UREI LA-12 Stereo Compressor / Limiter


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UREI compressors need no introduction. Many of their products are definitive pieces of outboard gear which have spawned clones, DIY versions and official reissues. Some years after the legendary optical & FET-based compressors of the 70s and 80s came a range of VCA compressors including the LA22

The LA-12 is the middle model in the range. It’s an LA-22 without the frequency-sensitve sidechain section so the majority of this description is the same as that for the LA-22 I sold recently. All the quotes for the LA-22 are relevant to the LA-12 except for those referring to frequency-dependent compression

The LA-12 is a dual-channel VCA compressor / limiter / expander in a compact 1U box. In addition to the usual attack & release, threshold & compression controls it adds a number of rarely-seen features including variable Peak / RMS detector response, output limiter, switchable expander and transformer-balanced outputs

“I have an LA-12 and use it all the time. It takes a minute to dial in the right settings but once you do, it’s very effective”

“My LA-12 has way too much control over the compression, but once you get used to it, it’s a lethal weapon”

“The LA-12 is so diverse in what it can accomplish you just can’t pigeon hole it to one purpose like drum buss. It sounds really clean, and you can make it sound really nasty if you know how to use the box. I run it in dual mono and stereo all the time. I’ve put vocals through it, drums, bass, guitars…..rhodes, organ….whatever”

“Once you get how it works, you really can use it to it’s fullest potential, otherwise, i can see finding one thing it does and leaving it at that. it wasn’t an easy box to get to know”

“I have two LA-12s, two LA-22s, and two 7110s in my system and I love them. They are great on anything!!! Transparent with little color at all, and the detector is among the best I have heard very natural sounding”

“The Urei LA-22 is a great and overlooked vintage compressor”

“It’s a thick box – great for certain tracks but no the kind of thickness you’d want for the mix”

“The LA22 is my favorite vocal compressor”

“It’s been my main vocal compressor for years”

“Its my #1 go to vocal mixdown compressor”

“This comp is very clean, even with massive compression. This is especially good for clean vocals”

“i have a JBL era Urei LA-12 that is to die for. easily one of the best kept secret weapons out there”

“I’ve had an LA22 for about 15 years and it is a winner. Excellent clean vocal compressor. Best compressor I’ve ever used on kick drum”

“Q: Would you put a la22 over a end mix? To give it a vintage feel?”
“A: No. but I would use it on the master bus to stomp the mix to snot”

“I think I like it” – Jules Standen

The LA12 will appeal to those who like a compressor with character. Although it’s a VCA compressor it can be made to be surprisingly unsubtle. The key to this is the peak / rms detector control. As with the UREI 7110, pushing this toward peak produces a compressor that can grab transients and twist them into a pretzel. It may be at home doing subtle compression but there is a definite hooligan tendency within the LA-22

This is not a compressor you can get to grips with immediately but one to learn & get comfortable with over time. The sidechain, equaliser & variable detector response means it’s possible to dial up pretty much any kind of dynamic effect you want but you’ll need to know your way round it first. Once you do, you’ll find it a real asset, particularly as it has two linkable channels

My only criticism is the cramped front panel. It’s loaded with knobs & switches and isn’t easy to learn. This is not a rack unit to bury at the bottom of a rack – sit it nice & high so you can get to grips with the control layout. It reminds me a little of the BSS DPR-402 – both are complex, deep devices that need to be learnt. In the case of the UREI I think it will be time well spent. It’s as close as you’ll find to a compressor that does everything


Model Range

LA-10 Single-channel compressor, no frequency-dependent sidechain

LA-12 Dual-channel compressor, no frequency-dependent sidechain

LA-22 Dual-channel compressor with frequency-dependent sidechain

The LA12 is in a deep, heavy 1U steel case. Internal construction uses mother & daughter boards with through-hole components & opamps so it will be repairable in the future. The unit has a balanced inputs & outputs on XLR and barrier strip. Detector inputs & outputs are on the barrier strip Inputs are electronically balanced and outputs use an ultra-low distortion circuit driving an output transformer. UREI claims the output circuit will drive a 600 Ω load at +24 dBm with less than 0.001% distortion Power input is switchable 220 / 110 Volts AC with a rear-panel fuseholder and standard IEC socket. UK or Euro Schuko power cable supplied on request
Standard 1U rackmount unit

Owners manual


Technical Manual


TapeOp Review (for LA-22)


LA-10 / LA-12 / LA-22 Flyer


Excellent used condition with minor marks. Tested and working 100%. Photos show an LA-22 sold previously but will be replaced with images of the LA-12 in this auction Vintage gear All vintage gear will have case scratches and marks. It may also have, or develop, noisy pots and switches. I make my descriptions as accurate as possible and note any existing defects. I test each item before shipping but please understand that vintage gear will not be perfect and adjust your expectations accordingly