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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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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