Along with EQ, compression is a mix staple. Time then to talk about a new compressor. Time to talk about the incredible Warm Audio WA2A optical compressor.
Warming up the LA2A the WA2A way
Having already covered the classic 1176 with the WA76, the Warm WA2A takes on that other legend in the studio outboard world, the LA2A. The LA2A is many engineers go-to compressor for a number of sources, but vocals and bass in particular.
The Warm Audio WA2A takes that vintage-classic, and places it at a much more affordable price point as befits their slogan: Serious gear. Seriously affordable.
With its simple set of controls, the Warm WA2A is really big on just letting you use your ears and dialling in the peak reduction knob until it sounds right. The Limit/Compress switch lets you hit the signal very hard or less hard, and you get an output gain knob, and – metering mode aside – that’s really about it. No huge choice of ratios, no attack and release times to worry over, just go with what your ears are telling you.
Of course, as an optical compressor, the WA2A isn’t ever going to give you the fastest attack times on the planet; far from it, but that’s perhaps the reason why opto gain elements often produce such ‘musical’ compression – you get plenty control over the average level of your sound, but those transients, so important in defining a sound, are left to carry on their merry way.
The analogue element
These days, everyone’s after a great way to put some analogue circuitry in their signal path. The Warm WA2A might be just the way to do that. With two chunky Cinemag transformers handling the input and output, and four valves inside the box, there’s no shortage of that analogue vibe in the box.
So, why not just wire up the WA2A as a hardware plugin in your DAW and run each channel through it one track at a time? Even if you’re not even tickling the gain reduction meter, the cumulative effect over the course of a whole mix might be just what you need to give your mix the glue it needs to turn from a collection of tracks into a cohesive mix?
All in all, the Warm Audio WA2A is a mighty piece of gear that can most definitely find a home in any studio – one may have to find its way into mine, with that lovely Kenetek opto element being the perfect counterpoint to the FET in my Purple Audio Action. Squashy times.
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