Like it's bigger brother, the Summit TLA-100 and the venerable LA-2A, the TLA-50 has a less-is-more approach, with only two knobs, gain and gain reduction, on its half-rack space panel. There are however two three position switches for attack and release times, giving you a bit more control than the classic two knob compressor. Unlike the LA-2A, this is not an opto-compressor and Summit wouldn't divulge the topology of the unit, referring to it only as "Summit Audio Compression." Regardless of topology, this unit sounds fantastic. It's got great attack and release presets. You can whack the signal with a fast attack setting to get a cool pumping effect without making things sound muddy, or use as it as a very clean transparent compressor with the attack set to slow with faster release times. This tube compressor is not low-fi; it is very clean, and very warm nor does it add any harsh artifacts common in crappy gear. I have enjoyed this compressor most on vocals and acoustic guitar. The TLA-50 comes in very handy when trying to even out the low end of a boomy acoustic guitar eliminating the need to use a lot of EQ. The TLA-50 is the little brother to the TLA-100 which costs almost $1500 more. Unlike a lot of cheaper units the TLA-50 is descended from a line of top-end units and very few compromises have been made in the audio circuitry. It's electrically identical to it's big brother the TLA-100 except that the Jensen 990A output op amp has been replaced with a proprietary Summit Audio op amp. We were hard pressed to tell the difference. The metering is also different, but your ears should be the final judge anyway. At $695 list, recordists on a budget can now own a top-of-the-line compressor without having to find someone strapped for cash on eBay and selling their vintage gear at stupid prices.


Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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