Waves Soundgrid: Top 5 – Part 3

Here we are on week 3 of our Waves Top 5 series. These last two weeks have showcased some great plugins. As we get closer to my favorite plugin, the one I use the most, we are going to hear about some great stuff. Number 5, two weeks ago, showcased the CLA-76 compressor that I love because it is so fast and transparent. Last week, I talked about the Vitamin Sonic Enhancer and chose it over Scheps Parallel Particles because of its ability to get very granular with how it adds in harmonics. That leaves us today with talking about my number 3 favorite plugin, the C6 Multiband Compressor. There are a lot of options in the multiband compressor/EQ market these days. In fact many DAWs and consoles alike have one built-in. But for some reason, for me, the C6 has just risen to the top. 

Mechanically the UI for this plugin is quite refined. It hasn’t changed much from what I understand since it came out but the way it operates, what it shows you, makes life pretty easy. With the C6 you get 4 bands of tweaking to mess with and two floaters which can overlap with any other band and be anywhere you want them to be (this is one area where the F6 is different, with that all the bands are floating). You have all the typical compression options for each band, the ability to disable them if you want, and a favorite feature of mine is the ability to solo an individual band so you can really hear what you are doing in a specific frequency range. Be sure to watch the release settings on the left, if it isn’t on manual, your release settings won’t have any effect on the operation of the plugin. The orange line is what you’re doing to the sound. Obviously flat would be what comes in goes out but as you adjust gain and such you’ll see the line adjust a bit. One thing that this plugin does that you won’t see in many of these types of plugins (with the exception of the C4) is show  you the dynamic range with the purple shading. This is the biggest reason why I prefer this over the F6. Yes you can always just read the knobs but if I’m using waves as a tool, the way C6 displays is preferable. Lastly there is an input and output gain adjustment if needed. 

A great but not advertised feature of the C6 is the large preset library. It’s been around for so long that many well known artists have been able to get there presets installed in the plugin. While I don’t recommend setting it and forgetting it with presets they can often provide a great starting point or at least some inspiration for what you could do with the plugin itself. I will often find myself dropping in a C6 on just about anything to see if it can help. Occasionally I’ll experiment a bit, play with the preset options, and land on a great setup for that input on that day. 

My biggest use of this plugin is on vocals. I start with a template that I created that works well with my setup and PA tune and tweak from there. Often times we deal with vocalists who’s sound changes as their voice warms up or the note they are singing changes. That issue is easily fixed with the C6. In my room, vocals (spoken or singers) sound great while they talk with just a little EQ but when they sing need a bit more 600hz carved out dynamically or I’ll dynamically trim out the top end of a BGV so I can push them in the mix but they wont overtake the lead vocal. I can’t solve that problem with EQ or system tuning because it only happens when they are singing out or singing specific notes. Here comes the C6. I use it as well on bass guitars that often when playing open strings or lower notes hit the “hot” notes for the acoustical space of the room. It’s easy to grab one of the floating bands and reign in those troublesome frequencies and really start to normalize the bass guitar top to bottom. I know of and have personally used the C6 to do some dynamic mastering on the master buss of a recording. This is definitely a plugin I’d try anywhere!

So how do you use the C6? Have you found any of the presets particularly helpful? Find a unique use for this plugin? Let us know in the comments below! Next week we’ll move on to my second favorite plugin which might be a bit of a surprise to some as there are definitely more popular options out there. Make sure you don’t miss it (subscribe at this link)! As always if you have any questions, hit us up at engineers@studiostagelive.com. See you next week!

Waves Soundgrid: Top 5 – Part 2

Welcome back to week 2 of our Waves series talking about my top 5 plugins. As I mentioned last night, I see this question being asked all the time, sometimes of me, and so I thought I’d do a series talking about my top 5 plugins, how to operate them, and how I use them. Last week (here is a link in case you missed it) I talked about the CLA-76. While I use it a lot, I can often get pretty close with other options in the arsenal if I can’t use it. This week, I’m talking about harmonizers. It was really a toss up between two plugins with an ever-so-slight winner. This tie is made of Vitamin Sonic Enhancer and Scheps Parallel Particles. Both sound great, are easy to use, and are used frequently if I get the chance. Vitamin allows for granular control over what is added while Parallel Particles allows for a more cohesive experience because of it’s design. I give the edge here to Vitamin however. Because you can really tweak exactly what you want to add that, in my mind, gives it the edge because in theory you can create what you hear in Scheps with Vitamin. But, I use Scheps a lot where I used to use vitamin because I can get what I want quicker and easier while vitamin takes a bit to get really dialed. In many ways, Scheps is the one-knob plugin for harmonizers. However, for things like toms where I need to really control and tune what is happening Vitamin is the perfect fit and if I had to pick just one, I’d land with the Vitamin Sonic Enhancer.

Waves describes Vitamin like this, “Waves Vitamin is a multiband harmonic enhancer and tone-shaping plugin that can make any track sound powerful and full of spark by mixing an enriched version with the original signal.” Sort of like the C6 in operation, you set the frequency band in which each channel of the plugin works, set stereo width, and then attenuate the direct sound (what equates to a wet/dry knob) and that’s it. It also has a convenient punch setting that works a lot like the punch knob in Hcomp which can create some fun adjustments. Often times I’ll get the plugin reacting like I want it to with the 5 channels and then grab the master and adjust to taste. If you struggle to get moving or don’t know where to start the plugin is loaded with presets that can get you pretty far down the road. 

Probably a favorite and yet underused feature of this plugin is the solo option. When you click on it, you hear what is happening in the band only. This can really help you identify what needs to go up or down as you can solo one or a few of them to help identify where things are going wrong if you are having issues. Another great feature is the direct fader. Think of it like this, there are two paths for the audio through the plugin one is unprocessed, one is processed. You can’t attenuate the wet path but you can mix in or out, the direct path which can help you really get the exact amount of harmonics added. This feature differentiates this plugin from most other harmonics plugins because, much like old school FX units, you are basically getting what equates to a wet/dry setup. 

I could find myself using it on toms when I need a really big tom sound for big concerts or just a bigger/wider sound. I also use it regularly on electric guitar inputs to accentuate their role in the song (for lead guitars I use it to enhance the presence and top end, for rhythm guitars vitamin helps me get a big deep phat sound). My acoustic guitar chain usually has a parallel particles inserted in the middle of the omni-channel but I occasionally need to swap out for vitamin if I’m having a tough time locking it in. I love to use it on synths and electric pianos as well to help things just pop. 
So that’s number 4, the Vitamin Sonic Enhancer. Do you guys use it alot? If so, what do you use it with? Any tricks I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below! Next we are on to dig into my top 3 plugins starting with a plugin that probably everyone knows about. If you don’t want to miss out be sure to subscribe at this link. Lastly, if you have any questions, email us at engineers@studiostagelive.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. See you all on the flipside!

Waves Soundgrid: Top 5 – Part 1

Welcome to a new series I’ve entitled “Top 5.” So many times people ask what plugins people use the most or one they should definitely get when they first starting out. This is what that series aims to answer, at least from my viewpoint. Keep in mind, these are my top 5 favorite plugins, and they are that way because of the context that I’m working in. I’m sure a studio guy might have a different set or someone that mixes monitors might have even another different set of tools they use the most. I wanted to share them though because in learning how someone else uses their tools, you might learn something new or try something new. So read these posts with that in mind. Second on my list of quick disclaimers for the series is that these plugins should never be the things that your mix depends on. Practically, what you do with the faders and eq settings on your console should get your mix most of the way there. The plugins are the “icing on the cake.” Your cake must be mixed well, formed with intention, and baked perfectly (isn’t the analogy great?!?!?) before you put the icing on it. A lump of flour and sugar or a burnt piece of whatever is not magically made into a cake with the addition of icing. Great mixes are possible without the use of outboard plugins. All that aside, enough people ask, here is my answer. I’ve looked through my multirack templates, looked at what I go to when I need that extra something, and came up with 5 plugins that I’ve ranked appropriately. This week I’ll start with number 5.

My 5th favorite plugin is the CLA-76. The waves website describes it pretty well so I’ll drop in a quick quote that sums things up really well. Here it is:

The CLA-76 is modeled after one of the best renowned solid state compressor/limiters in music history, which uniquely used Field Effect Transistors (FETs) as gain control devices. Some 8,000 units were originally manufactured, and went through at least 13 revisions during their run. Waves modeled two of these highly-regarded revisions: 

-Revision D-LN (Low Noise), also known as the Blackface. It is perhaps the most famous version of this classic compressor. 
-Revision B, also known as the Silverface Bluestripe. The unit we modeled is CLA’s personal favorite. 

The main differences between the two units are slightly different gain stages and time constants, as well as THD and noise levels. For the CLA-76 plug-ins, we modeled the original pre-amp noise. 

Mechanically the CLA-76 works a bit differently than most compressors with a set threshold and adjustable input and output gains. I drive the input up until I’m getting the amount of compression I’m looking for and then adjust the output until I hear it sitting where I want. For vocals I’ll run a slower attack (lower numbers) and a faster release (higher numbers). For next level transparency I’ll crank that release up all the way. I’ll also run 4 or 8 ratio for vocals and 12 or 20 for instruments. For something like a snare drum I often find using the all-buttons option. Just be careful, this can be a really big gain stage if you aren’t watching your input and output levels.

I use this plugin on all four kick and snare inputs, occasionally trade it in for my main bass compressor (over my standard CLA-2a), and on any and all vocals as the final stage of compression. It does make its appearance on a few tracks inputs as needed as well.

But why is it my favorite you ask? Well the biggest reason is just the speed that this compressor works. Not only is it a zero latency plugin but it’s also incredibly fast when turned up all the way. It doesn’t slow down a whole lot when you turn the attack and release times down but it still covers such a broad area it makes it incredibly versatile. The speed of the attack and release also serve to bring the image of the input right up in front. This is why it’s great for vocals! When you compare it to other heavy hitting compressors that have a large user base like the Hcomp or the Rvox, the CLA-76 stands above the rest as this plugin just sounds better, cleaner, and in some cases more natural (likely a result of the speed that it can release the compression). Probably it’s only real issue is that it is very easy to over-compress with this plugin. As we use more and more tools it’s hard to watch and monitor them all. Add to that the ability for this thing to respond so quickly it’s easy for it to do too much. For that reason, I’m usually parking on the instance of the CLA-76 that’s on my lead vocal so I can make adjustments on the fly as necessary. 

So what do you guys think about the CLA-76? Do you use it a lot if at all? Any uses for it that departs from the mainstream? If you’re curious about waves plugins head on over the waves store and check some of them out at this link (referral link). Please leave a comment below or on Facebook and let us know. I know I write these articles as much to learn from you as to share what I know. Next week I’ll dive into number 4 as we discuss a tight race to my favorite harmonics plugin. Be sure to subscribe at this link to be informed when that post goes live. Thanks again for stopping by! See you next week and happy mixing!