I’m excited to share with you a review of one of my all time favorite compressors, the Retro Sta Level! It is a beast and one of the few compressors you push up to 30db of gain reduction and it still sounds amazing! By the end of this review you’ll have a good idea of how it sounds on multiple instruments and vocals.
Retro’s Sta-Level is an updated version of the venerable Gates Sta-Level tube radio broadcast compression amplifier. Still based on the original 1950’s all-tube design, Retro adds modern features and new adjustability for more recording studio applications possible than the original units.
The Retro Sta-Level is capable of 40 dB of gain reduction with a signal-to-noise ratio of greater than 70dB and a THD (total harmonic distortion) of less than 1% at 30dB of GR. It has a near ‘ruler-flat’ frequency response within 0.5dB from 20-20,000Hz.
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..