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Waves OneKnob

October 21, 2011
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You probably know how to shape your guitar sound with a couple of twists of the knobs on your stompboxes and the tone controls on your guitar and amp, but when confronted with a nest of other parameters in a multitrack mix, the process becomes less intuitive.

If only you could simply determine what your track needed and turn a knob until it sat just right in the mix. Waves OneKnob plug-ins ($320 street) presents digital- audio processing for the parameter- weary: seven plug-ins that cover fundamental sound-sculpting chores in much the same way as you work the tone knob of your car stereo.

The iLok copy protection may just be your most convoluted setup task, but once that’s done, you’re ready to roll. I checked out all seven plug-ins on my 2x2.8 GHz quad core Mac Pro though MOTU Digital Performer 7.2.2, Ableton Live 8.22, and Logic 9.1.4

There isn’t a lot of plug-in layout to cover, so I’ll stick to how well each plug-in performs its task. In general, the plug-ins are not intended to be mastering effects, but rather to address the needs of an individual track. All the plug-ins offer mono and stereo versions (Wetter adds monoto- stereo conversion). With few exceptions, your choice is simply more or less processing.

Brighter

Instead of making you smarter, Brighter simply boosts the upper-midrange and higher frequencies in your track. In a song consisting of fingerpicked Stratocaster arpeggios, electric bass, and a fat stereo drum loop, applying Brighter to the drum loop with the dial moved to between 5 and 7 added definition to the cymbals and a bit of snap to the snare. Adding more sapped the low-end punch. The soloed kit tended to sound papery as the knob moved higher than 7. The increased presence of transients and picking artifacts added a bit of life and brilliance to electric bass in the context of the overall mix. After applying Brighter to the fingerpicked Strat, the plug-in boosted the presence of the guitar in the track, with settings above 7 carving out a bit of separation and adding air to the track. The higher settings are perfect when you want to add jangle to clean electric guitars. I added power chords from a distorted electric guitar, which muddied up the works considerably, but a bit of the Brighter plug at around 4 helped define the part and added sizzle. Higher settings made the guitar sound thin and fizzy, however. Therein lies the effectiveness of OneKnob: Adjust the knob until it sounds right, and you’re done.

Driver

At lower settings, the Driver plug-in added warmth to the drum track, albeit at the cost of some of the bottom end— almost as if a high-pass filter had kicked in. At settings above 5, the kit started getting deliciously fuzzy and dirty without losing warmth. The bass loop went from mildly saturated to all-out fuzz bass without any nasty clipping. The fingerpicked Stratocaster worked best at settings up to 4, and the mildly overdriven effect was pleasing and subtle. Predictably, adding overdrive and distortion on the distorted guitar track was like bringing coals to Newcastle, but oddly enough, the aforementioned high-pass filter effect scooped just enough of the lower-frequency mud to help the track sit better in the mix. Settings of 3 worked best for me, before the tone got lost in the fuzz.

Filter

Filter adds a toggle button at the lower right to increase resonance in preset amounts, from Moderate to Extreme, or no resonance at all. The knob adjusts the filter’s cutoff frequency. At extreme settings with the filter nearly wide open, you can make the filter self-oscillate and howl. It was easy to give the acoustic drum kit and the electric bass a pronounced synthetic character. Filter is a great tone shaper for electric guitar and bass, but I missed the ability to sweep the filter with an envelope follower or a tempo-locked LFO. A band-pass filter would have been great for wah effects.

Louder

The name practically says it all. Louder is essentially a loudness maximizer that will limit peaks and use compression to boost the quieter portion of the signal. Applied to the song’s master output, Louder did a credible job of beefing up a relatively mousy master track.

Phatter

Essentially a boost for low-end frequencies, Phatter can add girth to practically anything. I loved moderate settings (Between 3 and 5) of Phatter on drums. Applied to an already heavy bass track, I was surprised that I could eke even more fat out of it without losing definition. Phatter effectively moved the arpeggiated guitar track and the distorted powerchord tracks up front in the mix in the same way a car stereo’s loudness switch hypes the low end to create the impression of increased volume.

Pressure

Although dynamics processors are probably the least understood of all the plugins, Pressure shines when you just want to squash a signal, fatten up a kick drum, or get your guitar to sustain just a little longer. An additional button sets your track’s input to unity gain, pad, or boost. For subtle, conservative settings, the Pad button is the first place to go. At settings as low as 2, snares smacked harder and kicks gained noticeable punch. Settings around 4 elicited snappy, singing sustain, but cymbals sustained unnaturally. Move the plug-in to Boost and drive the knob up past 5, and the pumping kicks in prominently. I prefer subtle dynamics processing, but the mangling is there if you want it.

Wetter

Wetter is a sweet-sounding reverb with an interesting trick up its sleeve that isn’t mentioned in the sparse, minimally detailed PDF documentation. Wetness and reverb time increase as you move the knob clockwise, but I was bugged by a persistent reflection that maintained the same onset at all settings (although it grew more diffuse with higher settings). I later found that the onset of the reflections was tempo-synched. A musical idea, but not always the effect you may want.

I often wished I could, for instance, tweak Wetter’s early reflections, or change from a low-pass filter to band-pass. There isn’t much to automate other than more or less of the effect.

Depending on your needs, these plugins will either be just right or too limited. OneKnob’s strong suit is simple, uncomplicated processing. If your requirements are also simple, download the demo and give it a try.

Kudos Provides an easy means of doing sound sculpting on a track.

Concerns Parameter options maybe too limited for some users.

Contact (865)909-9200; waves.com

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