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The 7 Best Waves Plugins on the Market

August 5, 2018
Learn about Waves plugins like Z-Noise, Doubler, H-Delay, Vocal Rider, Bass Rider, MaxxBass, and CLA-76.

Waves is a notoriously large plugin company, and their plugin catalog can be described as no less than... enormous. Truthfully, they have so many plugins that it’s intimidating even getting into their line of products. With so many plugins to choose from, what’s worth investing in?

Let me prelude this by mentioning that I have a severe plugin addiction, and extensively demo or purchase any plugin I can get my hands on. I’m confident that my dire need for psychological help will assist you in finding the next best plugin for your collection.

All of the plugins I’m about to list are tools that I use regularly; even with a multitude of other options at my disposal. The tools that made the list are unique in effect and impressive in quality. They’re ranked in no particular order because they all serve their own purpose. The bottom line is that if it’s not the best of the best, it didn’t make the cut.

7. Waves Z-Noise

An image of Waves' Z-Noise plugin.
Waves Z-Noise

Z-Noise allows you to remove noise from your audio signal. I still have yet to come across a plugin that performs this function better than Z-Noise. Even iZotope’s RX 6 doesn’t provide the results I want as quickly as Z-Noise. A couple of key features included are the ability to solo noise, extract and create noise profiles, as well as adaptive dynamic detection that caters to changing noise levels over time.

If you make much sample-based music, and use your own field recordings, this is the perfect tool for you. It can even help to make lower quality iPhone recordings useable in your songs.

6. Waves Doubler

In image of Waves' Doubler plugin.
Waves Doubler

Nothing is going to provide stereo width like recording extra lead vocal takes and panning them left and right, but sometimes you don’t always have these extra audio recordings to work with. Your next best option is Doubler. This plugin will duplicate your mono signal several times, pan the duplicates left and right, and then adjust the pitch and time of the duplicates to create stereo width.

5. Waves H-Delay

An image of Waves' H-Delay plugin.
Waves H-Delay

I like this delay because it’s simple to use, has a built-in high pass and low pass filter, and allows you to do some cool stuff involving pitch with the modulation section. H-Delay provides quick results, and when you work professionally, time is of the essence.

Pro Tip: If you’re experiencing unwanted noise coming from this plugin, turn the “Analog” knob to “0”.

4. Waves Vocal Rider

An image of Waves' Vocal Rider plugin.
Waves Vocal Rider

A common vocal recording technique that engineers use includes “riding” the level of a track fader (with their hand), as a vocalist sings. The engineer is essentially applying manual downwards and upwards compression to the audio signal being recorded. Vocal Rider aims to mimic this technique and does so astonishingly well.

I use Vocal Rider to reduce the dynamic range of vocals before running them through a compressor applying peak reduction. Applying serial processing in this way helps to keep the sound of the compression subtle.

3. Waves Bass Rider

An image of Waves' Bass Rider plugin.
Waves Bass Rider

Bass Rider revolves around the same concept as Vocal Rider, but it’s intended for bass instruments. A common problem people have is that as their bass pitches upwards, it becomes significantly louder. Bass Rider addresses this issue by riding the level of your bass and pulling it back towards the level you set; this process can help stop your bass track from triggering your limiter more than it needs to.

2. Waves MaxxBass

An image of Waves' MaxxBass plugin.
Waves MaxxBass

Making bass audible on small speakers can sometimes prove to be quite a challenge. What you need to do is generate upper harmonics, and this is precisely what MaxxBass does. MaxxBass also extends perceived bass response by up to 1.5 octaves, using harmonics to generate a fantom fundamental.

1. Waves CLA-76 Compressor / Limiter

An image of Waves CLA-76 Compressor / Limiter plugin.
Waves CLA-76

This compressor is modeled after two versions of a compressor from the 60s, and it’s one of my favorite tools for applying clean peak compression. I use this on drums, vocals, guitars, and even pianos. It’s an incredibly versatile device. One of the things I like about this compressor is the fast attack time you can set; this makes it an excellent choice for peak compression. Compared to its analog counterpart I find it to sound slightly more brittle, but overall I'm a big fan of it.

The Best Waves Plugin Bundles

Recently, Waves has started pricing their products so that they’re within reach of bedroom producers, and home recording enthusiasts; this is good news for consumers because it means massive plugin bundles for reasonable prices.

Waves has a number of plugin bundles with very specific intended uses such as broadcast and production, 360 surround sound, and live performance. It's pretty obvious what you're getting when you buy one of these bundles, but Waves also has a giant library of other bundles that aren't quite as application specific. I've scraped through all of their bundles looking for the best in regards to music production, mixing, and mastering. The following two bundles from Waves offer the best bang for your buck, hands down.

Waves Gold Bundle

If you’re still working with stock audio effects, and want to invest some money into plugins, the Waves Gold bundle is going to be an excellent option for you. It comes with excellent assortment of plugins ranging from creative devices to mixing tools. This bundle will make sure that you have all your bases covered.

Waves Horizon Bundle

In comparison to the Waves Gold Bundle, Waves Horizon provides more in regards to vocal production and mastering. As far as I’m concerned, this is the most useful bundle that Waves sells if you’re a music producer.

As soon as you start adventuring into bundles beyond this price point, you begin paying for things that you likely won’t be using very often. If there’s an additional plugin that you want to buy here or there, it’s still going to be cheaper than jumping to something like the Waves Mercury bundle.

Hopefully, I was able to spark your interest in some new plugins. If there are any Waves plugins that you think should have made this list, make sure to leave a comment below. Follow Black Ghost Audio on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up to date on the latest music production tips and tricks. There’s new content every week, and I don’t want you to miss out.

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If you're interested in learning more about music production, sign up for a free online music production lesson with a Black Ghost Audio instructor today. They're happy to answer any questions you may have about recording, production, mixing, mastering, and music business.

Charles Hoffman is a mixing and mastering engineer at Black Ghost Audio. After graduating from the University of Manitoba with a degree in English Language and Literature, Charles continued his education at Icon Collective, a music production school based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can send him a work inquiry at charles@blackghostaudio.com.

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