Waves Soundgrid: Top 5 – Honorable Mentions

I was on the fence about whether or not I should even have this post as part of my series but when it came down to it, I felt like I should just put it out there and let you guys know what plugins lost out in my battle for the top 5 places in my waves library. I have rarely found waves plugins that aren’t useful when applied correctly but as you’ve seen in the last 5 weeks, there are 5 that I use a lot and for a variety of reasons. They either make my life easier, more efficient, or just provide options that others don’t. But this week I wanted to go through a few plugins that are worth mentioning. I picked out 5 (sort of 6) plugins that float to the top in terms of usage and such when you look at my waves templates. 

The first that came to mind is the HComp compressor. This plugin is packed with features that make this plugin incredibly useful. Probably the thing that got me using it (and keeps me using it on electric guitars) is the mix knob. With just one knob you can setup parallel compression. I know, I know, it’s a bit different but having the ability to wet/dry mix compression live without the need to suck additional audio paths is awesome. For guitars, I find myself dropping it down to about 70% to start and go from there based on the type and dynamics of the source involved. I’ll find myself backing off even more with acoustics and if I there is a particularly dynamic electric I’ll raise that up a bit. EIther way, using the plugin like this, combined with proper attack and release settings really helps what you want from your source pop through and be present but then sit back in the mix. Secondly, the punch knob. Man, this is a wildcard that I love. It’s quite hard to describe but in my experience, the best way to set it is to start at 0 and turn it up until you like it, than just leave it. Yes it does add punch, but that isn’t all. So get the demo, load it up, and try this out, ASAP!

If there is a reverb that if you don’t own you should just go out and buy from Waves, HReverb is it. I know, I know, the Abbey Road stuff sounds but you don’t have access to the number of variables to alter as you do with the HReverb. The tails in HReverb are just the smoothest you can imagine. Let me put it to ya this way, my daily driver is an SSL L500 that has some pretty legendary verbs onboard but I still use HReverb regularly to create a wash verb (like 4-5 seconds of washy verb) that my boss developed on HReverb and I couldn’t get the onboard stuff to imitate it that well. Right in the verb there is a built-in EQ, decay control, slap echo control, dynamics section (I usually run a de-esser here or one right before it in the plugin chain), and even a modulator built right in if you wanted to add a chorus effect. That is all on top of the usual reverb settings. Now, this is a DSP hog so use at your own risk but if you’re after a buttery smooth long verbs, HReverb is where you can find what you’re looking for.  

I’m sorry but in my search to find and decide honorable mentions there was a tie with my de-esser of choice. Having a de-esser on most vocals is nearly a requirement. There are a few of the folks who sing where I work where I can get away with not having one but I usually have one in there anyway to catch any strays. For the longest time I was dead set on using RDe-Esser but ever since Sibilance came out I’ve started flopping around a bit. They work quite well with Sibilance better at detecting and RDe-Esser a bit better at controlling how you handle the response. If I had to give an edge for me in my room on my board, I’d go with Sibilance because the live version of it is basically a zero latency plugin whereas the other does introduce a small amount of latency. More often than not I’ll use Sibilance on females and RDe-Esser on males. It’s just easier for me to get each dialed in if I split it up like that. The latency added isn’t enough of a concern for me to stop using RDe-Esser. It’s important to know that the non-live version of Sibilance does contain a look ahead setup for studio use which is incredibly handy in the studio.

As you read in week 2, if I had to pick I’d pick the Vitamin Sonic Enhancer because of it’s extra features to adjust, but Scheps Parallel Particles in my opinion sounds just as good and is definitely easier to configure. Because I don’t always need all the features of the Vitamin, I have found myself using Parallel Particles in those few places where I just need a simple, harmonics generator. A great example for me is the kick drum. Where I used to use Vitamin, I inserted Parallel Particles and turn off everything except the bottom knob where I set the frequency (I like to boost 50hz) and turn it up to taste. Just like in Vitamin you need to keep an eye on the internal plugin dynamics. What I like about Scheps is the input light telling you what you need to do to set the input volume. If it’s red or yellow, turn it down until it stays green most of the time. I usually end up removing the link between input and output gains as well so it doesn’t turn into a huge gain stage. So if you’re looking for a simple no nonsense harmonics plugin, Scheps Parallel Particles is what you’re looking for.

The last plugin I wanted to mention as a plugin to really consider as you expand your toolbox is Torque. As a technician this plugin really appeals to me because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fought with drummers regarding tuning what notes to pick when you’re doing so. Over the years I’ve learned that the lower you can get the snare note to be the less you have to do to control it. But drummers hate drum heads that are tuned so low that their stick feedback (read how much the stick bounces back to them) isn’t what it used to be. So now, I can tune the drum with enough spring-back to keep drummers mostly happy and then in “torque” it down a bit more so that the snare can really find a home in the mix. Secondarily, I’ve recently started, after a suggestion from a co-worker, tuning the bottom snare mic up a note or two so that you get a great crack tone from each hit and the snares. Typically I’m tuning the top mic down a few notes and the bottom mic up at least one note. The great thing is that it’s easy to adjust and make it fit your sound. In any case, we finally have access to a tuner that works well for percussion instruments and only messes with the attack while leaving the transients alone. 

Well that’s it for the honorable mentions. Hopefully I’ve covered at least one or two of the plugins that you use. If I missed a great plugin that you think we should all use more, feel free to leave a comment below or on Facebook and let us know about it. If there are any questions I can answer for you please email me at daniel@studiostagelive.com and I’ll respond as soon as I’m able. As always, if you’ve enjoyed reading this series feel free to subscribe at this link and you’ll get an email whenever new content is posted here at Studio.Stage.Live.com. See you guys and gals on the flipside!

Waves Soundgrid: Top 5 – Part 5

The time is finally here for my favorite waves plugin. I know over the last few weeks that I’ve chosen some pretty popular plugins so there probably hasn’t been any surprises but that might change this week. I’ve already used the CLA-76 on week 1, the Vitamin Sonic Enhancer for week 2, the C6 Multiband Compressor as week 3, and last week talked about Scheps Omni Channel last week slotting in at #2, which doesn’t leave a lot of heavy hitters left to be the top dog. Well, I disagree. This plugin has a tremendous effect on my mix that I didn’t anticipate even in the slightest. It also is the reason why all of my band inputs go through waves soundgrid (I’m betting that last hint narrowed it down for you a bit). My favorite and most used plugin is the Waves NLS (non-linear summer). Yep, you read that right. Generally I have it on everything I mix.

So why the NLS? Well it’s a long story but I’ll try to sum it up. I’m what I call a middle school audio guy. I was taught and trained by basically all old school audio guys from the 70s, 80s, and 90s (basically I call old school anyone who was mixing before there was digital consoles) but have embraced the technology of the new guys. I think both methods have merits and basically cherry pick the best of both. Because of that, as I’ve embraced technology having experienced the hard parts of analog audio (i.e. – ground hums, buzzing, etc) I’ve always been a bit hesitant to re-introduce 50 or 60 cycle harmonic hums or subtle harmonics because I’d always felt that the advantage to the digital realm is it usually free of those issues. Combine that with the SSL L500+ that is my daily driver which has some great pre-amps I figured I was set for a smooth sounding pre-amps and natural yet transparent summing. But I kept seeing the NLS in use from some great guys and decided I’d give it a try when I saw it on sale for $29. At worst we’d throw it at the studio which is fed digitally just to get a little warmth but boy was I wrong. I set up a quick test in MultiRack (now SuperRack) where I could A/B the entire set of plugins on and off. I also decided that if I was going to test, I’d test all of it. I put the NLS at the end of each rack in waves(to emulate the sum in the fader rather than at the beginning to emulate the mic pre on the original console). Because I run the buss groups into waves as well I through the NLS Buss plugin on those as well and assigned each channel to the appropriate buss. After the time I turned it on and off I could hear a difference. The warmth that came from just turning it on, riding up the drive knob to the same number on each channel (be careful not to drive it too much, the plug can clip) and picking the model that fit each input (I started with Neve everywhere and adjusted from there). It’s difficult to quantify but when I don’t use it, I can’t get the same feelings about how the mix sounds as I do when I have it on. My mixes sound good but a little sterile. The NLS brings cohesiveness and a warmth that you can tangibly hear when you use it as it was intended. 

The plugin includes models from these three legendary technicians consoles: 

The “magical” solid state console belonging to Mark ´Spike´ Stent (Björk, Muse, Maroon 5, Madonna).
The classic console owned by Mike Hedges (The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Dido, Faithless, Manic Street Preachers, U2), heard on such timeless recordings as Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon.
The vintage British console customized for Yoad Nevo (Bryan Adams, Pet Shop Boys, Sugababes, Goldfrapp, Air)

(source: Waves.com)

It is easy to say and hear how different digital consoles sound over analog consoles. All the actual circuitry, the hums, the buttons and knobs, it all added up to something that affected the sound ever so slightly. In that sense, at the top end of analog boards from yesteryear all had their own “sound” that colored the mix in a usually a pleasant way. That’s what this plugin does for your digital consoles or DAWs. It isn’t the only plugin like it and in fact the CLA MixHub does this same thing but differently. You aren’t getting three models however, you are getting CLA’s console with all its’ sends, fades, knobs, etc. I’m not into the workflow solution that he offered so I’ll be sticking with NLS. I also love pulling up the plug and clicking through the three options and seeing which model sounds the best for what I’m trying to accomplish. Personally I use the NEVO side the most and usually end up with spike on acoustic inputs because of the rasp introduces. As with any tool it’s more about how you use than just having it. The NLS is pretty hands off but you still need to configure it properly (set the drive knob to be sure you aren’t overloading it, set buss, etc) for it to work right. Waves made a great video talking about and actually playing samples from NLS which can be found at this link.

This plugin is also a great way to bring up the sound of a lower end console that has the ability to integrate with waves. In essence that’s what waves can do for you and your mix. If you can’t afford to purchase a top end console that has that sound you’re looking for you can get almost there with plugins like NLS or CLA MixHub. The Behringer x32 doesn’t have the horsepower for something like a C6 but for under $1000 you can have access to all the tools the big name mixers have at their fingertips, including the NLS. So for about $4000 you can buy an x32 and everything you need for waves and emulate a $100,000+ console. But also remember, this plugin, as with all plugin, should be the icing on the cake. If the fundamentals of your mix aren’t there before you start tinkering in waves there isn’t a magic button or a plugin that will just fix all that. 

Well that’s it for the series. Hopefully you’ve learned something new or thought of something you could improve in your workflow or at least been exposed to some new tools that you could use in your mix. For me just having thought through what my top 5 plugins are was good to be thinking critically about why I choose particular plugins over others and make sure that all my decisions line up with each other so there is consistency in my workflow. If you’ve thought of any questions, hit me up below in the comment section, on one of the facebook posts, or email me at daniel@studiostagelive.com. If you’ve enjoyed reading this series feel free to subscribe at this link and you’ll get an email whenever a new post is released here at Studio.Stage.Live.com. Happy mixing!

Waves Soundgrid: Top 5 – Part 4

Welcome back to week 4 of our 5 week series on my top 5 Waves plugins. Over the last 3 weeks we have been stepping through my mind and the plugins I’d pick if I could only have a few plugins. I started the series at #5 with the CLA-76, continued at #4 with the Vitamin Sonic Enhancer, and discussed last week the Waves C6 as my #3. In many ways this is my dream team and for that reason I’m really excited about this week’s plugin which I’ve slotted in at #2, ever so narrowly edging out the C6. What makes this difficult is that I probably use the C6 more but the feature set in this plugin makes it much more valuable to me as I inch towards my most favorite and most valuable plugin. My #2 Waves plugin the Schepps Omni Channel. 

Designed by Andrew Schepps this plugin was tailored to his workflow to bring us the tools that he uses in his everyday work. Because once again Waves does such a good job summing up what this plugin can do I’ll reference their publication to list the features available in the plugin.

  • Flexible channel strip plugin based on Andrew’s tried and tested processing combinations
  • Pre, compression, EQ and gating modules, each with diverse options for sonic flexibility
  • DS² module: so much more than a de-esser, with 2 full-range bands and 4 filter types
  • Insert slot: Load an extra Waves plugin anywhere in the channel strip
  • Drag and drop any module anywhere in the channel strip
  • Internal MS/Duo/Stereo routing per module
  • Stereo component provides full discrete control over each channel
  • Flexible shaping of internal or external sidechain input
  • Zero latency
  • ‘Focus’ presets designed by Andrew to focus you on what’s important
  • Artist presets by Tony Visconti, Billy Bush, Ken ‘Pooch’ Van Druten & more

What all of that means is that this plugin is incredibly flexible. You can literally drag and drop the modules to whatever order you like, disable the ones you don’t want to use, and even insert a plugin within the plugin (yep, inception for audio!). 

The ability to insert a plugin within the chain you’ve created dramatically increases the value of this plugin in my mind. For instance, my old acoustic chain used to be 4-5 plugins deep as I dropped stuff in (disable parts of plugins I wasn’t using) to do all the same things as this one plugin. Now, with the Omni-Channel, I only have one plugin. I don’t need that side-chained c6 to help dip the acoustic’s vocal range based on the lead vocalist because there is a built in side-chainable de-esser. I don’t need the Hcomp anymore because the built-in compressor has a mix knob which is why I use the hcomp on guitars in general. I can insert my harmonizer of choice (in the case of the acoustic I usually use parallel particles) right where I want it which is right after compression. There is even some great pre-amp modelling and EQ built-in that I’ve been able to incorporate. I love this plugin on acoustic sources like strings, pianos, acoustic guitars, etc because of the way it sounds when you use the modelling available. 

Another great feature of this plugin is the zero latency. Putting aside any latency added from the plugin you add into the plugin, the plugin is made to drop in on everything, shut off what you don’t need, and cruising right along. The plugin itself is incredibly resource light which allows for lots of instances and lots of power without lots of DSP. The low resource requirement and zero latency cost are what really set this plugin apart to me from something like the CLA mixhub. Now the workflow that the mixhub is based around is not possible with the omni-channel so if that’s important to you that you’ll only find that in the mixhub. What’s most important to me is ultimate flexibility and I don’t know of any other plugin of this magnitude that allows you to insert another plugin inside of its’ internal signal chain. 

Right along with that are the preset options. Once again, the presets aren’t perfect but when I got the plugin I was looking for some ideas on how I can better utilize it as a tool in my toolbox and the presets really helped me see and think about how this plugin can be used for good in my mix. I’d encourage you to really spend some time with an acoustic source, with no other plugins but the omni-channel, and start tweaking. While this plugin may not sound any better than your other chains, it sounds just as good at a fraction of the resource/latency cost because you are doing the work of many plugins all inside one plugin. 

I know the omni-channel may not be everyone’s second favorite plugin but the more I use it, the more I want to keep using it. It has also solved a lot of unique issues I’ve come across in terms of getting the desired routing. If you have any questions about how I use it, email me at daniel@studiostagelive.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Next week I’ll be wrapping up the series talking about my favorite and most used plugin. It may not be what you think so be sure to tune in and see. If you want to be reminded about the post, subscribe at this link, and you’ll get an email letting you know when the post is live. See you on the flipside and happy mixing!