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‘Being ahead of the curve is a necessity’: Waves’ Mick Olesh on the plugin specialist’s future plans

Take a peek inside the toolbox of just about any audio producer or engineer, be they from the live, studio, broadcast or any other sector, and more often than not you’ll find an abundance of Waves plugins. For years, Waves has been the go to brand across the industry in this regard, featuring prominently on everything from hit records and live shows from some of the biggest artists on the planet, through to blockbusting films, video games and international broadcasts.

Ever since the business was established some 25 years ago, launching the world’s first audio plugin in the form of the Q10 paragraphic equalizer, it has continued to blaze a trail through the industry, taking every opportunity to fine tune its classic lines, whilst constantly looking to evolve its offering of new and innovative products. This year alone has seen the introduction of numerous successful plugins, including the Dugan Automixer + Dugan Speech Bundle, the F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ, the Smack Attack transient shaper, the Brauer Motion and, last but not least, the CLA MixDown plugin.

As with every successful operation in the pro audio world, product evolution across the board has been hastened by the increasingly rapid development of new technologies. Yet, where some see the fast-paced nature of the biz and the constant need to adapt as a problem, others view it as an opportunity to be seized. This, explains Waves EVP sales and marketing, Mick Olesh, is where Waves comes into its own.

“Generally speaking, Waves caters to and reaches a wide range of customers that use, or will be using, our tools, all of whom are affected in one way or another by the ever-changing paradigms of the industry,” he tells PSNEurope.

“Some perceive these changes as a hindrance or an obstacle. We see it as an opportunity to adjust and perfect our strategies and tactics, may it be regarding the products we develop to suit these changing modes, or the manner in which we communicate and sell our products to the user.”

He continues: “One big opportunity is our growing involvement in VR via Waves Nx. We cautiously predict that 3D audio technology will revolutionise the music industry. Since the adoption of stereo in the music industry in the 1950s, there hasn’t really been any change to the format itself and, even throughout the digital revolution, the stereo format didn’t change. There were attempts for creating music in Quad and later – 5.1 formats, but they were never widely adopted, mainly, since very few people have the means to listen to these formats. Today, this is even more so, as more and more people tend to listen to music on headphones and less on speakers.”

Since the adoption of stereo in the music industry in the 1950s, there hasn’t really been any change to the format itself and, even throughout the digital revolution, the stereo format didn’t change

Mick Olesh

Olesh says that, via technologies like Waves Nx, there is a real opportunity for the firm to push the envelope. “With Nx, any user with a mobile device and a set of headphones can listen to surround and multichannel content. It can breathe new life into surround music production, now that everyone can listen to it on their headphones.

In the future, it will also support formats that are unlimited in speaker count and positions. “Such formats will be initially adopted for VR, and there will most likely be applications in the music industry as well. Also, Waves Nx Head Tracker and Nx Virtual Mix Room over Headphones, has opened up new doors to headphone mixing, which has become more and more popular.”

Going live
Despite initially making tentative steps into the live market, Waves has made strong and steady progress in this corner of the industry. And with an ever-growing profile in the field, Olesh insists that the expanding avenues into the sector could hold great significance over the coming months and years.

“What was, relatively not that long ago, a foray into live, Waves has now established itself as a major player, be it through the success of the Waves eMotion LV1 software mixer, via Waves SoundGrid technology and applications, which have become an industry standard for enabling a cost efficient, extremely low-latency environment for high-precision audio processing and efficient Audio-over-Ethernet networking.

“It would be fair to say, that Waves SoundGrid has entirely changed the workflow possibilities of an engineer or a musician, as it has created the only networking system that allows real-time processing, networking and offloading. It provides low latency for SoundGrid-compatible plugins, runs on standard Intel CPUs and 1Gbit/s Ethernet networks, uses standard computers and switches, integrates with analogue and digital mixing consoles, provides redundancy and recovery, splits output to record on a standard DAW and can be used to comprise network infrastructure for sound installations.”

One of the key drivers behind Waves’ ability to consistently introduce new technological innovations to the market, says Olesh, is its ongoing investment in the R&D process. Plus, with a team comprised almost exclusively of musicians and sound engineers, Olesh believes that the expertise of Waves staff provides it with a significant advantage over the competition. “Our goal has always been, and still is, to contribute the very best tools possible to the artistic and creative process and to develop and provide solutions that enable unparalleled sonic quality for all audio applications. “Waves invests a substantial amount of resources in R&D and every decision at Waves is a joint one. We have a yearly plan that goes through an ongoing revision process. Sales, product management and colleagues in the industry all contribute to the decision process.

“Considering the fact that most of our staff are either musicians or recording engineers themselves: employing an open work environment, where employees can and are expected to express their views re developing products and projects, contributes to the validation of the decision process. We strive to make tools for the needs of a diverse user base. From novices, to bedroom producers, to the very high end of audio engineering needs and standards. This means that we have an obligation to cater to every kind of user out there, including all music genres and all sound oriented fields be it studio, live, broadcast, post production, sound design and more. With that in mind, at Waves, being ahead of the curve is an essential necessity.

Another big focus for Waves is its training initiative. Entitled Bridging The Gap, it is focused primarily on explaining both the opportunities and requirements that are now part of the live market, which, according to Waves, were previously only expected to be of relevance to those in the realm of the recording studio.
“We are working to provide entry-level musicians and music creators, a system, where they are able to realise the potential of creating quality sound with suitable tools, together with an infrastructure that will be part of their long-term passion,” Olesh elaborates. “We train the wider spectrum of music creators on how they are now able to use and take the same tools and technology that they use at home, in the studio, the rehearsal room and their live gig. The opportunity of using software tools, racks and connectivity, that transfers from one location to the other, with seamless integration while maintaining audio quality, is key to their success. Waves is actively playing a big part in training and providing key elements in that process.”

He continues: “Evidently, many of the newcomers, are not trained, nor do they have similar educational backgrounds, as known producers or engineers have. They speak a different language and operate on a different level. Hence, our approach is done accordingly, by including and creating audio tools that generate a vibe and sound that they can relate to, a new type of GUI and UX /UI, that not only responds to their needs but also translates their ideas and mindset into music. This is a great challenge that we are taking upon ourselves, for the studio as well as in the live market.”

As for those already well versed in Waves products, Olesh states that the company forges close bonds with engineers and producers to ensure that it is constantly assessing and meeting the demands of audio professionals working in the industry.

“The majority of engineers and producers are Waves users. We work closely with them and in many cases, the interaction works both ways,” he concludes as our time draws to a close.

The company forges close bonds with engineers and producers to ensure that it is constantly assessing and meeting the demands of audio professionals working in the industry

Mick Olesh

“They have ideas that they forward to us, or we initiate a discussion with them. Before finalising, our products are first Beta-tested by a number of the industries’ top engineers. Where plugin emulation is concerned, most of Waves’ emulated products are created either with an engineer/producer or manufacturer. Obviously, our Artist Signature Series is done in collaboration with a designated engineer/artist, and certain emulated plugins are always done in tandem with experienced and proven engineers. Their feedback is an invaluable contribution to the quality of our products.”

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