Best Waves Plugins: Top 18 Must Have Essentials

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When it comes to plugins, there’s one company that has been consistently delivering high-quality products since their first plugin was introduced in 1992. We’re talking about Waves, one of the most innovative companies in the industry.

Their Q10 parametric eq was the first audio plugin ever created, and Waves has been busy developing plugins for just about every purpose in the many years since. There are literally hundreds of Waves plugins to pick from, so it might be difficult to know which ones will work best for your production needs.

For this reason we have decided to highlight our favorite Waves plugins that stand out among their collection. With a few of these plugins on hand, you’ll definitely be able to boost your mixing and mastering capabilities.

Top 18 Waves Plugins

Best Waves Compressor Plugins

Best Waves EQ Plugins

Best Waves Saturation Plugins

Best Waves FX Plugins

Best Waves Reverb/Delay Plugins

Best Waves Mastering Plugins

Best Waves Compressor Plugins

C6 Multiband Compressor

Waves C6 Multiband Compressor Plugin

Signal compression is not going to solve your issue if you are having trouble with just one frequency out of place in the mix. In this situation, you’ll want to take advantage of multiband compression.

When the C4 Multiband compressor was first introduced in 2011, it was a game changer. It stood out above its competition because of all the flexibility and capabilities it offered. The C6 maintains all of the popular features and functions of the C4 but takes it a bit further. It also offers two more floating bands and a helpful sidechain feature. This makes it even easier for the user to shape the perfect vocals and instrument sounds.

The C6 uniquely gives you the ability to target frequencies that are causing an issue. It’s conveniently used for de-essing, de-popping, or eliminating resonant frequencies. The C6 Multiband Compressor provides you with all the tools necessary to manage your sound.

CLA-2A Compressor / Limiter

Waves CLA-2A Compressor _ Limiter

There’s not much that can compare to the sound produced by an optical tube compressor. It gives you a smooth compression that maintains warmth and character no matter how it is used.

The CLA-2A emulates the incredible LA-2A electro-optical tube compressor that was popular in the 1960s. The smooth compression you get from this plugin is nearly transparent with characteristics that are dependent on the frequency. It’s awesome for working with vocals, and it’s compatible with almost any instrument you can think of.

Users will appreciate how simple this compressor is with only reduction control and gain controls to mess with. Other features include a sidechain frequency filter and a switch you can use for higher-ratio compression or limiting. If you work with analog at all, the CLA-2A is an essential compressor for your collection.

R-Vox

Waves R-Vox

Vocal compression presents a challenge to even experienced producers, but it is unavoidable in tracks these days. The R-Vox was designed to take some of the pain out of this process. That’s why it is the number one compressor used by engineers worldwide. No matter your experience, the R-Vox is easy to use with just three controls for output gain, gating, and compression. With these tools at your fingertips, you can effortlessly achieve the ideal amount of compression for your mix.

The secret is the dynamic curve that enables the vocal track to boldly cut through the mix in crisp detail. The interface has also been upgraded to give it a more modern feel. If you want your vocals to sound professional and clean, R-Vox is calling your name.

Best Waves EQ Plugins

PuigTec EQ

Waves PuigTec EQ

Pultec EQs have a strong reputation for being some of the best in the business. Thousands of artists have utilized their EQS on numerous tracks over the years.  Pultec’s EQs are always in high demand among those looking for high-quality analog gear.

The PuigTec EQ package includes two analog EQ emulations. The first is the PuigTec EQP-1A, which is based on the popular Pultec EQP-1A. The second is the PuigTec MEQ-5, which emulates the MEQ-5. One thing we want to point out about the EQP-1A is that it allows you to cut and boost frequencies simultaneously. In this way you can develop some intriguing resonant shelves.

The MEQ-5 is more targeted on the midrange, which gives you more focus while maintaining a true analog sound. The EQP-1A, on the other hand, is more ideal for broad stroke or low shelfEQ decisions.

API 550

Waves API 550 Plugin

Whenever you want to add a rich, warm tone to your music, it’s time to turn to an analog EQ. The API 550 is a great plugin in this category with two iterations. The API 550A is based on the 1960 API 550A EQ, which makes use of 15-point equalization. There’s also five steps of 2dB boosting and cutting on every band. You can adjust the high and low frequency ranges for individual peaking and shelving. You also have the option of setting a band-pass.

The second iteration, the API 550B, provides seven steps with 2dB boosts along with an extra band. The Q widens when used at a lower setting and then narrows when used at a higher setting. The API pair is a great option if you’re wanting to add some vintage EQs to your tool box. They are flexible and user-friendly and will give you an awesome result.

F6 Floating Band EQ

Waves F6 Floating Band EQ

It’s important to have a plugin that can accommodate the dynamic nature of music. The EQ choice for one section of the track might not work so well for other parts of the song. Fortunately, the F6 Floating Band EQ makes it easy to address this problem.

The F6 EQ stands out as a dynamic floating band EQ. It offers you the ability to only apply de-essing and compression with EQ whenever an issue comes up in your mix. Rather than working with one frequency at a time as you work through the track, you can EQ based on the sensitivity that you set.

The F6 gives you everything you need to create space in your mix like none other. It offers six transparent bands with very wide and narrow filters along with a spectrum analyzer and advanced mid-side processing capabilities.

Best Waves Saturation Plugins

J37 Tape Emulation

Waves J37 Tape Emulation

There is nothing quite like the sound of analog tape, but some plugins can get you as close as possible to the real thing. The J37 attempts to emulate the sound of the incredible Abbey Road tape machine that recorded some of the most famous tracks in modern musical history. The J37 has a great selection of controls that you can adjust to achieve the distinctive sound of the analog machine. These include Bias, Flutter, Saturation, Tape Speed, and Wow, among others.

In addition, you can also work with three individual oxide tape formulas. The J27 Tape Emulation also offers a unique tape delay function. You’ll be able to target a specific instrument to boost warmth or saturation or use the master buss to achieve a more all-encompassing analog effect. No matter how you choose to use it, you’ll find that the J37 is among the top tape saturation plugins currently available.

Abbey Road Saturator

Waves Abbey Road Saturator Plugin

Tape saturation certainly has its place, but there are times when you will require some more drive and distortion than what it can provide. In these scenarios, you should turn to the Abbey Road Saturator. This Waves plugin faithfully recreates the sound produced by classic tubes and transistors. It’s based on the EMI TG12321 that the Abbey Road engineers utilized to help produce numerous classic albums.

This plugin lets you pick between two very different distortion tones. These are the crunchy tube REDD tone and the rounded solid-state TG12345 tone. They both include an incredible selection of parameters to work with. Its mid-side processing feature also enables the user to add distortion into the sides, mid, or stereo independent of one another. Waves has given us yet another plugin that can take saturation and distortion to an entirely different level.

Abbey Road Vinyl

Waves Abbey Road Vinyl

If you’re wondering how you can capture the warm tone and character of vintage vinyl records in your modern mix, check out the Abbey Road Vinyl plugin from Waves. This plugin will transport you to a different time by helping you to recreate the distinctive qualities of vinyl recordings. It completely recreates the way that classic vinyl recordings are produced. Users have the option of utilizing three classic cartridges, two different turntables, or the sound of print or pure acetate.

The Abbey Road Vinyl plugin also gives you some exciting vinyl effects to play with, including vinyl noise, Wow, crackle, and Flutter. The gradual slow-down/stop turntable effect is also pretty awesome. With the Abbey Road Vinyl, Waves has finally given us a plugin that authentically replicates the nostalgic sound of true vinyl.

Best Waves FX Plugins

Reel ADT

Waves Reel ADT Plugin

The Reel ADT plugin was the first plugin to authentically replicate the Artificial Double Tracking process that was integral to the success of Abbey Road Studios. This sound was first developed for the Beatles, who didn’t want to double-track their vocals to create a thicker sound. This process was also famously used by Jimi Hendrix in order to have separate channels for his drum and guitar tracks.

The controls of the Reel ADT are very easy to use, so you’ll be creating rich delays and vintage pitch variations in no time. You can use the independent drive control to add some saturation to your wet and dry signals, which increases the versatility of this plugin. You can also take advantage of the authentic valve tape as well as the wow and flutter emulation to elevate your mix. There’s no question that this plugin is among the best effect emulations you can currently buy.

Morphoder

Waves Morphoder

Morphoder has been around for quite some time, but it remains as relevant as ever.  You’re probably familiar with the sound of the vocoder, which has reclaimed a place in modern pop songs. If you aren’t sure what this is, think of “California Love” by Tupac, Zedd’s 2017 song “Stay,” or almost any Bon Iver song. The Morphoder plugin takes the vocoder to a different realm with the ability to merge multiple audio signals to create incredible sounds.

Morphoder gives you ultimate control over the modulation with MIDI capabilities, phase EQ, and formant control. If you are at all interested in including the unique sound of the vocoder into your mix, you are going to want to have this plugin in your collection.

Metafilter

Waves Metafilter

The Metafilter from Waves is an all-encompassing effects plugin that will give you absolutely incredible results. Thanks to Waves’ Virtual Voltage technology, there’s an abundance of modulation options at your disposal. The analog filter design also means you can expect your sound to have a rich, warm tone.

The controls featured on this plugin include an envelope filter with a sidechain option, an LFO, and a 16-step sequencer. You’re also able to modulate the resonance, delay, and cutoff. DJs can take advantage of the MIDI Learn capabilities. With all of its versatility and impressive features, Metafilter will help take your sound to a higher plane.

Best Waves Reverb/Delay Plugins

H-Reverb Hybrid Reverb

Waves H-Reverb Hybrid Reverb

H-Reverb harnesses some incredible technology to help push your mix beyond what you could achieve otherwise. The versatility in the Hybrid Reverb goes above and beyond most of its competitors in the market. This plugin is referred to as a Finite Impulse Response reverb (FIR). It has the ability to create incredible reverb trails that can be integrated into any style of mix. There is an awesome selection of parameters that engineers can utilize to create decay envelopes for long-tail reverbs, gating, slap reverbs, reverse sounds, and many others.

The Input Drive control feature makes it possible to replicate analog modeling. Additionally, you’ll find an EQ and dynamics module to give you even more control over the final result. And to make things quick and easy, you can also choose from a massive library of presets contributed from some of the industry’s best engineers. The Hybrid Reverb has all of your reverb needs completely covered.

Abbey Road Chambers

Waves Abbey Road Chambers

In less technically advanced times, engineers relied on rooms called chambers to help them produce space in their mixes. Now it’s as simple as using the right plugin, and Abbey Road Chambers should definitely be on your list. It authentically reproduces the feel of that physical space and everything you can achieve with that effect.

This plugin has incredible features that will make you feel like you are recording inside the legendary echo chamber that was utilized at Abbey Road Studios. It’s an atmosphere that has been utilized in numerous recordings over the years.

There’s so many options with multiple speakers, different microphone/speaker positions, various speakers, a selection of modern and vintage microphones, and multiple spaces. This is in addition to the built-in parameters with effects such as tape delay.

H-Delay Hybrid Delay

Waves H-Delay Hybrid Delay

Producers use the delay effect to create space in a mix without pushing everything too far back. Delay is a popular effect that permeates all musical styles, including dub, pop, rock, and any other genre. The H-Delay from Waves should be your go-to if you are a fan of classic delay sounds. You’ll find just about every delay effect imaginable on this plugin like slap-back echo, ping pong delay, modulation, and tempo synch for starters. There’s also filtering, flanging, phasing, and other effects from the PCM42.

The interface is well laid out so that you can optimize your workflow and achieve the results you’re after. The user is given more control than you would get from a typical analog plugin. In addition to the expected controls, there are also several unusual options like a LoFi module, infinite feedback support, LFO-controlled pitch modulation, and a tap pad for easy time settings.

Best Waves Mastering Plugins

Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain

Waves Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain

The mastering process has an impact on the track as a whole. Something as simple as switching up the order of the plugins could have a crazy effect on the general tone of the song. But that’s not a problem when you use the Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain. It provides you with the tools required for you to work in whatever order you prefer.

This plugin is based on the EMI TG12410 Transfer Console, which was utilized in the Abbey Road mastering suites starting in the 1970s. The modular flexibility allows the user to create processing chains on their master buss in whatever way they think is best. The Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain makes use of the recognizable transistor-based tones found on albums like Radiohead’s Ok Computer and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Five interchangeable modules are also included. These are the Compressor/Limiter Module, Spread Module, EQ Module, Input Module, and Filter Module.

L3-16 Multimaximizer

Waves L3-16 Multimaximizer

The L1 Limiter was a game changer when Waves introduced it because it featured one of the most sophisticated limiting algorithms available at the time. This gave mastering applications added loudness and clarity.

In the years since, Waves has built on the success of the L1 limiter, which brings us to the L3-16. This is the most technologically advanced plugin in the popular L-Series. Users are given insane control with its 16-band peak limiter and Peak Limiting Mixer Technology. The result is incredible loudness, unmatched clarity, and pristine details. This plugin can be used for just about any style of music, and it can accommodate both analog and digital tones.

Features on the L3-16 include Automatic Release Control, a built-in linear phase equalizer, Linear Phase Filtering, and Increased Digital Resolution. You simply can’t go wrong with this option if you need a limiting plugin for mastering.

SSL G-Master Buss Compressor

Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor Plugin

Take just about any modern track and you’ll find that compression was used in some way on the master buss. Wave has developed the SSL G-Master Buss Compressor, and it has outperformed most of its competitors.

This plugin replicates the master bus compressor found in the iconic SSL 4000 G console, which was one of the most popular mastering compressors for a long time. This was largely due to its unusual twin VCA gain-reduction amplifier design. It was a truly unique compressor with results that could not be copied by any of its rival compressors.

However, Waves has found a way to authentically emulate this legendary sound. The SSL G-Master Buss Compressor will add punch and layers to your sound, and it will also take care of the peaks and dynamics. If you want to tighten up your mix before it’s put before an audience, this is the ideal tool to get you the desired results.

Ride the Waves

We didn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to the full plugin inventory Waves has to offer. However, these plugins are a great place to start if you are building up your library of plugins you can access for all your mixing needs. Waves can be pretty generous with their sales and discounts, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled so that you can save a few dollars. It’s safe to say that the plugins we mentioned can go a long way in elevating your mixing and mastering processes.

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