Retro Instruments Sta-Level

Gold Edition replica of the legendary 1956 Gates Sta-Level tube compression amplifier
MFR# Sta-Level
Retro Instruments Sta-Level
Retro Instruments Sta-Level Retro Instruments Sta-Level Retro Instruments Sta-Level Retro Instruments Sta-Level
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Few pieces of gear are this universally useful and this universally liked. It just doesn't seem to matter what you send through it, the Sta-Level makes everything sound great. What does it do? We've heard engineers refer to the Sta-Level's brand of vintage tube compression as being like a big, warm hug. It's gives that extra something that somehow sits a track right where you want it in the mix. A natural on vocals, amazing on bass, the Sta-Level has outpaced its vintage inspiration (the Gates Sta-Level) as an industry standard. Try it on your tracks and you'll hear why.

  • Great for anything but a standard on bass and vocals
  • Inspired by the Gates Sta-Level, updated for today

Great for anything but a standard on bass and vocals

Whether it's a thick rock bass sound or old-school type of R&B bass sound, or anywhere in between, the Sta-Level gives a nice bloom to it – really fat and full. Whatever you send its way, the Sta-Level is extraordinarily musical, giving you a natural, warm tone and the right amount of color and control no matter what source you're working with. From hi-hats to horns, acoustic guitars to drums, if you're after a versatile compressor with stacks of vintage warmth, this might be the best sonic investment you make.

Inspired by the Gates Sta-Level, updated for today

The legendary 1956 Gates Sta-Level dominated hit radio in the 1960s and now its magic sound is working its way back to the radio, through Retro's spot-on rendition. The Sta-Level was the first product Retro ever made and it perfectly captures the "Retro philosophy": take a classic, timeless design and seamlessly bring it into the modern world. To update the classic, Retro transformer-balanced the XLR I/O and uses hand-matched audiophile-grade coupling capacitors and high-quality custom-wound transformers throughout. Retro also uses 6BJ6 tubes, more reliable than the original 6386 tubes (though 6386 is a customer's option). All in all, the Retro Sta-Level brings a timeless classic to a new generation of engineers, with a build quality that readies it for generations to come.


Additional Information

Condition New
Channels Single-Channel
Chassis 19-in Rackmount
Rack Spaces 3u
Digital I/O No

I used this compressor at a studio tracking vocals for three days. I was so floored with the amazing sounding that I bought one for my studio as soon as I got home. It’s a tube comp so the sound and reaction to signal is similar to a LA-2A, but different, as that’s optical. They both have a slow attack. With the Sta-Level you can hit it with 10db of comp and not hear a thing, no pumping or artifacts. So smooth and open. Works wonders on vocals, bass (for non aggressive music) electric and acoustic guitars. Expensive, yes. One of the best pieces of gear I’ve ever had? Yes.

By Chris T on February 6, 2019

This is a great compressor. It adds a little top end, and some thickness to the low end. It's great for vocals, and I hear it's great on bass, although I have not tried it on bass yet. Retro compressors literally out perform almost all other tube compressors, unless you're looking for something non-colored, or non-tube.

By Gangster Chicken on May 24, 2017

I own both an original gates and now the Retro. Loving the bit more top end air I'm getting from the Retro. super quality build and nice knowing a new unit can sound so close to my original that at times get tweaky and noisy. Good vintage vibe but with new warranty and reliabliity. They nailed it.

By Bryan on May 4, 2017

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How do you rate this product?

  • Armando Avila
    Armando Avila
    "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."
    Grammy Award Winning producer Armando Avila has worked with RBD, Aleks Syntek, La 5a. Estacion, Belinda, Allison, Moderatto, Gloria Trevi, Natalia Lafourcade, Alejandra Guzman, OV7 and many others.
  • Joe Chiccarelli
    Joe Chiccarelli
    “Everything Retro makes is just quality tone. State-of-the-Art in an ‘Old School’ way."
    Engineer Joe Chiccarelli's credits include The White Stripes, Stan Ridgway, Oingo Boingo, Ferron, Sandra Bernhard, Spirit of the West, Counting Crows, U2, The Shins, Radiohead, Elton John, The Cult and countless others.
  • Sylvia Massy
    Sylvia Massy
    "An original Sta-Level was used as the main compressor for all of Johnny Cash's lead vocals, and gave Johnny's voice that full, round, comfortably worn sound... the signature sound of the whole record really, called "Unchained". It won the "Best Country Album" Grammy award for 1997. The big song on the album has been "I've Been Everywhere", often heard on television commercials.

    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!"
    Producer/Mixer/Engineer Sylvia Massy, Grammy nominated for Lisa Haley's "King Cake", owns RadioStar Studios in Weed, CA. Sylvia's credits also include: Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tool, Sevendust, Love & Rockets, R.E.M., Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, System Of A Down, Smashing Pumpkins.
  • Devin Powers
    Devin Powers
    "These are newer Sta-Levels that just rock your bass and kick drum sub and also make a weak vocal come forward really nice, Phil Moore and the folks at Retro Rock!"
    Devin Powers is an ASCAP Award-winning producer/composer with film and television credits including The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Sports Crash, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, Bruce Almighty, Paranormal State and many others.
  • Justin Stanley
    Justin Stanley
    "The Retro Sta-Level has the warmth, color and control I’ve always looked for in a tube compressor."
    Producer and engineer Justin Stanley used the Retro Instruments Sta-Level Compressor on Eric Clapton’s 19th studio album, CLAPTON. Having worked with Sheryl Crow, Nikka Costa, Jamie Lidell and, of course, Eric Clapton to name a select few, Stanley routinely turns to the Sta-Level tube compressor in the studio.
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