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Doc Lloyd DLA-2A Leveling Amplifier Review

If you could have a meticulous recreation of the iconic Teletronix® LA-2A studio compressor at your feet in foot pedal format, would you be interested? Well, that's exactly what the new Doc Lloyd DLA-2A is going for with this new creation. It weighs in at less than 25% the size and cost of the original and the folks at Doc Lloyd claim 100% authentic tone.

The Doc Lloyd Leveling Amplifier

Let's take a look at the components which are expensive and necessary to replicate the classic compressor's unsurpassed audio qualities. There is no skimping on quality here: • Lundahl 1922 Input Transformer • Lundahl 5402 Output Transformer • Kenetek T4B Classic Optical Attenuator Module • JJ ECC803 (Long Plate 12AX7) Vacuum Tube • JJ 12BH7-A Vacuum Tube • Calibrated VU Meter with Backlight • Vishay Beyschlag Thin Film Professional Resistors • Non-piezoelectric Class 1 Ceramic and Film Capacitors • Daka-Ware Bakelite Knobs

If you take the time to look up the costs of the transformers and optical module alone you are talking a few hundred dollars in parts not to mention the double-sided circuitry, resistors, capacitors, vacuum tubes, case, switches, etc.

This thing is quite the piece.

Along for the ride, you also get a: • Power Adapter (100-240VAC Input, 12VDC 1.5A Output, US Plug) • Input and Output XLR Adapters • Inline Power Switch That inline power switch adds a switch in the power adapter line so you can turn the unit on and off without removing the power plug. Nice.

Two sidechain tubes are replaced with high voltage solid-state circuitry which allows for the significant reduction in size while leaving the original audio path fully intact. The line audio path is an exact match of the original LA-2A schematic with a custom 275VDC low-noise internal power supply providing high voltage to the audio circuitry from a standard 12VDC input.

The Doc Lloyd DLA-2A is the real deal.

The DLA-2A has a standard transformer balanced line input and also a high impedance input with a balanced gain stage. It works wonderfully with guitar and bass. There is absolutely no issue with headroom here. There is no inherent loss of highs or lows.

The compressed output signal is passed to a transformer balanced line output that can be connected to a mixing console or headphones as well as an instrument level output that can be connected to a pedalboard or amplifier. It is equally at home on the stage or in the studio.

With just two dials on the face of the DLA-2A it doesn't get any easier to operate.

The Peak Reduction dial controls gain of sidechain amplifier. Set for desired compression. Rotate clockwise for more compression. The Gain dial controls make-up gain of audio amplifier. Set for desired output level and there is a ton of gain on tap. It is possible to drive the circuit into distortion, so be careful. A little gain goes a long way.

The footswitch audio directly from line input to line output. Instrument input and output buffers remain active.

The Doc Lloyd Leveling Amplifier

On the back of the pedal are four input/output jacks, a toggle switch and additional dial. Connect source audio equipment to either instrument input or line input. Line level input will override instrument input if both are connected. Connect line output to line-level equipment and instrument output to instrument-level equipment. Yes, both outputs can be used simultaneously allowing you to send one output to an amp or pedal board and line-level out to FOH or mixing console. Use the emphasis dial to increase high frequency sensitivity. It is flat all the way fully clockwise (the default). Rotate counterclockwise to increase high frequency sensitivity. To learn more about the emphasis control on the original Teletronix® LA-2A check out page 6 and 7 of the manual linked here. Also, this article shows the location of the emphasis control on the original. Essentially, rotating emphasis control more counterclockwise reduces the low frequency sensitivity, so lows don’t trigger as much compression. The result is fuller, more robust lows. The overall frequency response of the compressor isn’t affected, but compression is triggered more easily by lows in the default flat position than when rotated towards the high pass position. I spoke with Russ at Doc Lloyd about his implementation to which he told me:

"My approach to this design was to include every feature from the original LA-2A. I treated the original design as “sacred" and avoided any inclinations to “improve” a legendary piece of recording history. What I wanted to do was add features surrounding the core design to make it accessible for guitar and bass. I imagine the emphasis pot stays in the default clockwise (flat) position for the vast majority of LA-2As out in the wild."

I can't decide where I like the emphasis dial best. On some days, flat suits me just fine. On other days, I like a little more lows.... but no matter what, I'm always happy. About the emphasis control Russ told me:

"It’s mostly carryover from the FM radio days when they had issues with over-modulation at high frequencies."

The Mode switch allows you to operate the compressor in a low ratio compress mode (switch down) or higher ratio mode which is more like a limiter (up position). The VU meter displays compression level in dB and is backlit when the pedal is engaged. The meter works very well and is quite responsive. Very nice!

The Doc Lloyd Leveling Amplifier

A few observations from my experience with the DLA-2A: 1. It has a lot of makeup gain. This gain is necessary when the peak reduction is set high, but massive overkill for lighter settings. You can drive it into distortion if gain is high with peak reduction low. I found that I typically ended up with the gain dial gain set somewhere between 8:00 and 10:00.

2. I tend to like the peak reduction dial set somewhere around 12:00 to 3:00 but I think the sweet spot is right about 1:00 but you can obviously let the VU meter be your guide. Here in this range the compression is obviously working but it sounds sweet, rich and full. Uber quality and fantastic even and smooth compression.

3. Don’t worry about going deep into compression. It can be easy to see the VU meter rocking away and thinking maybe you should cut back, but yet it still sounds so good. And that's exactly how people describe the original LA-2A. People always say it's hard to get a bad sound out of an LA-2A and I agree. Apparently, that high quality Kenetek T4B Classic Optical attenuator module just seems to know what to do.

4. Don't be afraid to play around with the emphasis dial. There's plenty of magic sauce in there.

5. Even at subtle compression settings there is something real nice going on. It's the kind of device that you always want your signal flowing through. It sounds great on its own direct to mixing console and fantastic in front of an amp. At the same time, it sounds fantastic, albeit different, at aggressive compression levels. It's addicting.

The Doc Lloyd Leveling Amplifier

Words I would use to describe the feel of the Doc Lloyd DLA-2A are warm, smooth, full, rich, robust and lush. What you feed it comes out sounding better. No doubt there will be those that immediately see resemblance to the Effectrode LA-1A. There are direct similarities in looks. However, the Doc Lloyd DLA-2A is heavier and also taller. The circuit design is also quite different. Both manufacturers say they are going for a similar result but the Doc Lloyd version is definitely more true to the original. Both are extremely quiet and high quality. Both sound fantastic. The Effectrode LA-1A is easily one of my favorite compressors I've tested to date and a wonderful example of a device that just flat out makes everything sound better. While it is quite transparent, it is adding a presence that many compressors simply can't. In my review of the Effectrode LA-1A I said:

It offers a wide feel and excellent low end response and that "studio feel" people talk about. I also like how open the top end feels with the LA-1A (even without the EQ switch enabled). The whole thing is has an inherent sweetness, while at the same time being punchy and full. Sounds great finger style or slap.

Definitely no slouch and a stellar compressor. I really like the Effectrode at low compressions levels where it imparts some real nice tube like goodness that some refer to as "tone magic". At higher compression levels though it can get pretty squishy. The Effectrode has plenty of clarity and is also brighter sounding than the Doc Lloyd. The Doc Lloyd does not have an engageable boost control like the Effectrode. The Effectrode isn't exactly inexpensive at $579 retail and the Doc Lloyd is priced roughly twice that at $1,169. When you consider the type of components used (especially in the Doc Lloyd) the pricing becomes more understandable.

As a device functioning as a compressor though, I'd opt for the Doc Lloyd every time.

Yep, I like the Doc Lloyd DLA-2A more than the Effectrode LA-1A. The DLA-2A is more useful across the entire range of peak reduction. I like how it functions as a limiter better than the Effectrode. There is something about the optical circuit in the Doc Lloyd that is simply in another league. Add in the VU meter and it is simply a fabulous piece of kit. The Effectrode sounds great and does wonders for your tone, especially when placed in front of a solid state amp. Given the choice, I prefer the Doc Lloyd DLA-2A as a compression device. With bass or guitar you will sound bigger, fuller, smoother and tighter. I love how my instruments respond at higher peak reduction level more than with the Effectrode. I am pleased with how the Doc Lloyd performed with every instrument I played through it, and I didn't want to turn it off. It does exactly what a studio compressor should do but in a much smaller and portable package. It sounds fantastic. The current draw is around 1A steady-state with inrush current closer to 1.5A (charging high voltage caps, cold tube heaters). The pedal does comes with a 12V 1.5A supply in the box. Considering the original LA-2A required 35W, this 12-18W version from Doc Lloyd is quite a bit more efficient.

The Doc Lloyd Leveling Amplifier

The DLA-2A feel substantial and everything about it oozes quality. Even the metal rails protecting the tubes and optical module are bigger in diameter. It definitely seems road worthy. It is a premium piece of gear. History has praised the original LA-2A design as smooth, natural, and eminently musical. Producers love how the design handles transients and how it massages audio like no others. That's how I feel about the Doc Lloyd DLA-2A. Russ at Doc Lloyd has managed to create something smaller in a more pedal format that exemplifies these same descriptors.

I highly recommend the Doc Lloyd DLA-2A. This thing is killer. Yes, it is expensive, but this might be one of the best examples of you get what you pay for.

Pros: • Quality • Sound — hard to make it sound bad • Wonderful compression • Probably the closest thing yet to the Teletronix® LA-2A in pedal format • Unique, in a league of its own

Cons: • Heavy and relatively large size as a pedal board device, but consider what all this thing is • Expensive, but consider the cost of the components • No control over attack, release, knee, etc. but that's not the point of the design Retail price: $1,169 at time of writing See all compressor reviews.

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