Making Waves: Waves Native Power Pack for PC

PLEASE NOTE: This article has been archived. It first appeared on ProRec.com in January 1999, contributed by then Contributing Editor Pete Leoni. We will not be making any updates to the article. Please visit the home page for our latest content. Thank you!

Note from the Editor:Waves sent us a full CD of software for review. Always the overachiever, Pete reviewed all the software sent to him – many of which are not included in the Native Power Pack. The Native Power Pack includes the Q10 EQ, the C1 compressor, the S1 StereoImager, the L1 Ultramaximizer, and the TrueVerb. The other plugins reviewed here – Renaissance Compressor, DeEsser, and MaxxBass – are part of the Native Power Pack II. You can read a full review of NPP II here

Either ya’s got class or ya’ ain’t.

The ’57 Chevy is a classic. The ’62 Stratocaster is a classic. So are the Rolling Stones.

Add to the list the Waves Native Power Pack.

The minute you first lay eyes on the box you begin to understand that Waves cares about quality. This is one product that wasn’t rushed to market in a half-baked state. The abundance of quality is again apparent in the manual. A beautiful black loose-leaf type notebook with heavy pages that even your puppy would have a hard time destroying.

Besides aesthetics, I am very pleased to report that this attention to detail extends to the coding of the program itself. You will likely experience no mysterious Direct-X computer glitches or crashes when using these babies. NPP performs all of its functions flawlessly, and is about as solid as software gets. A full list of compatible programs may be found at the bottom of this article.

NPP is foremost a professional product. No serious DAW based studio should be without NPP. The pack includes the Q10 (EQ), the L1 (a mastering compressor and limiter), the C1 (compression, gate, expansion), the TrueVerb (high quality reverb), Renaissance (a vintage type compressor) MaxxBass (similar to the BBE processor for low end), the S1 (stereo imaging enhancer) and the DE (a de-essing device). All of these plugs were written with the professional in mind and are very tweakable, but on the whole, the interface is written so well that even a novice will have little trouble negotiating them.

I will now try to cover the important features of each device in three words or less (well, maybe a few more) but I’ll try to keep this as concise as possible.

The Q10 Paragraphic EQ

First of all let me say that this EQ sounds great. A lot of EQ’s exhibit minor phase shifting character that sometimes becomes quite audible. This one seems to avoid that somehow. The interface is almost self-explanatory at first glance, and allows you to just grab and drag a graphic EQ line into whatever shape you need. The interface allows you to easily control frequency, gain, and Q in high-resolution increments, with output meters to keep you from clipping. Simple and elegant.

Waves Q10 EQ

Waves realizes that for most EQ applications, only one or two bands of EQ are needed. Why chew up precious CPU resources crunching 10 bands of EQ when you aren’t using 9 of those bands? Waves kindly packages the Q10 in several flavors – the Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, Q6, Q8 and Q10. These versions allow you to choose the equalizer that provides only the processing you need, saving valuable CPU cycles.

And, the Q10 includes access to Waves excellent IDR dithering algorithm, to get the most out of the 32-bit EQ algorithms when using 16 bit media.

The L1 Ultramaximizer

I will not master a project without using the Ultramaximizer. This device alone is worth the price of admission to the NPP Club. What it does is allow you to use compression and brick wall limiting on your final mixes, while applying IDR noise shape dithering to ensure that every last bit of resolution goes into the master, even at low volumes.

L1 UltraMaximizer

The cool thing about L1 is it does all of this so smoothly. You really have to get into some extreme settings to get non-musical results. If you are one of those people that insists on your mix being the loudest thing over the airwaves, this is the device that can do it gracefully. Conversely, if you are recording classical music with wide dynamic range, this is still the tool to choose! Elegant compression on the peaks, and perfect noise shaped dithering for high resolution on the valleys.

There is nothing quite like the L1 plugin available at this time. It is so popular and powerful that Waves has released the L1 as a rack-mount hardware device, the L2 UltraMaximizer. For those people who still use rackmount gear.

The C1 Dynamics Processor

The C1 was famous in the Mac world long before it was available on the PC platform. More than just a compressor, it is also capable of gating, expansion, sidechain gating and filtering. It is an efficient and powerful compressor. I use it on virtually every mix I do.

The full C1+ compressor with IDR

As with other Waves devices these may be used as separate modules to conserve CPU power. For example, you can select just the compressor or gate / expander, a compressor with sidechain, a compressor / gate / expander with sidechain, or compressor / gate / expander with sidechain and dithering. Use only the CPU cycles you require.

This tool is as flexible as any compressor you’ve ever seen. You get complete control over all compressor functionality. Graphs depict the transfer function for both compressor and gate / expander, and full metering is available indicating gain reduction and output level. When used in real time, a bar is displayed on the transfer curve, allowing you to easily see where your audio falls with respect to the transfer function.

One very nice feature of the compressor is PDR (Program Dependent Release) very useful for dealing with rapidly changing transients. PDR follows the stated release time for sustained signals, but shortens the release time for transients. This allows more compression without breathing or pumping.

The C1 also incorporates lookahead processing. This will allow you to set gates, for example, that open right before the signal actually occurs, thus preserving the complete attack and not truncating the first few cycles, as noise gates are prone to do without this feature. There are many more features in this plugin than I have the ability to get into at in this short review. Suffice to say that the C1 is the most flexible and probably the best sounding dynamic processing plugin available anywhere.

The S1 StereoImager

Ever wonder why your mixes sometimes sound a little flat compared to some of the major label releases? One reason is that it’s very hard to get a good stereo field happening with only a few mics, and perhaps not as many tracks as you would like to have. The S1 can be quite a miracle worker when it comes to widening the stereo image and adding that extra “space” that we hear so often in commercial releases.

The S1 is unique in that it is able to widen the stereo image without “smearing” the lower frequencies. It employs “shuffling” algorithms to increase the width of the stereo field in the lower frequencies without destroying the phase relationship between the stereo channels. This is something that I found to be quite amazing: every other device that I have tried to use in this way played hell with the bottom end. The S1 effectively minimizes this problem.

S1 StereoImager

I use S1 in two ways. First of all, it’s great to use instead of panning to create positioning with space. Use this on individual tracks in a sparse mix to get real space in the mix. Secondly, it’s excellent to use this on a 2-D sounding final mix. S1 is a great mastering tool.

The S1 also includes an excellent mid-side matrix option, capable of bringing out an excellent stereo image from mid-side miking. And it includes the IDR option to allow high-resolution dithering, perfect for use in mastering. As with the Q10 and C1, the S1 is available in its full-function mode with or without IDR, or without shuffling (when there is little bass content), or just the MS Matrix.

TrueVerb

TrueVerb is one of the few reverb plugs available that can accurately simulate real environments. Waves has obviously spent a lot of time getting a true mathematical representation of actual environments. How does this relate to the way is sounds? Well pretty darn good. TrueVerb is one of only a small number of software reverbs that can effectively compete with high-end hardware units costing thousands of dollars.

TrueVerb Reverb

TrueVerb is no doubt one of the better reverb plugins available, but I have to say I have a few problems with the interface. Although the rest of the NPP is very clear and intuitive, I find the TrueVerb interface to be somewhat obtuse. It is almost as if the engineers got carried away with room simulation and forgot that we are trying to use it to create music. I have at times found myself avoiding TrueVerb and choosing another device when pressed for time. TrueVerb is also quite CPU intensive. However, this is usually the price you have to pay for good resolution and smooth, clear tails in a reverb, and TrueVerb’s sound is unquestionably first-class.

The Renaissance Compressor

The Renaissance Compressor seems to me to be a sort of Urie tube compressor meets Valley People meets Cubase interface. It re-creates the sound of the older tube and optical type compressors. Currently I just happen to have at my disposal an old Urie unit (no I don’t want to sell it). These kind of devices are very subjective. I preferred the clear, distortionless sound of the C1 for vocals but I have to say I really got some excellent results using the Renaissance Compressor on bass and guitar.

Renaissance Compressor

It has a very “amp like” sound, and similar in some respect to the Urie unit which I also use for guitars occasionally. When driven hard is has a natural breathing and pumping effect, like tube compressors, and once you let up a little bit you are left with a warm, “soft-clipped” sound.

You will have to make up your own mind about the interface. Some people like it, and others refer to these interfaces as “cartoonish.” It is clearly a new direction for Waves.

MaxxBass

This one works great! What MaxxBass will do for you is give your mixes that “Pumpin” bass sound without causing your speakers to jump out of their baskets. When you hear the bass produced by MaxxBass, you may be left scratching your heads wondering, “How dey do dat?” It sounds like your speakers are producing bass an octave lower than they are supposed to be able to produce!

MaxxBass

MaxxBass creates the harmonic cues that “fool” our ears into thinking that the fundamentals are present in higher amount than they actually are. It is possible to get these harmonic effects to some degree with painstaking miking and excellent room acoustics. MaxxBass allows you to get these effects on any track. It’s really amazing hearing more bass and simultaneously seeing your speakers moving LESS.

This plugin is essential for doing House or Techno where there’s never enough bottom in the mix, and also very useful for correcting a lack of apparent low end in a re-mastering job. without skewing the rest of the mix toward bass. A truly useful and essential tool.

The DE

A very complete de-essing tool featuring very sharp filters which can rid your vocals of S “splatter” without harshly affecting the general spectrum. With proper de-essing, you can INCREASE the trebly wetness of a vocal and yet hear LESS sibilance on the consonants.

Great interface, easy to use and again probably the best of its kind. What more need I say?

DE DeEsser

The Complaint

Waves is the only software company I have worked with that uses a hardware key (dongle) to copy-protect its software. The WaveKey dongle attaches to the computer’s parallel port and includes a passthrough so that you can use your parallel port devices with it. Without the WaveKey you cannot use the software.

In all fairness, I have never experienced any problem using the WaveKey. MIDI adapters, printers, and scanners that I have used all work fine with the WaveKey. However, it’s the principle of the thing that bothers me. There have been a lot of complaints about it, and I for one would like to see Waves use a more common form of copy protection. Imagine if ALL software companies used dongles! What a nightmare!

The Conclusion

There’s class and there’s Class. You want Class? Stick Waves NPP into your DAW and give your mixes a new level of Class.

Compatibility

(compatible with these versions and higher) Sound Forge 4.0a, Cakewalk 6.0, Cubase-VST 3.533, WaveLab 1.6, CoolEdit Pro 1.0, Samplitude 2496, Samplitude Pro 4.5, Logic Audio 3.5, Sonic Foundry Acid 1.0, SAWPlus32 2.9, SEK’D Red Roaster, Ensoniq PARIS 1.8, WaveConvert Pro 3.1 and any other application that supports DirectX plug-in architecture.

Mac versions are also available.

for more information: http://www.waves.com

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