between 0.1 and 20 milliseconds, set a sidechain hi-pass filter, give you a peak reduction knob, and lets you add saturation with values between clean and driven styles.
You can also add makeup gain on your compressed signal. Sonically, it sounds just as good as any paid opto processor and has a great sound!
- Time-constant control
The plugin consists of a time-constant control that determines how quickly or slowly the compressor reacts to changes in audio levels. It directly influences the attack and release times, affecting how swiftly the compressor engages (attack) and disengages (release) once the audio crosses the set threshold.
A shorter time constant means a faster response, causing the compressor to react more quickly to sudden increases in audio levels. Conversely, a longer time constant indicates a slower reaction, allowing the compressor to respond more gradually to changes in audio levels.
- GR/Output Level metering
You can set the VU meter in the plugin at Gain Reduction or Output modes. That lets you visually monitor your level changes.
- Clipping monitoring
The plugin has a red light that turns on whenever the signal gets clipped, which lets you prevent your signal from getting distorted or clipped.
You can download the TBT TLS 1295 LEA plugin in 32- or 64-bit VST formats for the Windows operating system here.
Waves CLA-2A is compatible with macOS Catalina 10.15, Big Sur 11, Monterey 12, Ventura 13, and Sonoma 14, and Windows 10/11 operating systems and is available as AAX, AU, and VST plugin versions.
9. IK Multimedia White 2A Leveling Amplifier
White 2A Leveling Amplifier is based on a vintage tube-driven unit and stays true to the hardware compressor.
It operates within a distinct realm of compression with an optically coupled element, the T4A, formed by a fluorescent panel and photocells. Its simplicity relies on its effective peak reduction knob that manages to limit while the gain knob controls output, delivering a gentle, warm compression ideal for evening out dynamics in vocals and bass.
As part of the T-RackS series, it harnesses digital capabilities in DAW formats, ideal for stereo bus applications.
- Straightforward controls
There’s a peak reduction knob for limiting and a gain knob for output—the White 2A offers easy and effective compression, perfect for achieving consistent vocals and controlling wide dynamics in the bass.
- Mid/Side and Left/Right modes
Additionally, you can use the plugin in Mid/Side and Left/Right modes, such that you can apply the effects on either or both of the L/R and M/S channels and also utilize the “link” button.
Plus, it also has a Gain Reduction knob to increase or decrease the volume at the output, so you can gain-match your input and output to actually monitor what the plugin does.
- Multiple switches
White 2A has multiple switches across its interface to give you classic analog and vintage feels! You can use the compressor/limiter switch to switch between different styles of dynamic processing, such that the compressor is more subtle while the limiter is more aggressive.
You can also use the Reset switch to reset the plugin parameters. Lastly, for easy monitoring and A/Bing the plugin effects, you also use its On/Off switch.
- High quality
The plugin’s emphasis on high quality is apparent through various aspects. Its full-latency compensation support ensures precise alignment within the audio processing chain, maintaining synchronization and fidelity. Supporting sampling rates up to 192 kHz signifies its ability to capture intricate sonic details with exceptional clarity and resolution.
- Authentic Emulation
The plugin’s DSM™ and SCC™ proprietary IK technologies guarantee a level of accuracy in emulating analog hardware devices that are exceedingly close to the originals, preserving the nuances and character of vintage gear.
White 2A Leveling Amplifier is compatible with macOS 10.10 or later and Windows 7+ operating systems and is available in Audio Units, VST 2, VST 3, and AAX plugin formats.
10. Brainworx bx_opto
Brainworx’s bx_opto compressor merges the finest tones and traits from revered optical circuits of iconic compressors like the Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor, Elysia Alpha, and Millennia TCL-2.
Instead of merely emulating hardware, this plugin distills many good elements and peculiarities of the light-dependent circuits. With a variable speed knob simulating the photo cell’s reaction to light, it shapes transients with unprecedented precision.
- Versatile sidechain controls
The plugin offers versatile sidechain controls, allowing you to activate/deactivate or solo the sidechain for precise adjustments. Its filtering capabilities span frequencies from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, catering to a wide sonic spectrum, with specific settings at 20, 100, 300, 1000, 5000, and 20000 Hz.
- Four distinct sidechain slopes/curves
Moreover, the sidechain provides four distinct slopes/curves, ranging from high-cut to band-pass filters, ensuring precise tonal sculpting and shaping. A dedicated speed knob empowers you to control the optical compressor’s release behavior for nuanced transient responses.
- Tweakable controls
Additionally, the plugin boasts Peak Reduction, Output, and Mix knobs, alongside a convenient Power switch, allowing simple and easy control over compression parameters.
- Monitoring and comparison purposes
For monitoring and comparison purposes, the plugin gives you a bypass button, A/B/C/D comparison tabs, copy/paste/reset buttons and an ABOUT page that gives you information about all parameters.
Available in AAX DSP, AAX Native, VST2, and VST3 plugin formats, the bx_opto is compatible with Windows 10 – 11 and macOS 11 – 14 operating systems.
Best Free LA-2A Plugin
11. ADHD Leveling Tool
AdHd Leveling Tool is an homage to legendary analog units that encapsulate the essence of tube-based compression.
Tailored for vocals and versatile across tracks, it imparts character while delicately controlling peaks in your mix. This compressor combines vintage warmth with modern precision, delivering a harmonious blend that elevates your audio effortlessly. This is the only plugin in the list that gives detailed attack, release, and ratio knobs, as the original LA-2A hardware doesn’t have that.
- High-quality Processing
The 4x Oversampling & 64-bit Processing in the plugin ensures pristine audio quality, minimizing artifacts and maximizing clarity. Additionally, its sidechain High Pass Filter enhances transparency by eliminating bass-heavy pumping effects and refining the compression response.
- Harmonic Processing
AdHd’s tube drive control adds harmonics and warmth through adjustable tube saturation, enriching the signal with analog character. You can also fine-tune parameters like threshold, attack/release times, and ratio for precise and nuanced compression adjustments.
- Sidechain settings
You can also use its sidechain hi-pass filter, drive knob, gain, and peak reduction parameters to go in-depth with setting up your compression.
- Dry/Wet Blend
Lastly, the plugin’s Dry/Wet Blend offers versatile parallel compression options, particularly effective on drums while maintaining a 100% Wet setting for other applications.
AdHd Leveling Tool works with AU/VST/VST3 64/32 and AAX 64-bit hosts and is compatible with Windows and Mac systems.
Analog Obsession LALA
The LALA update lets you download a Teletronix LA-2A optical limiter/compressor simulation for free!
It retains the iconic LA-2A characteristics while offering an enriched experience through filter sidechain options, external sidechain compatibility, and a versatile mix control for blending dry and compressed signals. For a free plugin, it has a great user-friendly GUI and somewhat original LA-2A sonic characteristics.
- External Sidechain Switch
The plugin empowers the use of sidechain filter options, including HPF for low-end sculpting, MF and MG to adjust mid-frequency compressor sensitivity, and HF/FLAT for high-frequency control, an advanced rendition of the original unit’s R37 setting.
- Limiter and compressor modes
You can seamlessly toggle between limiter and compressor modes for dynamic manipulation and engage the power switch for immediate bypass functionality.
- Fine-tune compression levels
The plugin lets you fine-tune compression levels with the Peak Reduction knob, restore volume post-compression using the Gain knob, and blend compressed and dry signals with precision using the Mix knob for versatile sonic crafting.
Analog Obsession LALA is available in VST3/AU/AAX Native plugin formats and is compatible with Mac 10.11 – 13. X (Intel/Apple Silicon) and Windows 10 – 11 operating systems.
Klanghelm MJUC Jr.
MJUC Jr. inherits the vibrant essence of its predecessor, MJUC, housing a variable-mu** design that embraces both subtle leveling and intense pumping effects.
This compressor, equipped with dual gain stages and simulated interstage transformers, produces an expansive, lively soundstage, offering depth and character. Its innovative three-position timing switch not only dictates attack and release times but also influences transformer slew rates, generating harmonics and enriching saturation.
A blend of MJUC’s Mk1 and Mk2, it marries the natural compression traits of yesteryears with a contemporary, harmonics-rich approach from the early ’60s.
- Time Constants (Fast, Slow, and Auto)
The Time Constants (Fast, Slow, and Auto) in the plugin offer flexibility in setting attack and release times while also adjusting transformer slew rates, influencing harmonic generation for diverse compression effects.
- Compress and Make-up Knobs control
MJUC Jr.’s Compress and Make-up Knobs control compression intensity and post-compression gain, allowing precise shaping of the compressed signal with ease and precision.
Klanghelm MJUC Jr. is available in AU and VST plugin formats and is compatible with Windows and Mac operating systems.
The LA2A is no doubt one of the most iconic pieces of equipment ever made in the audio industry. No matter how much digital emulations try to replicate that sound, there will always be subtle differences between the hardware and software. Also, sometimes, the digital discrepancies may sound good and impart some favorable characteristics to your sounds.
However, the most authentic emulation of the unit, according to me, is the UAD – Teletronix LA-2A! If we talk about the best-sounding emulation, then I would say it’s UVI Opal. Opal’s beauty lies in its treble and tube simulation switches!
Other than the plugins mentioned in the list, Slate Digital – FG-2A, U-He – Presswerk, DMG Audio – TrackComp, Overloud – Comp LA, and Softube – OPTO Compressor are some plugins you can try.
From the list, some standouts are the Waves CLA-2A for its non-linear Peak Reduction control and Brainworx’s bx_opto for its versatile sidechain controls and variable speed knob. Sonically, IK Multimedia White 2A Leveling Amplifier also sounded pretty authentic and warm to me!
I hope you liked this article. Thank you for reading.
Integraudio is an audio blog made specifically for musicians and those seeking audio knowledge.