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ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor

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The Pro VLA by ART is a tube driven Vactrol-based Compressor/Leveling amplifier designed to excel in any professional audio application, including tr...Click To Read More About This Product

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OVERVIEW

Opto-compressor with mastering-quality audio signal path and tube gain stage.

The Pro VLA by ART is a tube driven Vactrol-based Compressor/Leveling amplifier designed to excel in any professional audio application, including tracking, mixing, mastering, live sound or broadcast situations. By using an opto-electronic design, (as opposed to a more typical VCA driven level detection circuit) the Pro VLA II allows more compression to be added to an audio source with a more natural, musical sounding output and virtually transparent dynamic leveling. This VCA-less design coupled with a 12AT7 vacuum tube in the gain stage makes the Pro VLA II tube compressor the ideal dynamic control device for critical studio and live sound applications.

These are the differences between the Pro VLA and the Pro VLA II:

1. Enhanced Link mode
In link mode, CH1 output control acts as a master output level and CH2 becomes a Balance control. This optimizes the Pro VLA II for use as a mastering processor.

2. Active balanced outputs. The old VLA has balanced outputs that have 6dB more gain than when using them in the unbalanced mode. This shows up as an error when using the VU meter to compare the input and output level.

3. LED output meter.
a. Always monitors the output level allowing the user to view Both input and output levels at the same time.
b. LED meter indicates both average level plus Peak hold.

4. Attack and Release knobs vs. switches. The Old VLA compressor has switches that allow the user to adjust the attack time between "Fast" (1mSec) and "Normal" (10mSec). The release switch can be set to "normal" (200mSec) and "Auto" (program dependant, but rather long an average).
a. Attack time as ranges from .25mSec to 50mSec
b. Release time ranges from 0.15Sec to 3Sec. (This is program dependant at shorter release rates).
c. Improved detector that lowers low frequency distortion at fast release rates.

5. Improved package
a. Rounded front panel machined to countersink all knobs and level meters.
b. Re-enforced ears.
c. Led lit switch caps.
d. Heavier chassis and cover ruggedized for longer life on the road.

6. Lower noise.
a. +4dBu/-10dBv mode switch optimizes the unit for Pro OR consumer operating system levels.
b. Toroidal transformer reduces mechanical and electrical hum.
c. Tweaked Tube circuit for better dynamic range.
d. Increased transformer shielding.

7. Increased ranges on Threshold and Output gain. This allows the user a wider range of operation.
a. Old threshold = -20 to +15, New Threshold range = -30dB to +20dB.
b. Old Output gain max = +10dB, New output Gain = +20dB

8. LED lit VU meters. No more dark meters due to blown out bulbs.

9. All of the pots have detents.
a. Imparts a more professional feel.
b. Makes settings more repeatable.

FEATURES
Vactrol Opto-compression design (No VCA)
Mastering-quality audio signal path with tube gain stage
Enhanced link mode
Variable threshold, ratio and output controls
LED backlit VU input/output level metering
LED metering indicates both average level and peak hold
Accurate ten segment LED gain reduction metering
+4dBu/-10dBV mode switch
Active-balanced XLR and 1/4" inputs and outputs
Toroidal transformer reduces mechanical and electrical hum
While in stereo link mode, channel 1 level control acts as a master output level and channel 2 becomes a balance control between them--optimizing the Pro-VLA II for use as a mastering tool
SPECIFICATIONS
Dimensions: 3.50" H x 19.0" W x 9.17" D  (89 mm H x 483 mm W x 487 mm D)
Weight: 10.5 lbs. (4.8 kg)
Input impedance balanced/unbalanced: 10K Ohms

Maximum levels:
Range switch: +4dBu/-10dBV selectable
Inputs: +20dBu (in +4dBu mode) / +10dBV (in ”10dBV mode)
Output: +20dBu (R load > 10K, 0.1%THD)
Output Gain: +20dB max

Frequency response: 10Hz to 100KHz (+/- 0.5dB)

Dynamic Range: >100dB (20-20KHz)
THD: @ 0dBm Out <0.1% (typical)

Equivalent Input Noise (EIN)
@+4dBu: -99dBu ('A' weighted)
@-10 dBV: -107dBu ('A' weighted)

Attack time: 0.25msec. to 50msec. variable
Release time: 150msec. to 3 sec, variable
Slope variable: 2:1 to 20:1
Max. attenuation: 30dB
Reviews
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Review Snapshot

by PowerReviews
ARTPro VLA II Tube Compressor
 
4.8

(based on 16 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (14)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (0)

86%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Good audio (6)
  • Easy to use (5)
  • Professional functions (4)
  • Versatile (3)

Cons

No Cons

Best Uses

  • Home studio (4)
  • Amateur recording (3)
  • Professional recording (3)
    • Reviewer Profile:
    • Professional musician (4)

Most Liked Positive Review

 

Does What You'd Expect

As an audio and broadcast engineer for over 30 years, I've been putting off trying this box. Who would have thought a tube (vactrol) compressor could work so well at this price...Read complete review

As an audio and broadcast engineer for over 30 years, I've been putting off trying this box. Who would have thought a tube (vactrol) compressor could work so well at this price point? When I saw an out-of-the box recertified one, I had to try one and boy I'm glad I did.

I am used to the tube compressors of old time radio studios I've worked in for years so when this came to my doorstep it was a no-brainer to set up. I didn't even need to read the manual to know what the controls did. And unlike my TC box I had in my studio, this thing actually sounds like it's doing something with the audio and it's all good, too.

It doesn't overshoot, unless you set it wrong, and it has a warm, smooth sound and the attack can be pretty transparent, even on large changes in vocals I sample recorded with a music mix. It even helped me realize how inferior my dynamic mics are. Put a good ribbon velocity, tube or large diaphragm condenser mic on this through the channel strip and it sounds even better. No complaints so far.

Love the analog VU meters and the ability to monitor the output of the gain reduction is wonderful, you can get a real feel for how much processing is being applied to your audio with this. The mix of bar graph meters with the analog on this unit is a nice touch. One caviet though, both channels don't warm up at the same time. This is typical of tube equipment, so don't be surprised if one channel starts working within a minute and the other doesn't start working until after about 3 to 5 minutes. That's what I experienced. It reminds me of the days when everything was vacuum tube in a radio studio. But, once up an running, The ART worked great!

For a broadband compressor, this is one of the best for the price point. I second all the other great comments made about this compressor's features, the fine-detent controls, the meters, the dynamic range, quietness, transparency all are superb. I hope, as with all other ART products I own, this one will last for years.

VS

Most Liked Negative Review

 

warning! read this!

I had heard nothing but good things about this unit over the years. It's probably the only stereo "tube" compressor you'll find at this price point. Made in China but the...Read complete review

I had heard nothing but good things about this unit over the years. It's probably the only stereo "tube" compressor you'll find at this price point. Made in China but the build quality and audio quality seemed top notch. HOWEVER... the unit is leaking audio from channel 2 into channel 1. You can verify this problem by connecting both channel outputs to your DAW and then record audio first from channel 1 and then from channel 2 (I just used a vocal mic into a stereo mic preamp and swapped inputs on the fly). I could hear low-level signal from channel 2 in the channel 1 track I recorded. Not the other way around - always from channel 2 into channel 1. I contacted ART and they pulled a unit from inventory and confirmed the problem on their end. Gave them a week to figure a solution. No solution after a week so I'm returning the unit. I don't know how many of these defective units are out on the market but I tested two myself and they both had the same problem. Hopefully it's limited to small production run. It's entirely possible you could miss the problem if you're not using it for recording or just not paying attention. If you just bought one check it!

Reviewed by 16 customers

Displaying reviews 1-16

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(7 of 7 customers found this review helpful)

 
2.0

warning! read this!

By Krizrox

from Elgin, IL

About Me Professional Musician

See all my reviews

Pros

  • Clear Sound

Cons

  • Unreliable

Best Uses

    Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

    I had heard nothing but good things about this unit over the years. It's probably the only stereo "tube" compressor you'll find at this price point. Made in China but the build quality and audio quality seemed top notch. HOWEVER... the unit is leaking audio from channel 2 into channel 1. You can verify this problem by connecting both channel outputs to your DAW and then record audio first from channel 1 and then from channel 2 (I just used a vocal mic into a stereo mic preamp and swapped inputs on the fly). I could hear low-level signal from channel 2 in the channel 1 track I recorded. Not the other way around - always from channel 2 into channel 1. I contacted ART and they pulled a unit from inventory and confirmed the problem on their end. Gave them a week to figure a solution. No solution after a week so I'm returning the unit. I don't know how many of these defective units are out on the market but I tested two myself and they both had the same problem. Hopefully it's limited to small production run. It's entirely possible you could miss the problem if you're not using it for recording or just not paying attention. If you just bought one check it!

    (7 of 7 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    You need this.

    By Anonymous

    from Undisclosed

    Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

    These are musical and easy to use. They work wonders on vocals, transform weak bass, control sloppy bass, make drums punch, snares thwack and tom fills BOOM. It is quiet enough to use on a whole mix for mastering and works wonders for ANY soundtrack that goes to video such as YouTube content.If you are a studio owner or production house, you can afford to buy several at this price. Your investment will pay you back in professional sound and referral-business.If you are a geeky high-tech guitarist or bass player with a rack system, whip out your card and buy this thing now. You will thank me everyday you use it.I own four. All of them work perfectly and bench-test at / above stated specs. The first one I bought is four years old and sees use 24 / 7 at a radio station studio. It is still going strong.The other three are in our production studio where we make commercials with music backgrounds. This box brings everything up to pro-par fast and is super easy to set-up. I have never read the manual; never had to. It just works.

    (6 of 7 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Does What You'd Expect

    By radiocowboy

    from Tawas City, MI

    About Me Experienced

    See all my reviews

    Ask me a question

    Pros

    • Easy To Use

    Cons

    • None so far

    Best Uses

    • Professional Recording

    Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

    As an audio and broadcast engineer for over 30 years, I've been putting off trying this box. Who would have thought a tube (vactrol) compressor could work so well at this price point? When I saw an out-of-the box recertified one, I had to try one and boy I'm glad I did.

    I am used to the tube compressors of old time radio studios I've worked in for years so when this came to my doorstep it was a no-brainer to set up. I didn't even need to read the manual to know what the controls did. And unlike my TC box I had in my studio, this thing actually sounds like it's doing something with the audio and it's all good, too.

    It doesn't overshoot, unless you set it wrong, and it has a warm, smooth sound and the attack can be pretty transparent, even on large changes in vocals I sample recorded with a music mix. It even helped me realize how inferior my dynamic mics are. Put a good ribbon velocity, tube or large diaphragm condenser mic on this through the channel strip and it sounds even better. No complaints so far.

    Love the analog VU meters and the ability to monitor the output of the gain reduction is wonderful, you can get a real feel for how much processing is being applied to your audio with this. The mix of bar graph meters with the analog on this unit is a nice touch. One caviet though, both channels don't warm up at the same time. This is typical of tube equipment, so don't be surprised if one channel starts working within a minute and the other doesn't start working until after about 3 to 5 minutes. That's what I experienced. It reminds me of the days when everything was vacuum tube in a radio studio. But, once up an running, The ART worked great!

    For a broadband compressor, this is one of the best for the price point. I second all the other great comments made about this compressor's features, the fine-detent controls, the meters, the dynamic range, quietness, transparency all are superb. I hope, as with all other ART products I own, this one will last for years.

    (5 of 5 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Great addition to home studio

    By Matt-Fil3S

    from WV

    See all my reviews

    Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

    The VLA II is just what I needed for really polishing my projects... very smooth, non-obtrusive, quite transparent. The stock Ruby tubes are a bit muddy, IMO. I switched out for EHX 12at7s and the high end is represented nicely (mine was used: if you switch out, you'll void the warranty on a new one).

    The only other negative I have with it, other than the Rubys, is that the machine screws on the side are a bit big, and I had to remove them to get it to fit in my rack (I built the rack, so it could be an oversight on measurement on my part). All of the other outboard gear that I've acquired have had flat screws; this one has large round-head screws all around. I've never had any issues fitting other gear. You could replace the screws (again, you MAY void the warranty on this one too), but I just removed them.

    As for the sound, it really adds punch to the tracks. The detents in the pots/knobs are a really nice and handy touch. For the price, you can't go wrong with this unit. I have a budget studio (not dirt cheap, though), and it was the second best piece of gear I've gotten in 12 months. Obviously, if you can afford a high-end compressor, it will beat this thing to pieces. For those of us who can't, I think the VLA II will outperform ANY in-the-box compressor you'll find. You just can't recreate the feel or control you have with outboard gear with a plug-in.

    One last note, while it doesn't claim to be true-bypass, I would NOT recommend sending a signal though it without utilizing the compression. There is a coloration added in bypass mode that I have found to be offensive, to say the least, no matter the tube configuration (and I tried many).

    Great buy, for you budget minded guys and girls out there. Get one, you won't be sorry to parted with the cash.

    (4 of 4 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    best affordable compressor

    By Jay-SYLId

    from Allentown, PA

    See all my reviews

    Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

    This is one of the best compressors I have used. I run it on the entire mix from front of house and it tightens everything up. It doesn't suck the mids out and boost the highs like most lower-priced compressors do. I'm in the process of building a small project home studio and I can't wait to use this in there. This unit is definitely worth the money.

    (3 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    awesome value

    By The Pied Picker

    from Boston Ma

    See all my reviews

    Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

    This is a great pc of equipment. I cannot find anything that I do not like about the vlaII. Very sensitve, very quiet, and very effective. Not a ten thousand dollar manley, but you get allot of processing power!!

    (3 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Top Shelf Quality

    By John-MjEtY

    from Jacksonville Florida

    Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

    This new version of the ART Pro VLA II tube driven compressors sound is smooth, warm and is very forgiving to being over driven and keeps distortion to a minimum. Every aspect is fully adjustable and all the pots have detentes and have a very solid feel as do the switches. The meters are accurate, well lit and easy to read. The chassis doesn't run hot at all, just gets a little warm. A fine addition to any studio and worth every penny. Get one you'll be glad you did. Musicians Friend has awesome service thanks guys :-)

    (3 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Warm studio sound

    By just_the_bajo_guy

    from Earth

    See all my reviews

    Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

    I'm new to the pro-audio, home studio buz. I had a TC Electronics compressor and needed something with a little more of a "studio sound" without breaking my budget. Music is just a hobby to me and I would never do it for a living (I have a steady 8 to 5 and prefer it that way). This tube compressor is probably as close to a studio sound as you'll get for under $1,000. It sounds warm and crisp and made a big difference in the end product of home recordings. I'm also sight-impairred and it's easy to read the big dials, needles and other features. It's a blast.

    (3 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Best I have used in this price range

    By Randy Stanton

    from Centennial Colorado

    See all my reviews

    Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

    I have had this compressor (VLA II) for about 6 months now and I love it. I have used it for some demo mastering and it is a "real" optical compressor response. I even have used it to hypercompress and it sounded amazing(hypercompression techniques on cheap compressors usually sound bad). The controls are designed to be centered at typical usable volumes. It even looks nice - rounded edges and analog meters. It adds a little bite in the mid range - which is really unusual - my other compressors seem suck out the mids. Handles the bass well. It pumps with a real musical presence like what you hear on radio mixes.

    (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Just what I expected!

    By Evan Burning Fair Verona

    from New Port Richey FL

    About Me Professional Musician

    See all my reviews

    Verified Buyer

    Pros

    • Clear Sound
    • Easy To Use
    • Powerful
    • Professional Functions
    • Quality
    • Sound
    • Versatile

    Cons

      Best Uses

      • Amateur Recording
      • Home Studio
      • Professional Recording

      Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

      Being a mainly digital source producer I wanted to try some outboard gear before my interface to warm my sources up and get a little more level control coming in. I switched the tubes out with Mullard tubes and wow. Definitely exactly what I wanted out of the unit and you simply can't beat the price. It looks great in my studio as well!

      (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

       
      5.0

      The Right Compression

      By G

      from AL

      About Me Professional Musician

      See all my reviews

      Pros

      • Clear Sound
      • Easy To Use
      • Powerful
      • Professional Functions
      • Versatile

      Cons

        Best Uses

        • Home Studio
        • Professional Recording

        Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

        The Pro VLA is being used under the Pro MPA and the compression is awesome. The two units together as a mic preamp has perfected my sound with less mixing.

        (2 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Great affordable compressor

        By Jeremiah

        from Austin, TX

        About Me Novice

        See all my reviews

        Pros

        • Clear Sound
        • Easy To Use

        Cons

          Best Uses

          • Amateur Recording
          • Home Studio

          Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

          I think this is a fantastic and affordable 2-channel compressor. I use mine in my home studio, and I think it's good for home use. I cannot comment on professional use since I'm not a pro; however, it sounds just as good to me as other more expensive compressors I've heard. Great performance for this price level.

          The controls are straight forward and easy to use. The VU meters are easy to read and provide accurate metering per my level checks.

          The compression, when set properly, does a nice job of reducing the signal level without squishing the sound. In other words, it does its job and does it well.

          I use the VLA in conjunction with the ART Pro MPA II and they sound great...clear and warm. I highly recommend both of the units.

          (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          Sweet clear and quiet, easy to use

          By Anonymous

          from Undisclosed

          Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

          This is my favorite rack compressor for budget studios or for live systems where you don't want to break out the high-priced delicate stuff. It has the least noise of any in its class, even less noise than the venerable RNC and TC electronic models. (I have them all in my studio)The old-school knobs and Vu meters make it a breeze to adjust and keep track of its functioning.It is sweet and clear, with very transparent compression even at high comp-ratios. Sounds beautiful for voices, makes orchestral instruments shine, especially delicate violin passages. It can add body to tom-fills without pumping. Makes snares "fit" in pop-song mixes without becoming harsh or loosing a sense of "thwack!."I really appreciate the low-noise the most. Even at high-gain settings, this is remarkably quiet.At this price, most studios can afford at least one, and if you do live sound or live recording, two or three would be a good idea.

          (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          Best compression around regardless of price

          By Stardom

          from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

          See all my reviews

          Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

          After trying some expensive in the range of 2 to 4 grand units, and some cheap ones. I finally found something that fits exactly for what I want it to do.What sold me is the OPTO compressor that uses no VCA. This unit is used specifically used for a guitar rig. but will be ideal for recording studios.With other units there was a harshness that I could not get rid of but this unit gives a warmth that is unmatchable, as I said I borrowed many of the really expensive units and no matter what I did could not get it to sound properly, ART did their homework, may be they took a good look at their previous model and decided to improve upon it, maybe they checked the reviews, (PAY ATTENTION TO THIS R&D DEPARTMENT) Customers do take in consideration reviews before they make a purchase.Loud passages become manageable and low signals really increase in volume. by applying the proper ratio.I bought 2 units I will buy another 3 Excellent product I would recommend it to anyone trying to find affordable yet professional performance, go ahead test all the rest you will come back to this unit.

          (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

           
          4.0

          A good value in this price range

          By tboy

          from Alberquerque, NM

          About Me Experienced

          See all my reviews

          Ask me a question

          Verified Reviewer

          Pros

          • Clear Sound
          • Easy To Use
          • Professional Functions
          • Versatile

          Cons

            Best Uses

            • Amateur Recording
            • Home Studio

            Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

            I have been a home recording enthusiast for over 15 years and have recently replaced a few inboard applications with tube hardware. The ART VLA ll compressor/limiter works great for me. The price is in line with all my other stuff. I view my equipment as a complete package and would not buy a $3000 compressor because the rest of my stuff would become a weak link. I connected the VLA ll to my tube preamp (also ART tube), set the threshold fully counter clockwise and the ratio fully clockwise. The unit responded as designed. My base line sounded like it was coming through a soda straw. Extreme setting I know but this was my test. The VLA ll fits right in.

            (1 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

             
            5.0

            more than I expected

            By "Thumper"

            from Des Moines Iowa

            About Me Professional Musician

            See all my reviews

            Ask me a question

            Pros

            • Clear Sound
            • Professional Functions

            Cons

              Best Uses

              • I Bought This For My Bass
              • Performances

              Comments about ART Pro VLA II Tube Compressor:

              I bought this compression unit for my Bass rig, I felt the pedal I had, didn't have the sustain I was looking for. But this unit is incredible !! so far I love it ..have some big shows coming up we will see

              Displaying reviews 1-16

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