Whenever you meet another music producer, plugins are probably a routine conversation.
Part of that routine sentence you just said were the words “waves plugins” (and Izotope comes second).
Honestly, I’m a big fan of Waves.
There are no artifacts when it comes to adding equalization.
There’s great warmth and character in their audio saturation.
It’s like you have a rack of analog effects right inside your laptop that you just carry around by hand.
So lets start by checking out the….
1. The API 2500 and API 560
Waves have gone through lengths to emulate some classic rack sounds from the 1960s. The Waves API 2500 and API 560, created in association with API itself, are respectively a stereo compressor and a graphic equalizer.
The API 2500 allows you to shape the transient’s arrival in your mix, which then contributes to highly accurate tone design for instruments and mixes. It has it’s distinct vintage sound.
The API 560 is a vintage EQ plugin produced by API in 1967 which gave accurate frequency filtering and very high headroom. It has enabled effective signal enhancement and room tuning. With a 12 db of boost/cut per band and extreme Q narrowing for your tracks you’d definitely shape something that has character and accuracy at the same time.
2. L1 and L2 Ultramaximizers
Ultramaximizers is definitely the term I would use for Waves’ L1 and L2 Ultramaximizers. As a brick-wall limiter, no audio signal passes through it.
Setting the attack at a fast speed actually introduces less unnatural nuances than other compressor plugins out there. The sensitivity of the ultramaximizers is a must whether for electronic dance music or soft country music.
When I was mixing a metal band, I wanted the harsh vocals to sound like it really meant business. So I pulled down the threshold a bit further and gave it just enough release time. If you’re familiar with that odd-time rich genre of metal called “djent” it gives it a punchy vocal feel if you could use it right.
3. The L3 Multimaximizer
What made the L1 ultramaximizer special and the L2 greatly distinct is because they function so great as a combination.
However, combining a multi-band and equalization featured topped with linear-phase crossovers to ensure you’re still getting your original signal.
It’s lovely interface makes it all the more useful for any music producer. You can take it all in and still achieve a great sound due to the plugin’s Peak Limiting Mixer. I have tried in several projects and I could say my work was twice faster and more efficient.
4. The Scheps 73
Waves has a penchant for re-creating classic on-board mixers and the Neve 1073 was an eye on their list. This vintage EQ is something that’s special.
In my experience, it could handle individual instrument tracks, including vocals, without much trouble. It could also handle boomy low ends from drum busses. The most notable about it, as with other vintage racks, is that it could tame wild low ends without removing the overall quality.
With an M/S option, I was able to lower some low-mids and bass from the middle channel alone and upgrade the highs on my stereo end of the deal.
I found it awesome when I was needing some sort of character for a piano track I was mixing. The piano sounded as tame as it does in a live performance. However, in pop music, you want some notes to really stand out. I added some frequencies on the higher registers and poof, I got what I was looking for.
5. Analog Delay
Vintage delays are everything you’ll need to get that vintage tone. Of course, these delays should have good phasing, organic flanging and very good slap-back on echo.
The best part about the H-Delay Analog Delay from Waves is that have up to 3,500 ms delay time, variable pitch delay time behavior (that lovely zinging you could hear from vintage guitar and synth tracks) and even LFO pitch modulation.
Analog delays are my guilty pleasure. I’d love to hear them bounce around my left and right ears when I do a mix. H-Delay’s added pitch epicness just gives me more ideas on how to make unique stereo sounds for any instrument.
MaxxBass is one unique bass enhancement plugin because it analyzes your signal’s bass end. So for recording bass guitars or bass-y instruments, this is a must.
It could be compared to Izotope’s analysis algorithms, but waves takes it further by adding harmonics at a higher octave. It then attenuates the frequency carefully not to lose the bass power while taming it down just enough to make it sit well in a mix.
Rolling back the bass a few dBs never hurt a mix, ever, and this plugin is what you’ll need for that.
This plugin is ideal if you’re recording with a rock band or mixing a loud EDM track. The bass flies around all over the place with these genres. To ensure the tight grip on my bass, I attenuate just enough to remove the boom from the kick drum and give it the definition it deserves.
7. Renaissance Compressor
Every audio engineer’s nightmare is a compressor that kills all the dynamics. Fortunately, Waves created something that delivers natural and fluid tube compression.
Featuring an easy-to-use interface and powerful brickwall limiting without destroying the transients of a mix, this is a compressor for every genre. It has its own character, by the way, when you place the attack at a very low response time.
Sometimes, I use the Renaissance Compressor as a substitute for my existing limiters. In some genres, such as mixed genres that change dynamics instantly, you need something that could maintain the loudness of the mix and dynamics without actually hurting the dynamics in the process.
It’s a great way to bring out the lushness in a mix before you really knock it out of the park with a master maximizer.
Abbey Road Studios in your laptop? No, I’m not kidding you. However, this might not work for everyone, especially those trying to create some futuristic sounds from electronic dance music.
It emulates individual mixer channels from the famous REDD desk In Abbey Road Studios. Turn up the drive on your REDD console and you could feel a bit of dirt that’s enough to send some organic thickness into your tracks. Heavy metal engineers I know use this to drive their drums and bass to punchy oblivion.
This is ideal if you find your original kick instrument is lacking in definition and punch. Compressors could work, but you would definitely have some artifacts left. The REDD helps remove some of the low end and boost the low-mid to mid range of the kick tracks.
After using REDD, you could style your transient effectively and use a compressor to make it stand out with a more defined and natural character.
9. Vitamin Sonic Enhancer
As the name implies, it provides the essential nutrients for any starving track. Track to thin? Have a go with it using some parallel multi-band enhancers.
You could also control the studio width and create some great punch control to accentuate dynamics.
The best part about this plugin in my experience is the crossover frequency throughout each band. It helps create a genuine studio atmosphere in my opinion.
I usually use the Vitamin Sonic Enhancer whenever I have no time to re-track guitar tracks. Sometimes, the microphone is a bit off from the cabinet. It just needs a little reduction in certain frequencies, them slowly harmonically-enriching them using this plugin. Try it, it works for me!
10. PuigTec EQP-1A and Meq 5
Waves’ emulation of PuigTec’s EQP-1A is golden. It’s precise cut and boost helps in fattening up some of the thinnest guitar tracks I know.
For example, if you recorded a guitar and you don’t like the microphone position, you could improve it by upping some parts on the 100HZ and 3Khz.
Meanwhile, the Meq 5 adds some magical harmonics (which I couldn’t explain, hear it for yourself) whenever you boost certain parts of your midrange. Definitely the duo to use when improving guitar sounds.
11. Noise Suppressor NS1
We’re never fond of guitar hum noise, or the additional buzz of acoustic instruments and VST drums when we want a tight mix, specifically for electronic dance music.
Unfortunately, many noise suppressors in the market today just introduce some sort of tone suck either from bad noise thresholds to signal attenuation.
The Waves Noise Suppressor works well for me because it’s easy to read the graphic display, it suggests the peak areas where the noise could be attenuated and you could even mute out some frequencies in certain parts. How about that?
12. Reel ADT
Double tracking is troublesome especially for guitarists. Not every performance is the same. However, Waves’ Reel ADT is something else.
It enables you to remove phasing from two different tracks, but you could actually record a single track and use delays to make it seem like a double-shot track instantly. Set it up properly and you could even get a flanging effect. Reel ADT is also part of Waves’ emulation of Abbey Road Studio equipment.
Reel ADT is something helpful that saves time in a studio. Even acoustic instrument players will need some double tracking, especially if they have no other accompaniment.
However, an acoustic performance is relatively difficult than electric guitar performances, and sometimes, it contains lots of improvisations. Reel ADT helps resolve these problems without spending an hour or so in retakes.
13. Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter
When I first tried this plugin, I didn’t really like the result. It was a bit thin, smushy and all over the place.
After I while, I spent some time studying its inner workings, and eventually found that its tube exciter qualities are actually useful if you use it in bass-y tracks. For example, if your drums sound a bit boomy, run it through the plugin, and you’ll get a pretty good tamed version of your drum sound.
Just collect the transient through a compressor and add some EQ and voila, you have a very distinct instrument sound.
Early reflection is crucial if you want to create a warm entrance for a pad synth.
You could create dimensions through space and time with this one. I was once using a canned explosion effect and I really needed it to have a huge dimension.
TrueVerb managed to expand that with some adjustments through its time and delay options. I actually made some snares to be like large whales too!
During your final track mastering, sometimes you wish you had mixed the vocals louder, or you just wanted to make the drums roomier, especially when you’re using triggers or some tight kick samples.
Waves’ center solved my problem by helping boost the center of my track without affecting the other frequencies.
If you’re recording a single track with a great many microphones, you could combine them into one without phase problems using this plugin!
16. Vocal Rider
As its name implies, it works to maintain the vocal dynamics instead of killing it with a single loud compressor.
The surest way to deliver a vocal track in a mix is often through the use of a high ratio compressor, but in reality, you just want it to be as it is without tiring the listener’s ears.
The Vocal Rider works like a live setup rig; somebody messes with the knob accurately depending on the loudness of the entire band. Not advisable for vocal mastering, though.
Tape flanging is very warm and very attractive, and you want your jet sweeps flawless as you intend it to.
Ideally, I use this for my vocal tracks whenever I need some thickness by using softer settings on speed and depth. Meanwhile, you could actually get cool guitar flanging sounds at extreme settings.
Now, there are cheaper alternatives to the MetaFlanger, but if you hear how this thing goes on chorus, you might reconsider purchasing it.
18. SSL G-Master Buss Compressor
You could always pull out your favorite compressor and run it as an insert in a bus.
However, if you’ve heard how the SSL G-Master actually sounded in real life based on its IC input and twin gain-reduction, it creates a natural blend of compression that gets those pesky drum busses to work together.
It’s compression effect also adds some additional dynamics for your drums and bass.
19. GEQ Graphic Equalizer
The daddy of all EQs, wave’s GEQ resembles that large EQ rack you see during live events.This is great especially if you want to have a precise frequency reduction in your spectrum without altering the other frequencies too greatly.
It’s precise Q filters eliminate any artifacts and achieve the perfect “plateau” you could see in your tracks. Just imagine what you could do with it with some automation.
Of course, nothing beats the real thing. Maybe it’s just because Waves is a standard. I have heard special-sounding plugins for EQ and saturation during my time in working on and mastering audio, but the Waves plugins bundles are a great start for anybody entering the realm of music production.
- Most Waves Bundles come with its standard compressor, limiter and equalization. These basic sets would cost less than $30 or $50. However, if you’re just beginning, or you’d just need to make a class understand how plugins work, Waves Bundles are great deals.
- Their easy to understand interfaces quickly becomes intuitive for users. The change in nuance and sound is also easily recognizable (unless you’re not using up-to-par speakers)
- In short, it helps demonstrate how plugins really work with great quality.
Sometimes, music producers need that unique feature to enable their sounds to retain a specific quality they’d like it to have. Waves creates some special plugins, and even presets, from famous producers worldwide. Waves had collaborated with Chris Lord-Alge, an award-winning music producer, in creating the CLA line of Waves Plugins.
Personally, I found his presets for Waves pretty useful. And truth be told, the interface is simple enough for any beginner to understand and emulate for their future mixes.
I know there are many free virtual instruments all over the Internet. You could even download them illegally. But there’s a different investment when you go for Waves’ GTR solo. Sure you could say Amplitube or Guitar Rig had done better, but GTR solo creates some of the best tones ever on my guitar.
And, like any good producer, you could use GTR solo to preamp your bass, your synths, possibly any instrument in your mix that you’d want to give a specific character you couldn’t achieve in a live recording.
For Synths check out this article: The Top 50 Synth VST Plugins On The Market
and if you like great bass sounds check this out: The Best 50 Bass VST Plugins In The World
Which Bundle to Choose?
Waves Plugins are the standard when it comes to creating beautiful and industry-grade mixes. However, there are more situation-specific and more special plugins out there. If you plan on buying a bundle, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I need all the plugins in the bundle?
- Do I know how to use all the plugins in the bundle?
- Have I done enough research to know how each plugin works?
Before you choose a bundle, contact a friend or a pal who would lend you their license for a day or a week. Learn how each VST plugin works and how it could contribute to your tracks. Don’t go for a Waves Gold or Platinum instantly. Mess around with smaller packages before you make an investment.
Now that’s settled, let’s talk about some of the plugins I really Like.
- Waves definitely has a good repertoire of emulations of famous mixing and mastering boards. While they may not be 100% accurate, they are very useful especially if you want to re-create certain album and song sounds and characteristics.
- However, consider Waves only as a “taste-test” when going for the characteristic and quality you want. Surely, you’ll get a result similar to how mainstream music in all genres goes unless you’re often going for extreme settings.
- Be sure to try other plugins, free, cheap or not, because not one plugin could address all the issues you face in music production.
Did you love the waves plugins review? Then please share it or Comment, thanks!