What are the best Waves plugins? I get this question regularly, so here is my response.
Waves Audio have tons of VST plugins out there and new ones keep coming out at a steady pace. There is a wide variety of stuff available from mastering to mixing vocals, drums, software instruments, utilities and anything in between. However, a lot of Waves plugins are also similar to each other and it can be difficult to decide which plugins should you invest in.
I’ve bought a fair share of Waves plugins – however 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.
So I’ve really had a great chance to put the entire Waves plugins catalogue to the test. There’s many VSTs 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, including some thoughts on each. At the end of the post you will also find a video showing each VST plugin in a setting where I would typically use it. Let’s go!
The Best Waves Plugins Review
Best Waves Plugins 2019 update: For your convenience I’m including a quick access list of links here of all the plugins mentioned in the article. You’ll find the detailed reviews below.
Waves plugins – my top recommendations:
- Waves Abbey Road Vinyl
- Waves BSS DPR-402 Compressor
- Waves C1 Compressor
- Waves C6 Multiband Compressor
- Waves Center
- Waves DBX160 Compressor / Limiter
- Waves Dorrough 380-D Stereo Meter
- Waves Doubler
- Waves Element
- Waves F6 Floating Band Dynamic EQ
- Waves H-Comp Hybrid Compressor
- Waves H-Delay Hybrid Delay
- Waves H-Reverb Hybrid Reverb
- Waves J37 Tape
- Waves L2 Ultramaximizer
- Waves MaxxBass
- Waves MaxxVolume
- Waves MetaFlanger
- Waves PS22 Stereo Maker
- Waves S1 Stereo Imager
- Waves Scheps 73
- Waves SoundShifter
- Waves Scheps Parallel Particles
- Waves Trans-X
- Waves UltraPitch
- Waves Vitamin Sonic Enhancer
- Waves WLM Plus Loudness Meter
- Waves X-Noise, X-Click, X-Hum & X-Crackle
- Waves Z-Noise
Waves Abbey Road Vinyl
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 one of the best Waves plugins for mastering – but remember it’s both beautiful and dangerous at the same time!
Link: Waves Abbey Road Vinyl
Waves BSS DPR-402 Compressor
This in my opinion is one of the best Waves plugins for drums. It works for any genre, but 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.
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.
Waves C1 Compressor
This is one of the most iconic Waves Audio VST 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
Waves C6 Multiband Compressor
Another industry standard workhorse. If you don’t have a good multiband compressor, definitely consider picking this one up on the discount. It has all the features you would expect and it sounds good.
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
Waves DBX160 Compressor / Limiter
For when something needs to punch or pump, try this compressor. Nuff said.
Waves Dorrough 380-D Stereo Meter
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.
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. One of the best Waves plugins for vocals, for sure.
Link: Waves Doubler
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
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.
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.
Waves H-Delay Hybrid Delay
H-Delay is a pretty basic delay unit but it does that really well. It sounds good, is easy to operate and effortless to get the sound you want. If you are lacking a bread & butter delay plugin, this would be a good choice.
Waves H-Reverb Hybrid Reverb
The H-Reverb is a fantastically versatile and good sounding reverb plugin. It has so 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 to get.
Link: Waves H-Reverb
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. Due to it’s natural sound and ability to go very subtle, I think it’s one of the best Waves plugins for mastering. Just remember to keep the noise, flutter and wow at bay!
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 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
This plugin is great for making things tighter, louder and more even. One of the best Waves plugins for vocals! The low level compression on MaxxVolume is a secret weapon, and it also has very functional gate and leveler sections, as well as a regular compressor.
I also use it on things like a percussion loop that is a bit too all over the place dynamically. Also very useful for working with voice/dialogue or any other uneven material that needs some leveling.
Link: Waves MaxxVolume
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
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 create stereo content out of mono sources while retaining mono compatibility. Super useful.
Link: Waves PS22 Stereo Maker
Waves S1 Stereo Imager
A classic of the classics! The S1 is a very handy plugin to have for controlling your stereo image.
Link: Waves S1 Stereo Imager
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. It’s definitely one of the best Waves plugins for vocals. 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
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
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.
If you’re wondering about which Waves plugin I use the most… Here it is! This is one of the best Waves plugins for drums. The thing 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 drums 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 the newer Waves Smack Attack plugin!
Link: Waves Trans-X
Waves UltraPitch is a really interesting one. I like this plugin because it has a unique, gritty kind of sound that works well as an effect. 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
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. Used subtly, this is one of the best Waves plugins for mastering. But it’s equally good for using on subgroups or individual tracks.
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.
Waves X-Noise, X-Click, X-Hum & X-Crackle
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
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 Waves Plugin Bundles?
Which Waves plugin 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.
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
Best Waves Plugins: Demo Video
In this demo video you’ll see me using each of these Waves plugins in a setting that is typical for me. If you have any questions just let me know in the comments section or email me via the contact page.
Questions About Waves Plugins?
So here you have my review of the best Waves plugins. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section! If you have any questions about a specific Waves plugin, I’ll be happy to answer. You can also email me via the contact page.