Posted 16th January 2023

7 Best Waves Plugins for Sound Engineering

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Plugins from Waves Audio

At Macdrum we have been looking at ways to help beginner and intermediate sound engineers & producers improve their output. Here we look at arguably the market leader in digital plugin effects, Waves Audio.

Waves Audio is a leading provider of digital professional sound engineering tools, and their plugins are some of the most popular and widely used on the market. Originally set up in 1992, Waves have been releasing digital effects and plugins for more than three decades. It's become inevitable over the years that if you mix regularly in a DAW, that you've used a digital plugin and more than likely a Waves Audio plugin.

We've compiled a list of some useful plugins from the aforementioned company that could help you discover ways of improving mixes without breaking the bank. After all digital plugins are much more affordable than their hardware counterparts.

Andy Mac re-iterated here that the key to a great sounding track lies primarily with song writing and performance and all the plugins in the world won't turn an average performance into a great one. A great performance will benefit from the correct application of effects, digital or otherwise.

So, whether you're a beginner or a more experienced engineer looking for something different, a waves plugin could be the answer when adding variation and some creativity to your productions. The Macdrum team picked these seven Waves plugins to review. There may well be a waves plugin that's right for you.

A sound engineer mixing at a digital audio workstation (DAW)

Our list of waves plugins

  1. Waves Vocal Rider

  2. Waves RCompressor

  3. Waves L2 Ultramaximizer

  4. Waves Renaissance Axx

  5. Waves DeEsser

  6. Waves CLA Vocals

  7. Waves H-Delay


1. Waves Vocal Rider:

The Waves Vocal Rider Plugin is a must-have for any vocalist or engineer looking to achieve perfect vocal levels in their mix. The Vocal Rider automatically rides the levels of your vocals, ensuring they sit perfectly in the mix without the need for constant tweaking. This plugin can really help balance your vocal recordings and can lessen the need for volume automation.


It's easy to use, saves bags of time and works well on a single vocal.


It doesn't work well with multiple vocal tracks and demands plenty of computer processing power to function properly.

Overall 7.5/10

2. Waves RCompressor:

This plugin is a versatile, powerful and accurate compressor that can be used on a wide range of sources, including vocals. It's perfect for achieving a classic "pumping" sound that's popular in modern music styles. The RCompressor sports an easy to use interface and a great sidechain filtering.


Great precision, dynamic shaping, easy to use and nice sidechain filtering


Lacks transparency, or colours the sound so avoid if it's transparency you desire.

It's pricier than other digital options.

Overall 8/10

3. Waves L2 Ultramaximizer

This plugin is a mastering tool that's geared towards achieving that loud, commercial sound that's so popular in today's music. The L2 Ultramaximizer has the ability to boost the overall level of a recording without introducing distortion. Additionally, it offers a range of settings and controls, allowing fine tuning of your audio.


Versatile, modern mastering on a budget, control and precision, good overall boost.


Complex, Could be confusing for beginners with it's many settings and options.

Overall 6.2/10

4. Waves Renaissance Axx:

This guitar compressor plugin is an all-in-one channel strip that includes threshold, attack and output gain plus (of course) a compressor. It's used for shaping your guitar & bass guitar sounds and other sources in your mix including vocals. It also works well with synths.


Brings some nice analogue crunch to guitar and vocals. Easy to use.


lacks versatility. Colours the sound, but thats great if it's what your after!

Overall 7.2/10


5. Waves DeEsser:

This plugin is a DeEsser designed for engineers working with vocals. Aimed towards taming sibilance, which is the harsh "sss" sound that can often be heard in vocal recordings, The Waves DeEsser is a powerful and versatile plugin allowing for precise de-essing. It offers a variety of settings and parameters for fine-tuning, such as a dynamic threshold and a stereo linking feature.


Accurate, precise and effective.


Can cause audible artifacts if not used carefully, tricky for beginners.

Overall 8.2/10


6. Waves CLA Vocals:

This plugin tool is aimed at achieving that classic, polished sound that's so popular in today's pop music and pop vocals. It's perfect for adding a characterful sheen to your vocal performances. Ok, so it's not as good as some other options out there. It's not a serious high-end bit of kit. But the price is fantastic for the results it brings.

Pros: User friendly. great sound for the price. Great for beginners and intermediate home studio producers on a budget.

Cons: It's not quite high-end enough to be the serious pro's choice, but like a lot of Waves audio plugins, it's great for the price and perfect for those looking to acquire new skills & sounds.

Overall 8.3/10

7. Waves H-Delay:

This plugin is a versatile, high-quality delay that's perfect for adding depth and space to your mix. It's a great tool for adding a sense of movement and dimension to your vocals.

With classic PCM42-style effects such as phasing, filtering, flanging, to slap-back echo and more, this is great plugin for all levels. The interface is intuitive and simple to use and the sound is fantastic for a digital delay. Well worth adding to your setup.


Great effects emulations, versatility and a great sound.


A little bit more expensive than most Waves plugins but well worth it.

Overall 9.2/10

Home studio, music, mixer and des


In conclusion

As mention earlier Waves audio plugins are the go-to option for many sound engineers and music producers as they offer a wide range of tools. The above-mentioned plugins are a few of the best on the market and they are suitable for various tasks, from mixing vocals to mastering. They will definitely help you to take your sound to the next level if you're an enthusiastic beginner or an intermediate looking to add something new. Also if you're more of a seasoned pro working in certain genres, they can offer an effective way of quickly achieving a particular sound or effect without buying a new hardware unit. Although everyone loves a new hardware unit they don't come cheap.

All in all waves plugins, as good as they are (and they are pretty good!) aren't a worthy substitute for high end effects and of course experience. What they do brilliantly however, is make a huge range of effects available to home studio producers, students and serious hobbyists. For the price they are fantastic and can be instrumental in finding a sound or mixing chain that works for you without spending a king's ransom in the process.

So why not go ahead and try Waves and some of the other options out there!"

Happy mixing

The Macdrum team