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The STA-Level:

Over the course of a couple of years, pretty much once a week I would find myself looking at the schematics for the STA-Level or on some message board of people who'd built one for themselves. But then common sense would kick in and I'd see that this was much more complicated than the tube guitar amp kits I'd been making and that I should probably close that tab and think about whatever album I was supposed to be mixing. It wasn't until the pandemic hit that I had enough time to think about the project long enough to convince myself it was a good idea.

This was my first project where I had to assemble the bill of materials, figure out the ins and outs of mouser, research different transformer manufacturers, etc, etc, etc. It was slow going and took a lot of time researching and reading message boards.

I built it into a chassis I'd hammered out of some thick old steel I'd found behind the barn. It's really quite crude and weighs a tonne. The front plate is half a centimetre thick steel and cutting the hole for the meter was... challenging.

When I got it working I had an issue: if I set the release to it's fastest setting and fired a big low frequency signal through it, it would bounce and then start to oscillate on that bounce. It was turning the gain down sharply then releasing, then turning it down sharply again a quick intervals. It took me a long time to realize that I had put the wrong size coupling capacitors in between the first and second tube stages, and they were much larger than they should have been, whoops!

I love this compressor, has a ridiculous amount of gain and high high headroom. The compression is slow and smooth and does something nifty on transients that's hard to describe. Some day I'll make another.

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