Mixing & Mastering ITB II: Triple Shot of Classic Waves Plugins


Whether it's a hardware unit or ensconced within our DAW, things needn't be fancy to win our hearts at BB4. Our primary requirements: Have a distinct sound and/or do things brilliantly.

We’re focusing this month on a trio of classic plugins from Waves that have become weapons-of-choice for us. There’s nothing secret about anything from Waves, but it can be easy to overlook some of their more surgical tools in the midst of their many all-Star releases.

One plugin that we plug into again and again is the Waves S1 Stereo Imager. It's an oldie but a goodie, dating all the way back to 1995. But hidden away in that plain-Jane interface is something special: a spatial imaging tool that takes control of that always elusive stereo separation.

“You can use this in the mix if you want to give a certain instrument a little more depth, like horns," says BB4 Studio Manager/Engineer Kiara Mudd. "Adjusting the ‘Asymmetry’ control is terrific for mixing in more depth. The S1 is also useful for those times when you want to bring the signal closer to mono. Meanwhile, the 'Rotation' control is like a pan tool that can be automated."

Mudd doesn’t stop at using the S1 for mixing – it also gets used for mastering at BB4. “This is a perfect tool for tightening up a delay,” she explains. “The S1 can bring a signal that’s too wide closer together. You can tighten it up, but all of the auditory information is still there.” 

Next we hone in on the Q10 Equalizer, which is as old as Waves itself dating back to 1993. A 10-band precision EQ, it's intended for both mixing and mastering. "This is a fairly transparent, surgical EQ," Mudd says. "I like how narrow the Q can get, to really dial in and make specific surgical cuts. We also appreciate how all of the bands can span the entire length of the frequency: That makes it really easy to sweep and hear what you don't like about a certain sound. From there you know to either boost or cut it."

Now here's a cool tip for those whose ears are open to it: The EQ10 can be perfect for a sharpening up dynamic control, adding extra flexibility for when an engineer intends to use sidechain compression.

Mudd's technique starts with applying a pair of Waves EQ10's to the source, when the situation calls for it. "To do this sidechain, duplicate the track, then set up a high pass filter on one, and the low pass filter on the other,” she says. “Then you can keep all that low frequency information, and compress it individually from the high frequency information. This way, if you want to compress those low frequencies in a different way, you have the option to do that. I’ll often use this technique for EDM and pop tracks.”

From there, the compressor that Mudd is feeding is often the famed Waves Renaissance compressor. It’s an Old Skool plugin all right, released in 1999, and it keeps on truckin’ because it still sounds great. “The Renaissance has options for the type of compression, including ‘Electro’ for electro-optical style, warm or smooth,” she says. “This compressor is part of my standard template for mixing, especially kick drum. It’s a great sidechain compressor – the way the attack and release translate onto the sound is the best that I’ve used. It imparts a very smooth character.”

Want to have your own way-to-go-Waves moment? Join us as we apply these plugins – and a whole lot more -- next time you mix or master at BB4.