The Best Waves Plugins – What Should You Buy?

Waves Plugins

This post is a response to a request I’ve had multiple times in the past year alone: What do I think are the best Waves plugins?

Waves Audio have tons of plugins out there and new ones keep coming out at a steady pace. There is a wide variety of stuff. However a lot of Waves plugins are also similar to each other.

I’ve bought a fair share of Waves plugins in the past. These days I have access to all of their products for free as I have done some work for them in the past. Just so you know – yes I’m friends with the Waves Audio folks.

That also means I’ve really put it all to the test. There’s many plugins in there I’m not really into myself, but also many I use on a regular basis.

So in alphabetical order, this is my review of the best Waves plugins. Let’s go!

 

The Best Waves Plugins Review

 

Abbey Road Vinyl

Waves Abbey Road Vinyl - Waves Plugins

I was quite sceptical of this plugin when I first heard about it. It’s not an easy task to model the sound of vinyl. But once I heard the plugin in action it very quickly became clear to me – it’s definitely a gem. It can add a lot of vibe and character to your music. Just be careful as it’s easy to go south with features like phase distortion. This plugin is both beautiful and dangerous at the same time.

Link: Waves Abbey Road Vinyl

 

BSS DPR-402 Compressor

Waves BSS DPR-402 - Waves Plugin

If you’re looking for that explosive and energetic techno/house/EDM sound, this compressor is one of the best for that. I like to use it on the mix bus or the drum bus. In fact during the writing of this post I ran some A/B tests against my fav compressors from many other companies and this one came on top when it comes to making the mix bus pump and jump. Which only means one thing: You’ll be hearing this one a lot on my music from now on. Besides the usual compression stuff the plugin also has some other quite interesting and unusual features to play around with.

Link: Waves BSS DPR-402 Compressor

 

C1 Compressor

Waves C1 Compressor - Waves Audio

This is one of the most iconic Waves plugins. A bread & butter tool for audio engineers. Does compression, expansion, gating, and equalization. Clean, extremely fully featured and gets the job done.

Link: C1 Compressor

 

C6 Multiband Compressor

Waves C6 Multiband Compressor - Wave Plugin

Another industry standard workhorse. If you don’t have a good multiband compressor, definitely consider picking this one up on the discount.

Link: Waves C6 Multiband Compressor

 

Center

Waves Center - Wave Plugins

This plugin utilises M/S processing to provide some very tactile controls for working with your stereo image. You can adjust the volume of the Mid and Side components, push all the bass into the center, add punch on the center or the sides, and so on. Very useful.

Link: Waves Center

 

DBX160 Compressor / Limiter

For when something needs to punch or pump, try this compressor. Nuff said.

Waves DBX-160 - Waves Plugins

Link: DBX160 Compressor / Limiter

 

Dorrough 380-D Stereo Meter

Waves Dorrough Stereo 380D - Waves Plugins

I love the display of this classic Dorrough VU-meter.  It’s very readable and it’s quick to set it to show different things. I only wish I had a hardware one sitting on my desk! But this is as close as it gets in the box.

Link: Waves Dorrough Stereo Meter

 

Doubler

Waves Doubler - Waves Plugins

This plugin is quite old, yet as useful and great sounding as ever. You can use it subtly to spice up almost any sound or more heavily to create different doubling or chorus type effects.

Link: Waves Doubler

 

Element

Waves Element

Waves are maybe not as well know of virtual instruments as they are of effects. But the Element synth in my opinion is one of the best sounding virtual analogue synth plugins out there. It’s quite a beast and comes with tons of presets to play around with.

Link: Waves Element

 

F6 Floating Band Dynamic EQ

Waves F6 Floating Band Dynamic EQ

The F6 Floating Band Dynamic EQ is a clean and very functional dynamic EQ. If you are still missing one in your toolbox, this is a no brainer.

Link: Waves F6 Floating Band Dynamic EQ

 

H-Comp Hybrid Compressor

Waves H-Comp Hybrid Compressor

The H-Series from Waves includes some very serious plugins for modern music production. This compressor is a favourite for hard hitting stuff. You can even sync the release time to the BPM of your song to make the pumping action super tight. The punch and analog functions sound great too. For modern dance, pop and maybe even rock music, this is the one.

Link: Waves H-Comp Hybrid Compressor

 

H-Delay Hybrid Delay

Waves H-Delay Hybrid Delay

The H-Delay is a pretty basic delay unit but it does that well. It sounds good, is easy to operate and easy to get the sound you want. If you are lacking a bread & butter delay plugin, this would be a good choice.

Link: Waves H-Delay Hybrid Delay

 

H-Reverb Hybrid Reverb

Waves H-Reverb Hybrid Reverb

The H-Reverb is a fantastically versatile and good sounding reverb plugin. It has so many many features and killer presets it’s pretty much ridiculous. Amongst the presets there are a lot of classic hardware units replicated too, which I especially like.

If you’re looking for one single plugin that can do pretty much everything when it comes to reverb, this is the one.

Link: Waves H-Reverb

 

J37 Tape

Waves J37 Tape

I have quite a few tape plugins from different companies. The Abbey Road J37 Tape holds it’s ground in competition with any of the other top ones. It only comes down to what kind of sound and functionality you prefer.

Link: Waves Abbey Road J37 Tape

 

L2 Ultramaximizer

Waves L2 Ultramaximizer

This limiter is a great step up from many limiters that come bundled with DAWs. And you can grab it for a bargain every once in a while. I often use it to restrict the dynamics of individual sounds within the mix. As most limiters, it has a specific sound when pushed hard enough.

Link: Waves L2 Ultramaximizer

 

MaxxBass

Waves MaxxBass

MaxxBass is probably one of the most well known Wave plugins. It’s great for fixing bass or drum parts that are lacking low end.

Link: Waves MaxxBass

 

MaxxVolume

Waves MaxxVolume

This plugin is great for making things tighter, louder and more even. I would typically use it on something like a percussion loop that is a bit too all over the place. MaxxVolume does high and low level compression, gating and leveling. Also very useful for working with voice/dialogue or any other uneven material that needs some leveling.

Link: Waves MaxxVolume

 

MetaFlanger

Waves Metaflanger

This is one of the earliest plugins from Waves dating back to the early 2000’s I believe. And after all these years it’s still my favourite flanger. It has this sort of metallic futuristic sound that I very much like.

Link: Waves MetaFlanger

 

PS22 Stereo Maker

Waves PS22 Stereo Maker

Despite a flux of modern great looking Waves plugins, I still like many of these old ones a lot. Don’t be deceived by the looks. The PS22 is a very useful little plugin. It will make stereo content out of mono sources while retaining mono compatibility.

Link: Waves PS22 Stereo Maker

 

S1 Stereo Imager

Waves S1 Stereo Imager

A classic of classics! The S1 is a very handy plugin to have for controlling your stereo image.

Link: Waves S1 Stereo Imager

 

Scheps 73

Waves Scheps 73

For me this is the best sounding channel strip from Waves Audio. The Scheps 73 is modelled after the classic Neve 1073 console. A great option for vintage vibes. The preamp sounds great when driven and I like the EQ a lot too. Use this on all channels across your entire mix and it will give you a distinctive sound.

Link: Waves Scheps 73

 

Soundshifter

Waves Soundshifter

All pitch shifting algorithms have a sound of their own. This one I quite happen to like, especially when taken to extremes.

Link: Waves SoundShifter 

 

Scheps Parallel Particles

Waves Scheps Parallel Particles

I am usually not a big fan of plugins that are vague about what is really going on under the surface. But after testing this one out I must say I like it. It sounds good and is gentle and safe enough to be used on the mix bus. It sort of reminds me of how the legendary Pultec EQP-1A EQ works.

As mentioned this plugin is also pretty safe to use. Just make sure to match processed volume to bypassed signal so that you’re not fooled by the level difference. Scheps Parallel Particles is not something I personally would use much because I like to achieve these things using specific tools that give me more control. But for someone who feels intimidated by that approach, this plugin is great.

Link: Scheps Parallel Particles

 

Trans-X

Waves Trans-X

If you’re wondering about which Waves plugin I use the most… Here it is! I have loads of transient shaping plugins. Waves Trans-X is the one I use 90% of the time. I use it on every single mix I do, and usually on multiple occasions. I just like the way it makes things smack. It gets the job done with minimal fuss. The plugin comes with single- and multiband versions. Most of the time I just use the single band one. And yes – I prefer the good old Trans-X to their newer Smack Attack plugin!

Link: Waves Trans-X

 

UltraPitch

Waves Ultrapitch

I like this plugin because it has a unique sound. Waves UltraPitch is a really interesting one. It’s good for all sorts of things. I especially love using it for experimentation as it can often produce some quite unexpected results. Try it out on drums.

Link: Waves UltraPitch

 

Vitamin Sonic Enhancer

Waves Vitamin Sonic Enhancer

Vitamin is a multiband harmonic saturation device. It sounds great and is easy to operate. It is not meant for full blown distortion but subtle enhancing. I love the controls it has for stereo image. Equally good for mastering, subgroups or individual tracks.

Link: Waves Vitamin Sonic Enhancer

 

WLM Plus Loudness Meter

Waves WLM Plus Loudness meter

If you are looking for a LUFS meter, check this one out. This meter is geared towards broadcast use (and it does that very well), but can also be used just as well in music. If you don’t know what LUFS is – in short – it’s similar to RMS but more accurate.

Link: Waves WLM Plus Loudness Meter

 

X-Noise, X-Click, X-Hum & X-Crackle

Waves X-Noise

These are seriously good noise reduction plugins. Easy to use and have saved me from trouble more times than I can count.

Link: Waves X-Series

 

Z-Noise

Waves Z-Noise

The Waves Z-Noise plugin is a bit more advanced than the X-Noise one. The plugin can learn a noise profile and then remove noise from the audio based on that. You can also tweak what gets removed.

Link: Waves Z-Noise

 

What About Bundles?

Which Waves Bundle would I recommend to get?

Honestly, with many of the Waves bundles there are a lot of plugins that you may never need. I prefer the option of picking specific plugins yourself to create your own bundle. Waves is offering (for the time being at least) discounts for buying 2 or more plugins. If you buy 6 or more plugins you get 40% off. This is pretty good if you are buying plugins that are already discounted in the first place.

However, there is one bundle I would definitely recommend to grab though: the H-Series.

Waves H-Series

The H-Series Bundle only has 4 plugins and they’re all good. The reverb and compressor are fantastic and the delay and EQ are useful and very well executed plugins as well. This in my opinion is the best Waves Bundle.

Link: Waves H-Series Bundle

 

Questions About Waves Plugins?

So here you have my review of the best Waves plugins. If you have any questions about a specific Waves plugin, drop a comment below. I’ll do my best to get back to you.

 

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  • J_Whtrz

    I regularly use Vinyl Light on drums, does nice stuff to the highs (the main version smashes the CPU).

    Also I used the G Channel a lot – although I know Ilpo has pointed out there are more accurate, newer versions. I use the gate to carve out space on certain sounds and the EQ is nice and solid. Also a fan of the SSL bus compressor.

    J37 is good on synths to add some body – I’d avoid the Kramer one, it does some horrible things to the low end.

    Only other one use regularly is the Puigtec EQ. I like the boost/attenuate function (although i know a lot of people have an issue with this as I think it was a necessity on the original hardware, not a deliberate design choice).

    • Good observations!

      I like G Channel, especially the comp. I just felt uneasy about including it here for the reason you mentioned. I am currently using the Brainworx Console E to do the bulk of my mixing work – absolutely smashing.

      Agreed about Kramer Tape. Also not a big fan of how the saturation sounds on that one. J37 for me.

      Puigec EQ nice too! But also a lot of other good Pultec clones out there (Sonimus, UAD, Softube, etc) so nothing very special about the Waves one. I use the newer UAD one myself and I do use it a lot. Anyway, yes, Waves Puigtec does a good job too!

      • J_Whtrz

        I think the Kramer stuff in general is probably worth avoiding if you’re making clean-sounding electronic music with a lot of low end. It seemed more suited to mid-rangey rock music.

        Re Puigtec – it does seem to be the case that a lot of Waves’ emulation plugins have been overtaken by other products. Looking through your list I wasn’t surprised how few of their “classic hardware” plugins were on it.

        • Yeah some of them are approaching (if not approached) 10 years. CPU power and modeling technology have come a long way in that timespan. To be fair, the same applies to older UAD stuff as well for example. And then again, if you are using something and it works, then that is what you should use!

    • Owen

      Cool story bro

      • J_Whtrz

        Thanks for your input.

        • 🤔😄

        • Raum Salasso

          He was being sarcastic dumbass

        • Owen

          Lol Why am I not surprised that someone who hates on good movies can’t detect obvious sarcasm?

        • Raum Salasso

          He was being sarcastic dipshit

          • Come on. Please be respectful of others. I can see you are the same guy with a new name. 😁 Will ban & report your IP if necessary. Thank you.

        • Owen

          I was being sarcastic when I said “cool story bro”, but I’m not surprised that someone who hates on good films can’t detect obvious sarcasm.

  • dan

    Another great blogpost Ilpo, i think most producers have at least one waves plug in their arsenal !
    As mentioned alot of their analog emulations are a bit old now and are superceded by stuff by uad, slate, plug-in alliance etc… but i still really like their api 2500 compressor, i been using this at the end of my bass buss and it does a nice job of pulling everything together.
    Over time ive picked up waves plug-ins the $29 sales and i still use them often even though they quite old now, some of them you featured like the PS22, S1, Soundshifter, Doubler and Center. One id like to mention is the InPhase plug in, ive used it a few times on old breaks to clean them up a bit, its good for monitoring the left or right channel to mono quickly , and playing with the all pass filters can really change the sound

    • I think there is a lot to be said about sticking to your guns. In fact changing tools is always a decision that should be taken only after careful consideration. I review and go through a lot of great plugins as part of my work, but for something to make it into my permanent music making workflow actually is not very easy at all and does not happen too often. And usually it’s not about whether the tool itself is good or not. It’s more about whether or not using something will evolve my workflow in the direction I want it to go. So yeah stick to what works!

      Good thing you mentioned InPhase, I do need to dive on that one more. It really is a useful plugin.