Waves Plugins: My Top 10 Picks For Radio-Ready Mixes

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In this video, you’ll discover my ten favorite Waves plug-ins.

Hey, this is Jason from Behind The Speakers, and before we dive in make sure you download my free e-book “35 Mixing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making.” Avoid these mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to mixing like a pro. Click the link above or in the description below to download this e-book now.

Waves plug-in number one is the CLA-76. Now this is an emulation of a classic 1176 compressor, one of the most famous, well-known compressors of all time. And this compressor has a very bright, fast sound. So it works very well on rock vocals, really things you want to bring forward and add energy and urgency to in your mixes. So I really like using this compressor on vocals. It’s one of my go-to compressors whenever I’m trying to bring things forward and make things sound brighter and more aggressive. And that blue stripe setting on this compressor – which is an emulation of an older model of the 1176 – has a little bit more distortion and aggression to it which can work really well on rock vocals, or things you want to add a little bit more of that kind of grit and distortion to.

Waves plug-in number two is the Renaissance Bass. Now this is a sub-harmonic synthesizer, meaning it actually creates harmonics that add density and weight to the low end. So whenever you have a sound in your mix – let’s say a bass – that’s not really giving you that low end weight and density that you’re looking for, maybe you tried adding some low end on an EQ but it’s not really working, this would be a plug-in I would reach for. And just by dialing in a little bit of those harmonics, those sub-harmonics, you can kind of trick the ear into thinking there’s a lot more low end than is actually there. So this is a great tool to add density and weight to your low end. And if you’re struggling to craft a low end that really sounds thick and weight-y, this plug-in is a great resource.

Waves plug-in number three is the Renaissance Compressor. Now this is a compressor that Waves released awhile ago, it’s one of their earlier plug-ins. And it’s a fantastic all-around workhorse compressor. So if you’re looking for one compressor that’ll sound pretty good on whatever you put it on, this is a great choice. It gives you flexibility, control over attack, release, threshold, ratio. You just get lots of flexibility with this plug-in. And if I had one compressor, this would be one of my go-to choices for sure.

Waves plug-in number four is H-Delay. H-Delay is a delay plug-in which sounds kind of simple on the surface and, you know, you might be thinking well why do I need another delay plug-in? Don’t all delays kind of do the same thing? This is a plug-in that gives you some flexibility that some of the other delay plug-ins out there don’t – mainly the analog saturation and some of the distortion that you can add by using this tool.

So you have a lo-fi switch which can actually kind of round off some of the extremities of the frequency spectrum, and make the delay sound a little bit more like a vintage delay or a tape delay. And then you have some analog modeling settings on this delay as well. So I like using this delay when I’m trying to go for something with a little bit more character and vibe to it, I really don’t want a really clean, pristine sounding delay. So this works really well on guitars, and just things I want to sound a little bit grittier and dirtier.

Waves plug-in number five is Trans-X. Now Trans-X is a transient enhancement manipulation tool. So it actually allows you to bring out the transients or actually bring down the transients in a vocal, in a drum hit. And the transients are those initial impacts right on the beginning of the notes and the hits in a performance, and they add energy and impact to a part. They bring it forward in the mix. So by having a tool that will allow you to manipulate these independently, you can either make a track sound punchier, more aggressive, more urgent, bring it forward, or you can round it off a little bit by pulling back those transients and actually push the track back in the mix and make it sound a little bit softer and more gentle. So this is a great tool, especially for drums when you’re trying to add more impact, punch to a kick drum or a snare drum. It’s a fantastic overall tool for transient manipulation, and I highly recommend if you’re looking for something that will allow you to manipulate the transients in your mixes, you check out Trans-X.

The sixth Waves plug-in I recommend is the C4. This is a multiband compressor which, it’s one of the first multiband compressors that really came out that sounded decent. And it’s actually still one of my go-to tools for multiband compression. I also like the FabFilter multiband compressor, but this is a great quick and easy multiband compressor if you’re looking to compress independent areas of the frequency spectrum and just have a little bit more control over compression across the frequency spectrum, this is a great tool. It just sounds great, gives you a lot of flexibility, and it’s certainly one of the best multiband compressors out there. Now if you’re wondering how to use multiband compression or you want more information about that, I have a whole video dedicated to multiband compression. You can check that out by clicking the link in the video above or in the description below.

The seventh Waves plug-in I recommend is the CLA-2A, which is an emulation of a classic LA-2A compressor. Along with the 1176 this is one of the most famous compressors of all time. And this has a much softer, gentler sound than the 1176. So whenever you’re working with tracks or parts in your song that you just want to control dynamically but you want a gentler kind of compression that doesn’t sound too aggressive, this is my compressor of choice. It’s just a great all-around workhorse compressor. Works well for vocals, especially in ballads, female vocals, softer songs, things like that. It also sounds really good on bass. So if you’re, again, looking for a softer dynamic control then this is an absolutely fantastic choice, and you can’t go wrong with the CLA-2A.

The eighth Waves plug-in I recommend is the Doubler. Now the Doubler seems like a very simple plug-in on the surface, but it’s incredibly powerful. This is a tool that will basically create doubles from an original performance by slightly modifying the timing and the pitch of the original track, and then blending those doubles in under the original performance. And the effect is it thickens up the original track, almost like the difference between a solo singer versus a choir, that kind of thickness and density that you get from multiple people singing the same parts slightly differently. Very similar effect to something like doubling.

And this is a tool that I really like using on vocals whenever I have a vocal that sounds just a little bit thin and one-dimensional and I want to add some density and weight to it. I’ll pull this plug-in up and blend some of those doubles in under the original track. Fantastic plug-in used a lot in modern pop productions when you’re trying to create that thick larger-than-life vocal. So if you’re struggling with that, you’re struggling to get your vocals to really cut through the mix and feel dense and impactful, then this is definitely a plug-in that I recommend checking out.

The ninth Waves plug-in I recommend is the IR-L. Now this is a plug-in that often gets overlooked. It’s a convolution reverb player, meaning what you can actually do is import what’s called impulse responses into this plug-in. And the way that impulse responses are created is somebody goes out into a real-world space – maybe a church or an office – and they set up a microphone and take what’s – and play what’s called an impulse that can be a loud clap or it can be a gunshot or something like that, and they measure the acoustic response of that space. So all the different echoes and the bouncing off the walls, and the ambience, all of that gets basically recorded into this impulse response. And you can import that impulse response into a plug-in like IR-L, and basically recreate that same sense of space in your mixes. So the same reverb that you might get if you go into a big church or an office or something like that, you can actually have in your mixes using this plug-in.

Now something that’s very cool about IR-L that a lot of people don’t realize is that Waves has actually included a five gigabyte library of impulse responses along with this plug-in. Now the catch is you have to download this separately. It’s not included with the plug-in itself. And so a lot of people end up missing out on this. But this library includes lots of different impulse responses from all sorts of spaces, and so if you’re looking for a way to create a really convincing sense of space and depth and dimension in your mixes, I highly recommend that you check out this plug-in IR-L.

And the tenth Waves plug-in I recommend is V-Comp. Now V-Comp is another plug-in that people often overlook because it’s been around for a really long time. This is an emulation of a classic Neve compressor plug-in, and it sounds fantastic. It’s got a very soft, gentle response. It tends to round off some of the high end a little bit. So whenever I’m looking for a compressor that is a little bit gentler, that has a little bit more of a kind of warm, round tonality to it, it doesn’t sound too bright or aggressive, this is my go-to compressor, or one of the compressors that I’ll use. The other one might be the CLA-2A, reaching for something like that. But the truth is this is a great compressor. I really like it on the mix bus. So on certain tracks – particularly tracks that I want to sound a little bit softer – this is a great mix bus compressor. It also sounds great on individual tracks in your mix. So just a great overall compressor, especially when you’re looking for that softer, gentler kind of sound.

Now before we wrap things up, I just want to say that you don’t need all of these plug-ins to make good mixes. The truth is the stock plug-ins in your DAW are probably more than enough. So if you’re struggling, if you feel like your mixes don’t sound that great, start by mastering the tools you have before you go out and spend a whole bunch of money on third-party plug-ins.

Now if you enjoyed this video, don’t forget to also download my free e-book “35 Mixing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making.” Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll be well on your way to mixing like a pro. Click the link above or in the description below to download this e-book now.

Now before you go, leave a comment below this video and let me know – what’s your favorite Waves plug-in? I’d love to hear your response, so leave your answer in the comments section below.

Thanks so much for watching, and you can check out more plug-in and gear recommendations right here on my YouTube channel or at BehindTheSpeakers.com.

About Jason Moss

Jason is an LA-based mixer and the founder of Behind The Speakers. He's a graduate of New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. His how-to articles have been featured in leading industry publications by Berklee, TuneCore, SonicScoop, The Pro Audio Files, and Disc Makers.