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Pulsar Audio has introduced Pulsar Smasher ($54 value), an 1176-style compressor effect that is available for free download until March 11th, 2020. The iLok License Manager needs to be installed for plugin activation purposes (iLok USB key is not required).
Pulsar Smasher is a FET compressor effect modeled after the vintage UREI 1176LN peak limiter from 1967. The plugin closely emulates the “British mode” of a heavily modded 1176 hardware unit. The result is an extreme compressor effect with an aggressive and “crunchy” compression character. Pulsar Smasher is available in VST, VST3, AU, and AAX plugin formats for compatible digital audio workstations on PC and Mac.
The human voice is one of the most dynamic musical instruments, and therefore presents unique challenges when recording and mixing. Here are the plugin compressors that I find myself using most frequently when I mix vocals. The 1176/LA2A Combo Plugin emulations of these two classic compressors ar Play Video. Pulsar Smasher is a straightforward extreme compressor modeled after the “British mode” of a uniquely modified 1176 compressor. It adds definition to the low-frequency transients and makes the whole tone more aggressive. Decidedly not versatile, it is useful to enhance the ambience in overheads, to slightly thicken a bass or to emphasise vocals. Modeled compressor plugin -Based on the famed mid-'60s Class A line level limiting amplifier -Superfast attack -Sounds excellent on drums -Exclusive ALL control -Zero latency -Pre-amp distortion modeling MAC: CPU: Intel Core i3 / i5 / i7 / Xeon. Memory: 4 GB RAM, 4 GB free disk space on the system drive. VST PLUGINS FOR FREE Get producing music straight away with free VST plug-ins and samples in KOMPLETE START, taken from our leading production suite, KOMPLETE.Get REAKTOR PLAYER, KONTAKT PLAYER, KOMPLETE KONTROL, free effects VST plug-ins, free synth plug-ins, and sampled instruments to use in your own productions, as much as you want. Type of plugin: VSTi. What it does: This virtual analog synth was inspired by the Clavia Nord.
The developers at Pulsar Audio describe the Pulsar Smasher plugin as a raw and gritty dynamics processor that is somewhere between a compressor and a saturation effect. It is the type of compressor that is suitable for processing your audio mixes in the style of bands such as Vulfpeck and The Black Keys. The Smasher is perfect for making the drums sound crunchy and distorted without losing the dynamics. You can also experiment with using the Pulsar Smasher compressor on vocals, bass guitars, or as a secret ingredient on the master channel.
The secret behind Pulsar Smasher’s aggressive compression style is the hardware 1176’s so-called “British mode” that is engaged by pressing all four compression ratio buttons at the same time. The hardware compressor’s analog behavior, along with certain custom algorithm modifications implemented by Pulsar Audio, are the essential ingredients of Pulsar Smasher’s signature gritty sound. According to the info on the product page, the Pulsar Smasher is the first plugin ever to emulate the 1176 compressor’s all-button mode.
Unlike its complex analog hardware emulation algorithms, Pulsar Smasher’s user interface is quite simple. It features the input and output gain controls, a mix knob, and a bypass switch. The mix knob is handy for quick and easy parallel compression. A gain reduction meter is also provided, along with a preset manager and undo/redo buttons. The user interface can be freely resized from 50% to 200% of its original dimensions. The plugin is optimized to use as few CPU resources as possible.
Visit the product page linked below to download your free copy of the Pulsar Smasher plugin. The download installer file will install both the Pulsar Smasher software and the iLok License Manager. The activation code provided on the page can be used to claim your free license before March 11th, 2020.
To activate your copy of Pulsar Smasher, you will need to sign up for a free iLok user account (valid email address required). When loading the plugin for the first time, paste the activation code provided on the product page. The license will then be registered to your free iLok user account and activated on your computer.
PSA: Your antivirus software may report that the installer contains malware. In my opinion (and from my experience), this is a false positive. That said, use your own judgment – you’re installing the software at your own risk.
More info:Pulsar Smasher(242 MB download size, EXE installer, 32-bit & 64-bit VST/VST3/AU/AAX plugin format for Windows & macOS)
Waves is a popular plugin company, so all their plugins are great, but you may be wondering what the best Waves plugins are. There are over 200 Waves plugins and a lot of them are essential in creating a solid mix. Keep reading to find out what the top 25 must-have Waves plugins are that are available in 2020.
Here are the best Waves plugins:
1. Scheps Omni Channel
A one-stop channel strip
The Scheps Omni Channel, designed by the award-winning mix engineer Andrew Scheps, is a top-rated, extremely flexible channel strip unlike ones you have used before. It was made to work with Andrew’s combinations of EQ, compression, saturation, and more to create a great sounding signal chain without having to pull up a bunch of different plugins.
Oftentimes channel strips are based on vintage mixers, but that can mean that you are limited to having all your songs being connected to a certain sonic color. Modular channel strips do not limit you to a certain coloration, but they oftentimes do not mesh together in a cohesive way. This is not the case with Scheps Omni Channel. Andrew Scheps took the best of vintage channel strips and the best of modular strips, certain combinations, and turned them into one channel strip, the Scheps Omni Channel.
Scheps Omni Channel has six modules: Pre, Compression, EQ, DS2, Gate, and a slot for a Waves plugin of your choice. With the Pre module, you can add in analog saturation to color your signal as well as filters. The Compression module allows you to compress and expand your signal, and the EQ module has a 4 band EQ to sculpt your sound. DS2 is a de-esser that takes care of plosives as well as harsh frequencies, and the Gate module allows you to expand and gate the signal but also adjust the amount of noise reduction happening. Waves also provides some presets for the plugin if you need to focus on one module more than the others.
The Scheps Omni Channel really is a great channel strip plugin. Compared to other channel strips, this one makes audio sound extremely cohesive and it does not seem like anything sticks out in a way that’s sonically unpleasant.
I have used it on vocals, guitar, and even some drums, and it sounds amazing. The coloration options are very handy for adding some different character to audio depending on the genre you are making. Everything is easy to use and the interface is very straightforward. You are missing out if you have not used this VST before; it is a definite must-have Waves plugin.
2. Vocal Rider
Taking automation out of the production process
If you are like me and you absolutely hate automating vocal levels, you need Vocal Rider. It is one of the most popular plugins from Waves, and understandably so. Vocal Rider does exactly like the name sounds: it rides the volume level of the vocals to keep it even. And it does all this without coloring the signal.
If you were to try to even it out with compression, for example, you’d get some coloration and quite possibly a heavily squashed signal. That’s not something you want, but automation isn’t exactly fun either. Vocal Rider takes out the guesswork and does it all for you.
The layout of Vocal Rider is simple. There are three sliders. One is the actual vocal rider slider, one is the output level, and the other is the range slider. The range slider is what you use to set the average level that your vocals need to be at in relation to the rest of the mix. Once you have set that, if you need to boost the output volume, you do that with the output slider. In the meantime, the rider slider detects the levels of your incoming audio and instantly changes the volume to match the volume that’s within your selected range.
Vocal Rider also works extremely well for live vocals, so if you do live mixing you can easily add it to your workflow. If I were to pinpoint a certain genre that this plugin would be best for, I’d say it is the best Waves plugin for rap vocals due to the frequent need of automation on rap vocals.
Vocal Rider saves so much time and keeps you from getting frustrated with changing automation and sitting in front of the computer for hours trying to get it right. Forget about manually automating your vocals and just get Vocal Rider from Waves.
3. Scheps 73
A classic preamp and EQ combo
Another great plugin designed by the world-renowned Andrew Scheps, the Waves Scheps 73 is a 3-band EQ and mic preamp module modeled on the classic 1073 console. The Scheps 73’s EQ is so closely modeled after the 1073 that it emulates its behavior with lots of precision.
The specs of the EQ include a fixed 12 kHz high frequency band, switchable low and midrange bands with cut and boost controls for each, and a high-pass filter with a ratio of 18 dB per octave. A 10 kHz midrange band is also made to be operable in the plugin, although it was made to be operated on the 1078 channel strip. Saturation (controlled by the drive knob) is modeled after the 1073’s saturation and captures all of the harmonic details and sonic characteristics of the 1073. It sounds extremely authentic and warm.
Other features include the ability to monitor the stereo channel, mono channel, and left and right channels separately. You can also EQ the mid and side channels with this plugin. If you do like coloration and want a very warm, rich, full sounding vocal or instrument, use the Scheps 73 and you will be beyond satisfied.
4. Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain
Achieve the Abbey Road sound with ease
Abbey Road TG is a modular mastering chain plugin modeled after the EMI TG12410 transfer console used in all of Abbey Road’s mastering suites. The TG Mastering Chain is made out of modules (or cassettes) just like the original console. Included is: an input module, tone (EQ) module, compressor and limiter module, filter module, and a VAL module incorporated into the output module.
Except for the input and output modules, they can be swapped around to create custom mastering chains and switched on and off. They can also be used individually or mixed and matched if you do not want to use all of them together.
The compressor and limiter module offers two colorations, original and modern. Original is an aggressive and ‘dirty’ type of compression and modern is one that was designed by Waves to help you retain the highest quality of audio while keeping the loudness.
The TG Mastering Chain has proven to be a flexible plugin while retaining the classic Abbey Road sound found on many popular albums or giving it a bit of a new flavor with the more modern sounding compressor option. The flexibility continues even more, as you can process signals in stereo, duo, or mid/side, and monitor the signal in stereo, mono, left, right, and mid/side if you need to. There is also a live performance mode, so if you want to do live mastering as everything is coming through the system, you can do that with ease and not have to worry about latency.
If you have found that mastering with plugins from companies like iZotope or UAD just do not match the final sound you are trying to achieve, take the best Waves plugin for mastering, the TG Mastering Chain, for a spin.
5. SSL E-Channel
A slice of the world’s greatest hit making machine
The SSL E-Channel is another amazing-sounding channel strip modeled after the Solid State Logic 4000 series console. The sections included in this plugin are equalization and dynamics. On the equalization side of the plugin, it is based on the renowned Black Knob equalizer that was developed with the legendary producer George Martin in the 80s. The equalization section features a high-pass filter, a low-pass filter, and a parametric EQ with four bands.
The dynamics section gives you a compressor and limiter with a soft knee, and an expander and gate that was modeled after the Solid State Logic LS611E. Staying true to the original design, the compressor/limiter and expander/gate can be placed before or after the equalization section to make your signal chain flow just how you want it.
The SSL E-Channel also has a button for turning the analog sound on and off, so depending on how you want your sound to come out, you can use that button to get the classic SSL sound or bypass it for a more modern sound.
The SSL E-Channel is especially good for drums and makes them hit really hard, so I suggest you use it primarily for your percussive elements, but it is a great plugin for really any element of a song.
6. F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ
EQ and compression with surgical precision
The F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ is one of the best dynamic EQs Waves has to offer, in my opinion. With the F6 Dynamic EQ, you get a dynamic EQ with 6 floating bands for parametric EQing, plenty of advanced EQ controls as well as compression and expansion controls per band.
Mid/side processing is available to help you carve out even more space in the mix, and you also get to view everything on a real-time frequency analyzer with adjustable resolution and reaction speed, pre and post EQ, note and amplitude display, and sidechain options.
The F6 is ideal for solving problems. Not only can it be used for equalization and compression, but it can also be used for de-essing. The F6 Dynamic EQ lets you focus on problem spots and only treat them when the problems arise in those areas. F6 is extremely precise and Waves made it while keeping in mind that details matter, so the EQ’s settings are so sensitive that you can precisely specify when a certain frequency will be boosted, cut, expanded, or compressed.
More specifics on the EQ include variable EQ shapes, overlapping bands, and threshold sensitive EQ settings. The interface of the plugin is modern and simple even with so many knobs, buttons, and options. F6 is a great dynamic EQ.
7. Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter
A tone you can’t get anywhere else
The Waves Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter is an exciter plugin that was modeled on one of the few tube powered units ever made. If you are not sure what an exciter does, it is basically a saturation plugin but instead of adding low end distortion, it adds it in the high end.
The original Aphex Aural Exciter has an extremely distinct sound and so does the Waves Aphex Vintage Exciter. The exciter adds brightness, presence, vibrance, and depth without increasing volume. It slightly colors the audio signal with those high-frequency harmonics, which makes it perfect for vocals as well as instruments.
In the interface, you will see several knobs. One is for the excitement mode, one is for picking what signal the meter reads and delivers, another is for input volume, one is for the wet/dry mix, another is for the output volume, and there’s also a section for applying a low cut and adding some analog noise to the signal. This exciter plugin is great to use while mixing or even in the mastering process, and it provides an awesome tone that is hard to replicate with other plugins. Check it out.
8. Reel ADT
Abbey Road style double tracking and lush delay
The Waves/Abbey Road Reel ADT is a plugin that emulates Abbey Road Studios’ process of Artificial Double Tracking. The double tracking effect became an essential sound that Abbey Road Studios used when mixing for The Beatles. Reel ADT gets you a lush-sounding delay and variations in pitch as well as tape saturation.
Reel ADT sounds super authentic to a real tape machine with all the fluttering and other tape noises, and it really does sound like there are multiple takes playing as if it really was double tracked.
This plugin does more than double track emulation though – it can do other tape effects like flanging and phasing. You can choose between different tape sounds depending on the source you use, and there’s a drive control and a pan control for each source path so you can make it as wide as you want it or leave it more narrow sounding to get almost a simulated room reverb sound.
Everything is MIDI-assignable, so you can control it with a MIDI controller, but you can also control it manually or set it to process audio automatically. Reel ADT can also be used in live shows since it has extremely low latency.
If you want a double tracked sound but do not have time to manually double track your audio, or if you want a special-sounding delay effect and other delay plugins do not seem to cut it, Reel ADT is a plugin worth trying. It is a huge time saver and you can get some really cool, unforgettable panoramic sounds and a ton of character out of it.
9. J37 Tape
An Abbey Road tape saturation masterpiece
Another essential Waves plugin that sounds fantastic is the J37 Tape. It is a tape saturation plugin modeled after the tape machine at Abbey Road Studios that was used to record so many modern hits as well as popular tracks from the 60s.
This thing is packed with controls to sculpt the sound of the tape. Tape speed, bias, noise, saturation, wow and flutter are all adjustable controls. While the J37 has its own character and flavor, three other oxide tape formulas have been modeled and can be used instead of the J37’s sound. Each formula has a unique frequency response and harmonic distortion.
Adding onto all of this, the J37 Tape plugin also has a built-in tape delay module with different delay types, sync, and low-pass and high-pass filters to add to the warm tones you get from the saturation. The plugin is extremely warm and models the analog software to a T.
I have never heard such a realistic sounding plugin and that makes the J37 Tape one of my favorite Waves plugins for sure. Try it out, it might become yours too!
10. Vitamin Sonic Enhancer
Add some extra oomph to your music
Waves Vitamin Sonic Enhancer is essentially a compressor, EQ, and saturator all in one. If we’re going to get technical, it is a multi-band harmonic enhancer that can be used to shape the tone of your songs by mixing an enhanced version with the original signal. If you do not want to mess around with tone shaping plugins like EQ, compression, and saturation to get the tone you want, you should try Vitamin.
Vitamin has no latency, so if you are a mix engineer in the studio or a mix engineer for a live show, you will be able to use the plugin with no problem. Ideally you should use Vitamin Sonic Enhancer on a track insert or a bus. Instantly you can get a warm result that also brightens your output audio without having to mess with a bunch of different plugins.
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Vitamin Sonic Enhancer certainly does not take the place of EQs, compressors, and saturators, but it is a really handy plugin if you want to save time or if you cannot achieve a certain goal for tone when you have used EQs, compressors, and other plugins. With a few pushes of a slider you can get more punchiness, smoother dynamics, enhance harmonics, and make the stereo field wider.
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You can use Vitamin in mono or stereo mode when using the EQ sliders in the plugin, and when you have it in stereo mode you can change the width of each of the individual five bands to make room for more in the mix. Vitamin is great on vocals, guitars, synths, drums, and also is great if used when mastering a full song.
Vitamin Sonic Enhancer is easily an essential Waves plugin and I strongly suggest you check it out if you want to save time, resources, and add a little extra oomph to your music.
11. Abbey Road Chambers
Huge, beautiful reverbs at your fingertips
The Abbey Road Chambers plugin is the fastest way to get absolutely beautiful-sounding reverbs in the style of Abbey Road Studio’s echo chamber, featuring the STEED (send tape echo echo delay) technique.
The plugin recreates the same sonic characters from their echo chamber to create reverbs, delays, and other spatial effects they used on so many records. Abbey Road Chambers helps you achieve the echos from Abbey Road’s Studio Two chamber and even models the crisp, clear recording abilities due to their use of the Neumann KM 53 microphones and Altec 605 speaker. To sculpt the reverbs and delays even further, included is a high and low-pass filter from EMI as well as an EMI presence EQ.
As I mentioned, Abbey Road Chambers includes a recreation of their STEED setup. STEED was a system that split the signal and created a feedback loop that would go through their mixing console, through a tape delay, through two EQ filters, and to the chamber and back. It gives you a gorgeous-sounding reverb like nothing you have heard before and it is something you have got to listen to in order to understand just how much it stretches the chambers’ sonic qualities.
Abbey Road Chambers also includes two other spaces as a bonus: their Mirror Room and the Stone Room from Olympic Studios in London. This gives you so much more creative freedom.
Using Abbey Road Chambers is easy, you can send your tracks to the chamber, mirror room, or stone room, isolate the STEED setup effect, or combine both. The plugin opens up a whole world of hybrid reverbs, delays, and more. ARC is an amazing plugin that would be best used if you make atmospheric music or have a lot of lush, experimental sounds that need to be pushed through a wide open stereo field.
12. Abbey Road Reverb Plates
Legendary plate reverbs
Easily the best Waves reverb plugin is Abbey Road Reverb Plates. Waves modeled four legendary plates from Abbey Road Studios – ones that were even used by the Beatles and Pink Floyd.
A little behind their reverb setup: the plate reverbs were originally set up to complement their echo chambers. Drive amps were specially designed to keep noise to a minimum for three of the plates, while the last one was fully valve powered. This allowed for a huge variation of sonic qualities and characteristics in the reverbs. Waves has modeled that in a plugin and now you get to use and enjoy the modeled harmonic distortion and even the behaviors of the plates.
The plugin allows you to set input volume, select a plate (plates A through D), set the damper level, and typical reverb controls you’d find on any reverb plugin, like pre-delay and the dry/wet mix. An analog knob as well as a drive knob is available to use and there’s also an EQ section included to take care of harsh frequencies or muddiness. These reverbs sound so good, and you can get a ton of different tones out of them, whether you want something lush, dark, bright, or rich.
13. Tune Real-Time
Smooth, latency-free live vocal tuning
It cannot be denied that auto tune is used in pretty much every song these days. Even if it is not noticeable, it is likely that at least a little bit was used on the vocals of a recent song. Discord join sound. Waves Tune Real-Time is a plugin that ensures that the vocalist is on key, so they do not have to worry and instead they can focus on giving a great performance.
If you are familiar with Antares Autotune, Waves Tune Real-Time is pretty much the same thing. Waves Tune Real-Time was made for live performances, but can be used during pre-production, tracking, and mixing. Since it was made for live performances especially, it has no latency and out of tune notes are instantly corrected as soon as they leave the singer’s mouth.
The algorithms used in Waves Tune Real-Time ensure that the vocalist’s vocal sound won’t be changed at all, unlike other autotune plugins (Antares, for example) that add extra brightness to the vocal signal. Waves Tune Real-Time is ideal for subtle vocal pitch correction (or the hard-tuned T-Pain effect) and gives you vocals that are ready to go in literally no time.
The plugin’s design is very intuitive and easy to navigate. You can control the vocal range, scale, specific notes to fix or avoid, the sensitivity of the plugin, and you can even tune the vibrato without messing up its natural movement, which is something that not many plugins do right.
Waves Tune Real-Time is also MIDI compatible, so you can make the plugin follow a melody set in advance or in real time if you do not know the scale or key of the song. Waves Tune Real-Time is easily one of the most ideal and intuitive vocal tuning plugins out there.
Manual pitch correction made easy
If you want the power of Waves Tune Real-Time but do not want a live program to retune the vocals and would prefer to do it yourself in your DAW, Waves Tune is the plugin you need.
If you are familiar with Melodyne by Celemony, Waves Tune is pretty similar to that. Waves Tune is set up to give you precise vocal retuning with ease. The plugin has a ton of pitch shaping and pitch transforming tools, a timeline, a piano roll to further ensure you are matching the vocals to the correct notes, and an intuitive pitch editor.
Using Waves Tune is easy, all you have to do is apply it to a track with vocals or a monophonic instrument, and drag the notes that need tuning to the correct spot that correlates with the piano roll on the pitch editor. You can set the speed of the retuned audio, length of the note transitions, and more to get things sounding just right. Like Waves Tune Real-Time, you are able to retune vibrato without taking away the wavering qualities or changing the speed of it.
Waves Tune sounds great and does not degrade your voice or add any extra tones or formants to your processed vocals. Get Waves Tune if you prefer to process and retune vocals after they’ve been recorded. If you do not have a preference, just get Waves Tune Real Time.
15. SSL G-Master Buss Compressor
The absolute best analog Waves compressor
The SSL G-Master Buss Compressor plugin is based on the world-renowned master buss compressor on the Solid State Logic 4000 G console. Waves has captured the sound of the console’s input and twin VCA gain reduction amp design.
The SSL G-Master Buss Compressor plugin is ideal for gluing tracks together, so it will especially shine in a mastering chain or just on the master channel in your DAW. The plugin is also awesome for adding punchiness to drums, taming dynamics of a piano, or just tightening up a final mix.
The layout is very simple: you have all your major controls that you’d find on any compressor. There’s a threshold knob, an attack knob, a release knob, a ratio knob, and a make up gain knob. You can also turn off the analog sound if you choose to do so. Additionally, the plugin comes with presets by the famous engineer Chris Lord-Alge, so if you need some inspiration or a head start, you can use those.
While it is not an ideal compressor for every single instrument and there are other popular compressors out there that are made by Waves, the SSL G-Master Buss Compressor is easily the best Waves compressor in my opinion. It sounds so much like the real thing, and it does not add any type of harsh coloring in the lower or upper frequencies or give it any muddiness or negative characteristics.
It does what it is supposed to: glues together tracks. I use it on every one of my songs in the master channel, and honestly, you should too. Sadly, there are no free Waves plugins, but I wish this one was free, so that everyone could get a taste of it.
16. H-Reverb Hybrid Reverb
Deep reverb tails with crisp air
H-Reverb is a newer hybrid reverb plugin powered by Finite Impulse Response technology, or FIR. FIR gives extremely rich reverbs, gives more air to your tracks, and helps your instruments and vocals to sit perfectly in the mix.
New technologies open new creative horizons. The FIR technology allows you to customize the decay envelope of the reverb beyond linear forms, which means that you will get gated, real reverse, and dense reverb that does not add muddiness to your mix. With H-Reverb, you also get a drive control that gives the signal a bit more analog saturation.
On top of that, you get a ton of presets created by the music industry’s best mix engineers and presets inspired by classic reverb units, so if you need a starting point, you will have some strong ones.
The interface of H-Reverb is one of the more detailed reverb GUIs I have seen. Aside from the typical reverb controls (attack and release, pre-delay, size, wet and dry signal), there are modules for the decay envelope, LFO, input echoes, output echoes, modulation, and EQ and dynamics.
This type of technology and flexibility in a reverb plugin is something unheard of until now. By putting together classic reverb concepts with modern features and controls, H-Reverb has become one of the ultimate modern reverb plugins from Waves.
17. C6 Multiband Compressor
Flexible multiband compression
Similar to the C4 Multiband Compressor from Waves, the C6 is an even better model of the well-loved C4 with a few more exciting features. The C6 is a popular favorite among mix engineers and is not a plugin to pass up.
The C6 Multiband Compressor is great for expanding, compressing, limiting, and fixing problems that span through a whole frequency band, but can also be awesome for de-essing, controlling plosives, and fixing problem frequencies with surgical precision.
The C6 has six bands, four normal crossover bands and two floating bands for high and low shelving and cutting. Something that’s not in the C4 that is in the C6 is a sidechain feature. With all that it can do, the C6 is a complete powerhouse and that makes it one of the best Waves plugins for vocals, but it is also fantastic on instruments too.
The C6 has a dynamic EQ and the sidechain feature is specific to each band, so if you only want to control a certain portion of frequencies (for example control the higher frequencies on the beginning of a snare drum hit and leave the low end untouched), it is very easy to do that.
I like to slap the C6 on vocals, drums, and guitars to control any harsh frequencies I find that are a nuisance to my ears. The C6 is really great at controlling and shaping sounds while fixing very specific frequency problems. If you wanted to, you could use it as an all-in-one type plugin; I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that, but it definitely could be done and it would sound great.
18. NLS Non-Linear Summer
Three legendary consoles in one plugin
The NLS Non-Linear Summer is easily one of the best Waves plugins for mixing. NLS is essentially three consoles coming together as one plugin. The consoles featured are the SSL 4000 G (the Spike), the EMI TG12345 Mk4 (the Mike), and the Neve 5116s (the Nevo).
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The Non-Linear Summer consists of the NLS channels of the three consoles and the NLS busses to match. Waves modeled over 100 channels over all three consoles to fully capture the magical color, character, and behavior of each input and buss amp. NLS Non-Linear Summer has a ton of richness, depth, and a ton of harmonic qualities that make it seem like you have used the physical hardware of the consoles themselves to record and mix.
The NLS channels are set up with a drive knob and a VCA knob. You can turn the microphone on and off and also add analog noise to bring even more character to the signal. The NLS Non-Linear Summer is a sonic piece of art.
19. Grand Rhapsody Piano
A Grammy Award-winning piano in VST form
The Grand Rhapsody Piano plugin from Waves was sampled from the Fazioli F228 grand piano from Metropolis Studios in London. The Fazioli F228 is an Italian piano made with the same type of wood that Antonio Stradivari made his famous violins from. The tone wood gives the piano a deep bass, rich resonance, and a bright, clear tone that make it extremely famed.
The samples of the Fazioli F228 were recorded at Metropolis Studios with 8 different pairs of microphones (from the Neumann U 87 to the Shure SM57) and preamps and converters of the highest-quality, so you are getting the best sound reproduction possible.
The Grand Rhapsody is great for a variety of genres, from pop to electronic to jazz. The Grand Rhapsody Piano plugin allows you to blend up to 3 microphone pairs and choose the position they’re in. You can control how much of the pedal and resonance are mixed into the overall sound of the piano, and you can incorporate Waves’ high-quality EQs, compressors, limiters, delays, and reverb with the signal, so you do not have to have a dry piano sound.
The plugin can be used in your DAW or standalone, and is MIDI compatible. Although I have not used this piano plugin much myself, it is one that deserves a lot more attention than it gets. It is incredibly warm and rich and just sounds absolutely beautiful. Make sure you check out our picks for the best piano VST plugins in 2020.
20. CLA-76 Compressor / Limiter
Punchy compression with snappy attack
The CLA-76 is another best-selling compressor bundle that also has a limiter feature. The CLA-76 was inspired by two famous analog compressors, the UREI/Universal Audio 1176 Blue Stripe and 1176 Blackface, called Bluey and Blacky by Waves.
As per usual, on both models of the compressor, you get your typical attack and release knobs, and your input and output controls. A ratio control is also included, but there is a button labeled ‘all’ that models the original compressor’s explosive ratio mode that made it famous in the first place for its insanely powerful drum sounds.
Because of this, the obvious go-to instruments for this plugin to be used with are drums and percussive instruments, but the CLA-76 is also great for vocals and guitar. It smooths out vocals and brings them forward in the mix with ease, and solves tons of dynamics problems that oftentimes aren’t solved with other compressors.
Using this compressor is an absolute dream, and the different models carry a slightly different sonic character, so you will find that there is some pleasing coloration when using them. With the capability of having a super-fast attack and smooth release, as well as rich preamp distortion modeling, the CLA-76 is a prized plugin that every producer should have in their arsenal.
21. Kramer Master Tape
Rich reel-to-reel tape saturation
Kramer Master Tape is a plugin modeled on a reel-to-reel tape machine, designed with help from Eddie Kramer. Kramer Master Tape gives your songs a richness and warmth through real analog tape saturation and breathes new life into what was previously boring and static.
The plugin looks like a real tape deck and is set up with knobs that control tape speed, record level, playback level, flux, wow/flutter, and noise. The Kramer Master Tape is ideal for rock, dance, and many other genres and comes with built-in slap and feedback delay to help facilitate that.
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Whether you are using it for recording, mixing, or mastering the Kramer Master Tape plugin sounds great no matter the application. I like to use it with vocals and piano to give them a slightly wobbly effect and add the perfect amount of saturation to keep them sounding rich and full if the mix is busy and they get lost in it.
Tape saturation is a plugin that is starting to become more popular, and if you like the vintage sound it adds and the full, warm quality it brings to recordings, get Kramer Master Tape and see how it holds up against modern tape saturation. Kramer Master Tape does not disappoint.
22. CLA-2A Compressor / Limiter
Smooth, subtle compression
The CLA-2A is a compressor that was modeled on a legendary tube compressor. As far as I know, this is the only compression plugin by Waves that has this quality to it. The CLA-2A accurately reproduces the smooth, frequency dependent behaviors that the tube compressor also had, which make it a popular choice for mixing vocals, guitar, and bass.
While the plugin is extremely nice-sounding when used on guitar and bass, it really shines on vocals, especially on slow songs. Because of its smooth approach to signal processing, vocals sound buttery and rich while being subtly controlled by the compression. The plugin is a great choice when recording R&B or jazz but also can hold its own with pop and rock songs that need just a little compression.
In comparison to other compressors, the CLA-2A does not color the signal, which is something that is a benefit if you are already using a channel strip that adds color or saturation to the signal.
The interface is ridiculously easy to navigate through, as it has only two knobs: one for gain and another for peak reduction. There is also a sidechain frequency filter in the limiter side of this compressor, which has the same gain and peak reduction controls as the compressor side does. This brilliant plugin comes with a bunch of presets to get you started on your CLA-2A journey, one that you will greatly enjoy.
23. EMI TG12345 Channel Strip
The classic Abbey Road channel strip
Waves and Abbey Road Studios have come together to model the famous console, the EMI TG12345, in plugin form. This legendary console was used on records from the Beatles and Pink Floyd.
The channel strip includes some of the most important elements of the console, including the preamp, the EQ module (that consists of a bass band, a treble EQ band, and a presence EQ band), a spreader to widen the stereo signal, and the crisp sounding compressor/limiter combo.
Along with the preamp and tone controls, the plugin offers routing options rather than allowing you to move the modules around to where you need them in the signal chain. Modern features have been added to some of the modules to allow for more modern mixing techniques including a high pass filter on the compressor sidechain, and a drive control. There is little to no latency on the channel strip, so you can easily use it for live performances as well as studio use without timing problems occurring.
The EMI TG12345 gives your songs a crisp, bright, and rich sound just like the original console no matter what it is being used for, and the unforgettable tone delivered by Abbey Road Studios is sure to turn heads.
24. NS1 Noise Suppressor
Noise suppression and gating
If you are forced to record in areas where there’s a lot of background noise or if you often get bleed from your headphones while recording, the Waves NS1 Noise Suppressor is a plugin you should have in your arsenal.
The NS1 Noise Suppressor is a wickedly intuitive plugin that intelligently differentiates between noise, dialog, and musical qualities. NS1 analyzes your input audio signal and eliminates background noise while bringing dialog, singing, or an instrument forward in the signal.
The interface is super easy to navigate as it only has one slider to remove noise. While NS1 Noise Suppressor isn’t a fix-all for your background noise problems, it does extremely well at managing it. Unfortunately it won’t get rid of any electromagnetic field feedback or humming that’s coming through your microphone and into the plugin since it would be up front with your voice, but it does a great job at background noise, which is what it is supposed to take care of.
NS1 Noise Suppressor does not work like a noise gate, although if your background noise is loud enough and your slider is down quite a ways, you will get a gate-like effect, which will likely mess up your main audio signal.
Make sure to remember that if you do a lot of noise suppression, since it reduces the signal and tries to filter out the frequencies of the background noise, you’ll want to put an EQ and possibly even a compressor after NS1 in your signal chain to make up for any lost harmonics
If your signal isn’t super heavily-laden with noise, NS1 Noise Suppressor should react smoothly and solve your noise problem in no time without taking away much of the sonic character. The plugin has a more analog sound so it may slightly color the signal going into it, although it shouldn’t be much. NS1 is great for many uses, whether you are doing a quick noise suppression fix or taking your time with it and using it delicately.
25. PRS SuperModels
Free 1176 Vst
Paul Reed Smith guitar amps
If you play guitar, you have almost definitely heard of Paul Reed Smith. In the day and age where amp and cabinet modeling is becoming more and more popular, Waves was right on trend and created a plugin to satisfy guitarists into digital amp and cab modeling for their guitars.
PRS SuperModels is a plugin that models three Paul Reed Smith guitar amps: the PRS Archon, the PRS Dallas, and the PRS Blue Sierra/V9. With PRS SuperModels, you get outstanding tones right out of the box, and the amp models are insanely accurate to the real hardware amps.
Waves modeled every piece of circuitry and every tube to get every last detail of the sound right. The Paul Reed Smith Archon amp is ideal for bright, lush cleans or overdrive. If you really push the limits of the amp, you get a great sounding distortion out of it. The gain on it is incredibly lush, which makes the Archon perfect for playing lead or a crunchy rhythm while also supplying a pristine clean channel for all genres.
The Paul Reed Smith Blue Sierra/V9 is an extremely rare amp that has now morphed into what we know as the PRS J-MOD 100 amp. The Blue Sierra/V9 is reminiscent of boutique American amps and is perfect for clean sounds and overdriven tones with not too much gain. You can get a really huge, wide sound out of this amp that sounds amazing to the ears without having to do much tweaking.
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The Paul Reed Smith Dallas is modeled after an all tube design that gives out sounds from classic American amps with reverb. It is easily the most classic-sounding amp that lets you play huge cleans and plenty of overdriven tones with reverb that sounds natural no matter how far you push it. The lows are very solid and do not get too muddy, the highs are crisp, and the midrange tones of this amp are rich and full-sounding.
PRS SuperModels includes eight different speaker cabinets captured by Paul Reed Smith’s own personal mics and preamps. The plugin also has a latency fix technology that solves any latency issues between the signal coming from your guitar and the signal reaching the cabinet. The perceived volume is balanced when using multiple cabinets. You do not have to worry about clicking around in the plugin and instead you can just play, either in your DAW or in standalone mode.
Since this is a plugin, there are some added features you won’t find in the hardware, including a tone booster, a sensitive digital guitar tuner, and a noise gate to keep input feedback at bay when you’re not playing and keep output feedback from occurring. With a creator like Paul Reed Smith, the PRS SuperModels plugin is sure to suit your playing for any genre and sound amazing the whole time.
Even though the best Waves plugins debate is subjective based on things like your needs and the genre of music you are making or producing, we all know one thing: that Waves VSTs are easily some of the absolute best. I strongly recommend that you go to the Waves website and take a look at what they have to offer there. They may be a bit expensive but they have sales a lot of the time, and really none of their plugins are worth passing up. Stay tuned for more Waves plugin reviews in the future!
Jordan is a music producer, content creator, writer, and session musician. He has been producing music and engineering live performances for over 7 years. He is an experienced guitarist and enjoys listening to and playing many different genres of music.