High sample rate operation has finally entered the mainstream; the top three plug-in manufacturers now support it. Waves Native Gold Bundle CD ($1,300) installs 32 plug-in units in all, and of that number, 15 are labeled as fully compatible with high sample rate operation.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, project studio, mastering, post production, multimedia
Key Features: Numerous high-quality iterations of all the standard plug-in types (reverb, EQ, compression, limiting, de-essing; also many not-so-standard ones such as delay, dither/noise shaping, parametric processing, stereo image adjustment, analysis, and metering; additionally, many other true sound design effect applications such as pitch changing, flanging, motion and direction steering.
Contact: Waves at 865-546-6115 Web Site
The other 17 plug-in units appear to work as well. Waves informed me that the “un-certified” ones have simply not had each line of code checked yet. But for all the parameters I could check audibly, I noticed no problems whatsoever when using any of the Gold Bundle plug-ins at high sample rates.
In the first part of this article, I review the EQ and Dynamics plug-in units, as the Gold Bundle actually contains several different examples in each category. I also list the CPU overhead each one exhibits when loaded as a single stereo insertion in a relatively low-powered test system – a 300 MHz G3 Mac PowerBook with a four-slot Magma expansion chassis containing a Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) PCI-324 card, feeding a MOTU 1296, running Digital Performer 3.01.
High sample rate operation literally doubles the amount of CPU horsepower needed; if you could insert four or five heavy-duty plug-ins into your stereo output bus when working at 24-bit, 44.1 kHz, at 96 kHz you can only use two of them.
Luckily for those of us who are stuck with older computers, Waves’ WaveShell architecture enables users to split many of its plug-ins into smaller units, saving processing power and speeding up processing time. For example, with the Q10 equalizer you can choose from one to 10 bands of EQ. The Mac Gold Bundle actually contains only 20 plug-ins (19 for PC – no PAZ). Nonetheless, upon installation from the CD, 32 smaller plug-in “units” appear in the DAW’s plug-ins menu and can be accessed individually.
Another major feature of the new WaveShell 3.0/3.2 upgrade consists of the elimination of the hardware dongle. Waves has now joined the large group of music software companies that use PACE copy protection – a system which, by using a combination of serial number recognition and challenge/response code entry, authorizes a user’s specific hard disk/host computer to run the application in question. PACE authorizations can be painlessly restored even if a hard drive crashes; the previous response to the installation challenge still unlocks the authorization code.
To avoid compatibility problems with earlier versions of the WaveShell, be sure to delete all previous Waves plug-ins from any of your application’s template files before installing the Waves Gold Bundle 3.2. Also, load the PACE floppy enabler if you’re running a USB Mac; it is available at Web Site
Equalization Plug-Ins: Renaissance Equalizer, Q10
Waves’ Renaissance EQ plug-in has been my standard “stereo bus equalizer” for several years, emulating the unique curves obtainable on vintage Pultec equalizers. I have never owned a copy of Waves’ original Q10 plug-in; writing this article gave me the opportunity to compare the two applications.
CPU usage was generally lower with the three “units” of Renaissance EQ than with the two versions of Q10; a single stereo 96 kHz iteration of REQ2 added 10 percent to my Digital Performer’s performance meter, while REQ4 added 13 percent and the six-band REQ6 added 17 percent. In contrast, Q10 added between 17 and 30 percent, depending upon the number of bands used, while the smaller Q10 unit – labeled Q4 – used between 14 and 16 percent.
Renaissance EQ can be thought of as similar to a vintage analog equalizer, while Q10 is more like a sophisticated digital parametric equalizer, as it can do just about anything with its 10 symmetrical bands – except for the effects possible with RenEQ’s asymmetrical curves. It also implements the late Michael Gerzon’s “resonant shelf” models – curves in which the overshoot/undershoot typical of old-fashioned analog synth “resonance” controls (and classic Pultecs) is spliced to a variable-Q shelving circuit. A special feature of Q10 is its “drag-select” interface possibilities; many different EQ bands may be selected and then simultaneously adjusted.
I now know why Waves provides two different EQ plug-ins in its Gold Bundle; they are quite different from each other in design, scope and sound; together they provide the computer musician with a complete equalization arsenal. And both of them are optimized for 96 kHz usage.
Dynamics Plug-Ins: Renaissance Compressor, L1, C1, C4, DeEsser
The C1 and L1, Waves’ seminal dynamic-control plug-ins, have long set the standard. Renaissance Compressor was designed to be a classic warm compressor and expander, with a simple, optimized interface. To date, only the single-mode operations (compressor, gate) of C1 have been optimized for high sample rate use. CPU scores on the MOTU system were: C1 Compressor: 12 percent, C1 Gate: 11 percent, C1 Compressor/Gate (with look-ahead): 30 percent, C1 Compressor/Side chain (with look-ahead): 22 percent, L1 Limiter (without IDR): 23 percent, L1 Ultramaximizer: 45 percent.
IDR is Michael Gerzon’s Increased Digital Resolution noise-shaped redithering process. It is available within the Waves Gold Bundle as a plug-in by itself, but is also optionally available on the output of several of their high-DSP units. The L1 limiter does not use IDR, and is thus more suitable as track insert, voice or instrument limiter, or SFX maximizer. The L1-Ultramaximizer, on the other hand, is the full maximizing plug-in with limiting and all IDR options and – since it deals equally well with both audiophile- and Internet-quality material – is appropriate for both CD mastering and multimedia authoring.
Just as Q10 is the prototypical digital equalizer in software, Waves’ C1 Parametric Compander fills a similar role for dynamic processing. In addition to acting as a compressor, gate and parametric compander, it is also capable of a variety of unique effects. For maximum efficiency, Waves breaks the C1 into several smaller components, such as the C1comp and C1gate, or the C1 C/SC (compressor with side chain).
Waves engineers have harnessed C1’s power and demonstrated it through a large series of presets. Fifty or so pages in the Waves manual describes not only these setups, but also the theory behind them. Written by Michael Gerzon himself, this monograph could easily form the basis of a dynamics processing section in an academic recording program.
Waves’ well-known L1 Ultramaximizer is a sophisticated audio processing tool kit combining an advanced peak limiter and a level maximizer, along with IDR noise-shaped redithering and requantizing process. In effect, it maximizes both the level of the digital signal and the resolution of the final file, thereby working on both “ends” of the digital word output. The math used in L1 (as well as the other plug-ins) is 32-bit floating point, and allows high-quality requantization for all bit depths, including 24, 20, 16, 12 and 8-bit outputs.
L1’s look-ahead peak limiter offers extremely precise control of soundfile resolution and production levels. It is capable of fast, overshoot-free response and, once the limiter threshold has been set, the user can define the actual peak level that the processed signal will reach. Once adjusted, limiting and level rescaling becomes a simple one-step process.
In use, one simply mouse-adjusts a little triangle to set the threshold and, if desired, the release time. Only the signal above the threshold is limited; all signals below the threshold have a constant gain change, which is controlled by the difference between the settings for threshold and output ceiling. This function of the L1 allows one to maximize the level relative to the amount of headroom desired. The IDR section has three adjustments: bit depth, a choice of two types of dither and four choices for noise shaping. L1 is optimized for sample rates up to 48 kHz but still sounds pretty okay at 96 kHz.
Renaissance Compressor combines technologies from the C1 and the L1 Ultramaximer with Waves’ new Auto Release Control code. It has the classic five-control setup at the core of its interface (threshold, ratio, attack time, release time and gain), but also has adjustments for release mode (auto/manual), character (warm/smooth) and behavior (Opto/Ele-ctro). Its score for a single stereo iteration on my MOTU system was a CPU hit of 20 percent.
I was fascinated by its subjective controls: Character and Behavior. The former is a rather subtle modifier of the plug-in’s low-end characteristics; Warm adds low-frequency harmonics as deeper compression is applied. The compression behavior circuit models different release time behaviors; Electro’s becomes increasingly faster as the gain reduction approaches zero – but only when gain reduction is less than 3 dB. When GR is above 3 dB, the release time becomes slower.
Opto models opto-coupled hardware compressors, which produce their characteristic “puffy” sound by always “putting on the brakes” as their gain reduction approaches 0 dB (i.e., when the “needle” comes back to zero.)
The bottom line here is that when suitably adjusted, Waves’ Renaissance Compressor provides the same type of gain-reduction behavior and sound quality as a typical vintage hardware unit. And the two-color gain-reduction meter is way cool; when compressing, gain is negative and displays as yellow while, when expanding, the gain is positive and shows as blue.
Waves’ C4 “Parametric Processor” can be thought of as a multiband compressor with parametric adjustments, or as a four-band dynamic equalizer. Its interface looks like an equalizer with a moving line. Since this plug-in takes serious CPU power, I was able to get it to run at 96 kHz only by limiting my Digital Performer studio size to a mere stereo pair. At 48 kHz, of course, it ran just fine.
I found that the C4 had a clear, bright and relatively uncolored sound. Its “dragging a line” interface was reasonably intuitive in use – especially considering the fact that it’s possible to change the crossover points (bandwidth), gain (both fixed-output and dynamic) and frequency range for each of the four bands, as well as to change its dynamic range and response settings. I especially liked the seven global “master controls,” in which all four bands can be adjusted simultaneously. Waves’ Release and Behavior adjustments – just like in the Renaissance Compressor – were also found in this graphic box.
DeEsser is Waves’ single-function plug-in for selective and creative compression of high-frequency ess sounds. It is most easily set up by starting with a preset (such as Male Ess – which sets the side chain frequency to 4,500 Hz), adjusting the threshold until the esses are sufficiently attenuated, and then fine tuning the sound by listening to the side chain by itself while adjusting frequency. In use, I found it very intuitive and capable of producing acceptable results quite rapidly. Certified for 96 kHz use, a stereo iteration added only 13 percent to the Digital Performer performance meter.
I spent considerable time using the Waves plug-ins on material recorded at 96 kHz, and I am quite impressed. There are almost always multiple choices for any given task; one can simply load each possibility in, tweak it individually and then make a decision based solely on the sonic results obtained. If you are anything like me, you often rely on particular favorite plug-ins, but being able to so easily second-guess your standard methods is quite a gift.
Part II: Completing my examination of the Waves Gold Bundle, I examine its two Reverb plug-ins, a dazzling variety of sonic analysis and image adjustment units, as well as the eight FX plugs-ins.
Editor’s Note: Waves is currently working on more CPU-efficient versions of the Gold Bundle plug-ins, starting with the C4. The new plug-ins will be available as free updates. Release dates are not yet announced.