Waves Plugins: 15 Incredible VSTs You MUST Have!

Plugins, Waves 1 Comment

With hundreds of Waves Plugins to choose from…

Finding the absolute best Waves plugins can be quite a challenge.

Waves is one of the leading audio companies in the world right now and for good reason.

Almost all of their plugins are up to industry standards and sound amazing.

Not to mention, they’ve actually teamed up with some of the best audio engineers in the world!

Even top level mixing and mastering engineers like Chris Lord Alge and Michael Brauer have given their expertise & feedback to the Waves developers.

So it’s no wonder they are praised for some of best Waves plugins in the game.

In fact, they have over 180 incredible plugins that are used world wide!

For this reason, we had to make a top 15 best Waves plugins for the modern producer – allowing you to focus more on the music and less on the endless choices!

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Waves Plugins #1 – CLA Classic Compressors

waves classic compressors

This 3 compressor plugin bundle is an instant classic.

They’re modeled after the legendary LA-2A, LA-3A and the 11-76 – Compressors you’ll find in almost every major professional studio as hardware units.

These compressors are arguably some of the most used tools by audio engineers on a daily basis. They’re truly incredible.

With each compressor acting differently than the other, you’re sure to find a tool in this bundle that will help you in any situation that requires compression.

Here’s what each of them can do for your production:

  1. The CLA-76 is a really quick compressor that works superbly with fast, dynamic input signals such as drums and percussion. If you want to add punch to your productions, use this compressor!
  2. The CLA-2A isn’t really used to control dynamics as you would with a regular compressor. This rather slow compressor is widely used mainly because of its character/tone. Try putting this compressor after a quick one (assuming you need dynamic control first) to enhance your tracks!
  3. The CLA-3A is a compressor/limiter plugin based on a famous solid state unit from the 70’s known for its unique transparent compression curve. This compressor works the best with basses and guitars since it adds harmonic distortion to the input signal, something the original hardware unit was known for! Old engineers were limited on how many of these compressors they could use, but with this amazing plugin emulation, you can fire up as many as your computer can handle!

They have all stood the test of time for a reason, making them easily some of the best Waves plugins.

Waves Plugins #2 – Brauer Motion

cymatics-brauer motion-best waves plugins

You might have heard Michael Brauer’s name before. But if you haven’t, this guy is an absolute legend in the audio engineering world.

He’s won several Grammys for “Best Vocal Pop Album” with John Mayer’s “Continuum” and “Best Rock Album” with Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”

So the fact that he joined forces with Waves to create this amazing spatial plugin is a HUGE deal.

This plugin helps add to your otherwise static mixdowns by creating an even greater sense of depth through the stereo field.

A great static mixdown is one of the first steps to a great sounding mix, but that can be pretty boring in electronic music! (And just about every other genre too)

If you listen carefully to any of your favorite tracks, some of its elements are most likely moving left and right, either subtly or drastically!

And this plugin can help you create the same effect.

The Brauer Motion plug-in isn’t only useful in music production though. If you are making cinematic tracks or film scores, this plugin can help you manipulate and make the listener immerse into the visual world!

If you want to see more of why this is one of the best Waves plugins, check out this incredible demo video Michael Brauer made with Waves over here.

Waves Plugins #3 – F6 Floating Band Dynamic EQ

cymatics-floating eq-best waves plugins

First of all, we need to emphasize that this plugin is a dynamic EQ.

What does that mean?

Whenever you use any other regular EQ – for example, your DAW’s stock EQ –  you are committing your track(s) to specific EQ parameters that are going to stay constant during your whole song.

What a dynamic EQ does is allow you to set thresholds like the ones found in most compressors, so the EQ only engages when the signal goes above the threshold.

This is an incredibly handy tool for multiple scenarios.

Imagine you have a rolling bass or synth line with the filter opening up at certain times during your song.

When the filter opens, it becomes a little bit harsh. With a regular EQ you can control those harsh frequencies, but when the filter closes once again, it’s taking out frequencies that otherwise might be useful.

This is where a dynamic EQ comes in.

If you are wondering if this works the opposite way too, boosting instead of cutting after going below the threshold, you’re right.

A dynamic EQ functions both ways, making it easily one of the best Waves plugins if you’re looking for a better mix!

Waves Plugins #4 – Waves Center

cymatics-center-best waves plugins

If you’ve never heard about this plugin, it’s one of the most useful tools out there that you’ve been missing out on!

Waves Center is basically a plugin that allows you to separate the center content from your signal on the sides (L/R).

If you’re an Ableton user, this is similar to the Utility plugin, but on steroids!

It comes with 3 knobs that allow you to push the low and high frequency content either to the center or the sides.

center-side-content

The punch knob has the same functionality, but with the transients of your input signal!

If this has been too confusing, let us explain the power of this plugin with an example.

Imagine you have an acapella you want to use for your remix, but it has unwanted sounds from the instrumental in the sides, and you just can’t EQ it out.

Simply use this plugin and drag the “Sides” fader until you achieve the desired result!

For that reason, this plugin is almost like magic!

Waves Plugins #5 – Kramer Tape

cymatics-kramer tape-best waves plugins

This amazing plugin is modeled after a rare vintage tape machine.

It’s very likely that you have heard another producer say before how awesome tape or vinyl sound is.

This is THE tape plugin you are looking for.

It’s subtle, but once you put it in your track you can definitely hear a tonal change without even moving any parameter or choosing a preset.

This plugin has so many uses we could write an entire article about it!

But instead, you can watch this really cool video made by True Sound Studios showcasing many of its uses here.

What you’ll realize afterwards is that this is by far one of the coolest plugins Waves has to offer.

Waves Plugins #6 – API Collection

cymatics-api-best waves plugins

The API EQ’s and compressor are another instant classic for many professional studios.

Waves actually teamed up with API to deliver the sound of the original hardware, making them some of the best Wave plugins for your mix.

Not only that, but it’s so user friendly that you don’t even have to read the manual if you have some experience with EQ’s and compressors.

You can just dive right in and use the same EQ and compressor that some of the biggest artists in the world have!

Believe it or not, the hardware versions of API gear were used in many of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin’s recordings.

And if that doesn’t really convince you about their awesomeness, you can watch Virtual Riot in this old recorded stream from 2014 using the API-2500 multiple times.

Waves Plugin #7 – Vitamin Sonic Enhancer

cymatics-sonic enhancer-best waves plugins

The Vitamin Sonic Enhancer is a multi-band harmonic enhancer plugin that has a little bit of a learning curve, but…

It can make any track sound incredibly powerful if used correctly.

The controls are rather intuitive.

You can determine the crossover frequency points between the five different bands and get noticeable results instantly. You can also control the mix of the direct signal with its enhanced version with the Direct Fader.

The sonic effect of this plugin is widely determined by the type of input signal – vocals, guitars, synths, drums, or even an entire mix –

For that reason, we really encourage you to spend some time with it to understand it, because this plugin can even save your song when it’s missing that “extra something”.

The results are comparable to what you would get from a parallel chain of EQ, compression, and saturation, but all in one single plugin.

In this 5 minute tutorial at the Pro Tools Expert website, they show you how to sweeten tracks using the Waves Vitamin Sonic Enhancer plugin.

Waves Plugins #8 – PuigTec EQ’s

cymatics-puigtec-best waves plugins

We’re going to be completely honest here: these EQ’s are some of our secret weapons…

They’re definitely not unknown, but we believe that many people overlook them!

The PuigTec EQ’s were developed by Jack Joseph Puig – the engineer behind many hits from U2, Lady Gaga, and The Rolling Stones.

What makes the PuigTec EQ’s unique is that they can boost and cut the same frequency at the same time, creating a really unique resonant shelving sound.

It’s a subtle sound which is hard to describe with words, so you might want to check it out yourself.

Once you hear it, it’ll be quite obvious why this is one of the best Waves plugins out there.

Waves Plugins #9 – Reel ADT

cymatics-reel adt-best waves plugins

The Abbey Road Studios developed a famous technique called “Artificial Double Tracking” in the mid 60’s.

The “ADT” quickly became the sound of the whole era, made popular by The Beatles.

Waves did an excellent job of packing all of this plus extra features into one single plugin…

The Reel ADT!

And now, you can have this iconic sound downloaded as a single plugin right on your computer.

If you want to see this thing in action, check out Joel Cameron on YouTube experimenting with the “ADT” technique over here.

Or, you can watch this incredible in-depth tutorial by Waves where they go into all the cool features this plugin has to offer.

Waves Plugins #10 – Vocal Rider

cymatics-vocal rider-best waves plugins

If you are doing a lot of vocal production, you need this plugin. Period.

Those who have experimented with vocal production know that doing volume automation is crucial for a professional sounding vocal.

This plugin adjusts your levels automatically.

Not to mention, It’s crystal clear and doesn’t add any color to your input signal!

If you’d like to add this element to your own production, Waves explains exactly how to do that in this quick tutorial.

And if you’re still skeptical about how important volume automation is for vocals…

Check this video by The Pro Audio Files where they enhance a vocal performance with manual clip gain automation.

What you’ll quickly realize is this isn’t just an amazing plugin for vocal production. It’s actually one of the best Waves plugins in general.

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Waves Plugins #11 – SSL G Master Buss Compressor

cymatics-ssl-best waves plugins

This compressor is one that audio engineers simply can’t get rid of.

The SSL Buss Compressor plugin is modeled after the famous SSL 4000 G console and it captured perfectly the original sound.

This plugin (and the console) gave birth to the famous “glue” term every producer seems to talk about.

Put this compressor on your drum bus and finally understand what everyone is talking about.

It’s been around for ages, and it’s commonly used by top engineers as the last compressor that transforms a mix into a finished record!

A must have!

Waves Plugins #12 – Doubler

cymatics-doubler-best waves plugins

This plugin remained a secret weapon for a long time.

But it’s widely known now, and for good reason!

It was originally created to achieve that 80’s type-shimmer and presence on vocals with chorus-like effects, but it’s also a great tool for experimentation!

In fact, you’ve probably witnessed your favourite producers use this plugin when they’ve made their claps or percussions sound like they’re coming from the sides.

If you’d like to add this effect to your own arsenal, just know it may look this plugin might look a little bit intimidating at first.

But once you scroll through some presets and see how the visual interface changes, you’ll understand its inner workings quickly and be glad you downloaded it!

It’ll honestly be one of the coolest plugins you use.

Waves Plugins #13 – J37 Tape

cymatics-j37-best waves plugins

Many modern saturation plugins offer a tape saturation setting.

The J37 is a dedicated plugin that takes the definition of “tape saturation” to the next level.

This plugin can be used on just about anything to give the sound an “old-school” vinyl sound.

Not to mention, if you ever want a little bit more warmth, or want to go for a retro vibe, this plugin definitely won’t disappoint!

It may seem a little complicated because it involves controls like Bias, Wow, Flutter, and Tape Speed.

Waves even made an incredible video on how to use this plug-in, and you can watch it here.

But to be honest, you don’t have to become a master at it…

The J37 Tape comes with a TON of incredible presets.

If you spend some time experimenting with them, we promise you’ll find a preset for most situations you can probably think of.

And once you use this plugin, you might not make a song without it ever again…

Waves Plugins #14 – S1 Stereo Imager

cymatics-s1-best waves plugins

This is one of those plug-ins that is impossible to describe.

In order to understand how phenomenal it is, you have to put it to work yourself!

But the good news is, Stereo Imaging has never been easier.

Simply put the S1 on your track and start messing with the width fader.

You’ll be able to achieve incredible imaging results in a matter of seconds!

There’s a reason why almost EVERY big producer swears by this plugin for their Stereo Imaging needs.

Test this epic plugin for yourself and see why it’s clearly one of the best Waves plugins of all time.

Waves Plugins #15 – Trans-X

cymatics-best waves plugins

If you are mainly an electronic music producer, it’s highly likely that you have a fetish for perfect kick drums.

This transient shaper plugin is the perfect complementary kick drum design tool.

You can also use it to shape drum loops or attenuate the attack of any sound source.

It’s a very straight forward plugin, and we highly recommend you add this to your toolbox.

Select your global block.

Conclusion

Unsurprisingly, Waves has a bunch of incredible plug-ins.

This list BARELY scratches the surface of what they offer as a company!

These 15 plugins are truly among the best ones in the game right now, but there are SO many more in the Waves arsenal that can greatly impact your production.

We really encourage you to go over to the Waves website and check out these plugins and even more of their other products. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!

Also if you want even more amazing plugins, we have an entire list of the 100 best vst plugins here!

And if you use any Waves plugins on a daily basis that we missed, let us know by commenting below!

Or make sure to tell us what are your favorite Waves plugins are!

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