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Retro Instruments Sta Level Tube Compressor

Retro Instruments Sta-Level Tube Compressor

Retro Instruments Sta Level Tube Compressor is a recreation of the legendary 1956 Gates Sta-Level

Retro Instruments Sta Level Tube Compressor


The Retro Sta-Level is a replica of the legendary 1956 Gates Sta-Level. The Sta-Level dominated the sound of hit radio in the 1960's. Now these super musical sounding compressors have found their way into today's hits. The Retro Gold Edition celebrates fifty years of the products existence. The Sta-Level uses the coveted 6386 tube in a classic G.E. circuit design. Alternatively, the Gold Edition Sta-Level uses a pair of commonly available 6BJ6 tubes (stock). The customer has the choice to use their own 6386 they provide or the 6BJ6 provided with the purchase of the unit. The choice is yours and the sound is undeniably true to the original either way.


The original 6386 compressor developed by G.E., utilized a novel program controlled release circuit. The Sta-Level implementation creates density and consistency while minimizing typical compressor side-effects at up to 40dB of gain reduction! The program path is transformer balanced throughout to cancel control-induced distortion. Push pull circuitry with 6V6 output stage provides wide voltage swing for gain control and line output. The result is that the Sta-Level brings a uniquely familiar intimacy, air and warmth to your tracks.


Revisions to the original design include; Tube balance can be instantly aligned without test equipment; Uses 6386 tube or a pair of 6BJ6 tubes; Two or more Sta-Levels can be coupled together for stereo, surround or sidechain operation; XLR transformer balanced input and output; IEC Power Connector; Hand matched audiophile-grade coupling capacitors; High quality, custom wound transformers used throughout; Internal component safety cover.


Mix Magazine, February 2007

"The Sta-Level defines creamy smoothness when it comes to tube compression. I've used it on a number of sources, from a lowly hi-hat to a lead vocal, and each time its personality makes you want more. I can't say enough about using the three-position switch with the Recovery knob. It makes this compressor eminently usable on almost anything you throw at it." - Kevin Becka

New Toys Article in Music Connection Magazine

"Retro adds modern features and new adjustability for more recording studio applications possible than the original units." ~ Barry Rudolph

EQ Magazine, October 2006

"I always go for the Sta-Level; I love what it does for the bass, it’s a magic box- it keeps the track beautifully solid with a tight bottom end." - Mike Shipley

Tape Op Magazine, September 2006

"The whole reason to have vintage compression is for the sound it adds, and the STA-LEVEL adds classic tone immediately. On acoustic guitar, you can hit it very hard, and the guitar still sounds like an acoustic and not a thwacking, pumping, midrange assault that can result from too much reduction with a lot of compressors I’ve used in the past."~ Craig Schumacher

Sta-Level Artists

"I have an original Gates Sta-Level compressor, but it takes second place to my new Retro version. I find myself turning to it for all of the elements that need to be both nuanced and dynamic: vocals, upright bass, bent horns and broken drums...things with the most unique character and complexion. I would swap out half of my rack for a few more of these."

Joe Henry

Grammy Winning Producer & Engineer

"The Retro Sta-Level was the main compressor I used throughout the Clapton record. The vocals were recorded mainly through a Neve 1073 and Pultec EQ to tape, letting the tape do the work on the way in. When mixing, I did a little vocal riding and the Sta-Level did the rest. It allowed me to keep Eric’s natural dynamics without ever losing the character or the nuances in his performance.

I also used the Sta-Level on Wynton Marsalis’ trumpet, which kept the edges of the sound round. Then, whenever we needed to do a guitar or percussion overdub I'd keep it in the chain. It's just one of those pieces of gear that makes a whole lot of things sound better once you put it through its painstakingly meticulous design. The Retro Sta-Level has the warmth, color and control I've always looked for in a tube compressor.Thanks again for another magic box.”

Justin Stanley

Grammy Nominated Producer & Engineer

"If you own a Sta-Level, treasure it, pamper it, give it a special place in the middle of your equipment rack... If you don't own one - buy a Retro Sta-Level and find out what makes them so desirable! This is the real thing!"

Sylvia Massy

Grammy Winning Producer, Engineer & Mixer

"What I love about the Sta-Level is the character that it imparts. I'm using it right now on all my vocal tracks. It can do soft compression and at the same time with it's faster release mode, it can sound very "In Your Face" with tons of warmth and personality. Believe me, the STA can add attitude to a lifeless vocal interpretation. I'm so in love with mine that I'm looking to get a second one for my Bass, and in the near future a third one for drums parallel compression."

Armando Avila

Latin Grammy Winning Producer

Retro Instruments Sta Level Specifications

  • Gain Reduction Threshold: Continuously adjustable from +24dBm to -20dBm
  • Available Gain Reduction: 40dB
  • Total System Gain: 35dB (with standard input and output pads)
  • Distortion: 1 percent or less from 0-30 dB gain reduction
  • Frequency Response: ± .25dB from 20-20,000 Hz
  • Noise: -70dB or better referenced to gain reduction threshold
  • Output Level: Continuously adjustable from -40 dBm to +18 dBm
  • Input Impedance: Accepts low impedance active or transformer balanced 0-600 Ohms
  • Output Impedance: 600 Ohm transformer balanced, terminated and resistive pad coupled
  • Tube Complement: 2-6BJ6), 1-12AT7, 2-6V6GT, 1-6AL5, 1-OB2, 1-5Y3
  • Power Requirements: Three prong IEC - Switchable 115-230 VAC - 50/60 Hz
  • Mounting Requirements: 3U metal rack 5.25" high, 19" wide, 8" deep
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