Operating system: Minimum OS Windows XP, Mac OS X 10.4.11; see the Tech Specs section at Wavesupport.net for detailed host support information
Formats: RTAS, AudioSuite, VST, AU
Copy protection: iLok
Trial version: Time-limited to 7 days
Street price: $830 each, available from online store
The Waves Artist Collections includes plug-in sets designed in conjunction with Chris Lord-Alge, Tony Maserati, and Eddie Kramer. These go beyond the usual collection of processors, and are personalized to a surprising degree to reflect the production and mixing styles of these producers.
Of all the plug-ins presented here, these benefit the most from having demos available: Each collection is far richer, and more interesting, than could be adequately described in the allotted space—it’s worth the download.
Each collection includes “channel strips” for bass, electric guitar, vocals, and drums; Lord-Alge’s adds Effects and Unplugged (for acoustic instruments), Maserati adds Acoustic Guitar Designer and Harmonics Generator (an “exciter”-type sound), while Kramer adds an Effects channel.
If you can only afford one, how do you know which to choose? I don’t think the determining factor should be “I want to sound like ‘X’,” but rather, “I work in the same kind of musical genre as ‘X’.” For example, Kramer’s take on processing is very oriented around hard, more classic rock, while Maserati leans toward pop and hip-hop and Lord-Alge’s processors are at home with rock you’d hear on the radio. However, of the three, I would consider Lord-Alge’s to be the most general-purpose. I get the impression that he designed his collection more as a toolkit, while Maserati and Kramer stayed more with the concept of giving you their sound “in the box.”
I was fortunate to have waited just long enough to be able to demo all three sets. My preferred test method was to pull up an appropriate track (e.g., a vocal track for the vocal processors), and put each related Artist Collection preset in series. I could then switch among them to hear what they contributed to the sound.
For example, with bass it was clear Maserati likes round, full sounds on electric bass, but his plug-ins add processing for synth bass as well (although this can also impart a synth vibe to electric bass). Kramer went for crunch and compression, giving a forceful bass sound capable of standing its ground with rock drums. Lord-Alge, on the other hand, provided more of a construction kit for bass sounds, including EQ, compression, subharmonic, distortion, and modulation effects, each with several variations.
The drum strips for all three are intended to be used on individual drum tracks (kick, snare, etc.) rather than full premixed drums, although there are settings for overhead and room mics. CPU drain on these is reasonable, so with all but the slowest computers, you’ll have no trouble inserting a plugin for each drum track.
There were a few times when I used two of the Artist Collection effects in series or parallel, sometimes with excellent results. One favorite: Kramer’s bass module set for very little crunch and lots of compression, combined with Masterati’s set for the roundest possible tone, and the treble fully rolled off. The sound was huge, full, and aggressive. While I don’t know how many will have the opportunity to do this kind of mix and match, and while it’s certainly not essential, it’s a pleasantly unexpected perq.
These are pricey, but you’re getting several plug-ins within each set that can be used individually and of course, instantiated as many times as your computer can handle. More importantly, they move beyond emulating particular technologies to emulating particular approaches to processing. That alone is newsworthy, but what counts is that the plug-ins achieve this goal. There’s also something to be said for the graphics, with Maserati’s and Kramer’s adding real flair, and Lord-Alge’s taking a more down-to-business approach—not unlike the plug-ins themselves.
Just when you think you’ve seen everything in plug-ins, something like this comes along. They’re almost like “style” plug-ins compared to the standard plug-in effects we’ve come to expect, and I predict we’re going to see more plug-ins taking this direction in the years ahead.
More from this Plug-Ins Roundup....