Is Retro’s recreation of the legendary Gates Sta-Level more than just a reissue?
Trawl through old interviews and you’ll find that plenty of big-name producers offer nothing but praise for the Gates Sta-Level compressor. It was one of the most successful and enduring compressors of the post-WWII era, and its unique sonic qualities mean that it remains in demand today, although for a rather different application. Second-hand units change hands only rarely, and for a high price. Retro Instruments, though, offer a version of the Sta-Level, which remains true to all the important aspects of the original design, while also incorporating some very useful additions.
Bettering The Sta-Level
As with Retro’s take on the Urei 176, the build quality is flawless. It combines the heavy-duty nature of studio kit from the ’50s with a few key qualities of a well laid-out modern design. In fact, Retro took everything that was good on the original unit and enhanced it, to make the compressor more suitable and more convenient for daily use today. XLR connectors, a standard IEC outlet, the possibility of coupling two or more units, facilities on the rear panel for..
The original Altec 436C was a three-tube circuit. Revolver uses a solid-state sidechain circuit to replace the 6AL5 tube detector used in the Altec, though it retains the same 6BC8 input and 6CG7 output tubes. There are many dual triode tubes that can be substituted, as Retro has a vast NOS supply of American-made tubes (primarily because they were popular television tubes).
The rear panel of Revolver mimics the Altec with horizontally mounted tubes and transformers for proper cooling. The four tubes (two for each channel) are located between and protected by two taller custom output transformers located inside of steel box shields. The output transformers’ laminated cores are oriented 90-degrees from the core of the custom AC power transformer. Part of Revolver’s sonic “secret sauce” revealed to me is that…
Phil Moore talks with Reverb at NAMM 2018 about his latest releases of new gear. The Retro REVOLVER.
A stereo compressor based off of EMI’s legendary modified Altec 436 compressor, seven years in the making.
With the release of their latest creation, the Revolver, Retro Instruments has done it once again by reviving a beloved studio staple and updating it for the modern workflow. Just like other Retro Instrument releases in the past, the vintage vibe extends far beyond the Revolver’s classic looking exterior.
Based on the legendary modded Altec 436, the Revolver is a dual-channel, all tube compressor that has been hand-built in the USA with that classic British tone. It’s also loaded with expanded features, making it a compressor that works in any stage from tracking to mastering.
Since 2006, Phil Moore’s Retro Instruments has been bringing back icons of the bygone era of the recording studio and updating them for modern engineers. From reimagined pieces like the Sta-Level, 176, OP-6 and Revolver to new 500 Series innovations like the Doublewide, these tools have the look and feel of the classic gear that they are inspired by.
We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Phil Moore and
I’ll begin this review with a confession; in over two decades of mixing albums I’ve rarely mixed through a bus compressor. Why? The more I kept hearing that I “had to” in order to get good results, the more I balked at using one. I’d tried out the stereo compressors that I owned and was never quite enthused enough – plus I was getting decent mixes without a mix bus compressor, so why did I have to change my style of working? But when Phil Moore at Retro Instruments sent me his new Revolver two-channel tube compressor to try out, I realized… Read more at Tape Op magazine