What are the best Waves plugins for mastering, vocals, or something else? I get this question regularly, so here is my response.
I’ve spent a fair amount of money on Waves plugins myself. These days I have access to all of their products for free. I’ve put their whole catalog to the test to determine what are the best Waves plugins for mastering, vocals, and other tasks. There are many plugins in there I’m not really into. But also many great ones I use on a regular basis.
So in alphabetical order, this is my review of the best Waves plugins. I’m including some personal thoughts on each. At the end of the post you will also find a video showing each VST plugin in a setting 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.
Best 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 skeptical of this plugin when I first heard about it. I had imagined for a long time it would be nice to have a
Link: Waves Abbey Road Vinyl
Waves BSS DPR-402 Compressor
This compressor to me 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. The C1 does compression, expansion, gating, and equalization. Clean, extremely fully featured and gets the job done.
Link: C1 Compressor
Waves C6 Multiband Compressor
The Waves C6 multiband compressor is an industry
Waves Center is one of the best Waves plugins for mastering. It utilizes 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. It’s a very useful plugin and also lends itself well to situations outside mastering.
Link: Waves Center
Waves DBX160 Compressor / Limiter
For when something needs to punch or pump, try this compressor. The DBX160 is a classic compressor with a characteristic sound. Works especially well for drums and bass!
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. Because of this, it’s one of the best Waves plugins for mastering! 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 from virtual instruments as they are from effects. But the Element synth, in my opinion, is one of the best sounding virtual analog 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 seriously good sounding plugins for modern music production. This compressor is a favorite for hard
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 its natural sound and ability to be 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 like to use other limiters for
Link: Waves L2 Ultramaximizer
MaxxBass is probably one of the most well
Link: Waves MaxxBass
This plugin is great for making things tighter, louder and
I also use it on things like a percussion loop that is a bit too all over the place dynamically. Waves MaxxVolume is equally 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. After all these years it’s still my favorite flanger. It has this sort of metallic futuristic sound that I very much like. You can hear Waves MetaFlanger at work on several of my releases.
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. 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.
Having said that, there is one bundle I would recommend: the H-Series.
The H-Series Bundle only has 4 plugins and they’re all very good. The reverb and compressor are especially fantastic. The delay and EQ are also useful and very well executed plugins. This
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.