Mixing EDM using Multiband Distortion: Waves MultiMod

Waves MultiMod Rack is an incredibly versatile and powerful multiband distortion and modulation plugin. We put it to the test while mixing an EDM track. Listen to the results!

By Mike Levine

Mixing with Waves MultiMod Rack

Waves MultiMod Rack is an incredibly versatile and powerful multiband distortion and modulation plugin. In this piece, I wanted to demonstrate the utility of multiband distortion processing to mix an EDM track, so I wrote and produced a short electronic track called “What’d You Say?” which I’ll use to illustrate MultiMod Rack’s capabilities. I’ll walk through examples of how it was used on multiple tracks in the mix of this dance song. Here’s the finished mix for you to listen to:

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The Logic Pro X session for “What’d You Say.”

The Logic Pro X session for “What’d You Say.”

On the Rack

Before getting into the specifics of the mix, a little background: MultiMod Rack lets you host up to three different Waves processors simultaneously—either Abbey Road Saturator, any of the MDMX Distortion Modules plugins (Fuzz, Overdrive or Screamer) or Berzerk Distortion. MultiMod Rack is available in bundles with Berzerk, MDMX or both.

MultiMod Rack allows you to apply different distortion and effects plugins to up to three frequency zones

MultiMod Rack allows you to apply different distortion and effects plugins to up to three frequency zones.

What makes it so powerful is its versatility and multiband architecture. You can configure one plugin for the low-frequency range, one for the midrange and one for the high end, and adjust the crossover points at will. You can also set MultiMod Rack to have two processors instead of three (Dual mode) or just one (Wide mode).

Built into MultiMod Rack are three other effects; Reverb, Delay and Chorus. They come in the form of modules that you can use in place of a distortion plugin in any of the three processor slots. You also get a 4-band EQ that comes after all the processing and before the main output.

Each processor that you load in the Rack features its full control set. You also get per-module controls for the amount of harmonic content and gain (the low band also offers a harmonic cutoff frequency control) and the rotation and panning of the module in the stereo image.

Some of the global controls include EQ, crossovers and per-band spatial and harmonic controls

Some of the global controls include EQ, crossovers and per-band spatial and harmonic controls.

One of the most powerful features is the ability to assign modulators to selected parameters in any of the processors that you load in the rack. You can apply LFOs and Sequencer modulators, as well as an Amplitude modulator. Each modulator has a wealth of parameters for configuration and automation. Global Mix and Output knobs allow you to tailor the intensity and level further.

The Presets

With the controls of the distortion plugins augmented by those in the MultiMod Rack itself, you get a tremendous amount of parameter control. Also, a wide variety of presets provides you with suggested starting points for drums, guitars, synths, vocals and more.

MultiMod Rack also includes an entire bank of artist presets, with settings from audio luminaries such as Joe Baressi, Devin Townsend, Jaquire King, Michael Brauer and many others.

Drums and Bass

I used MultiMod Rack to process the main drum loop and the synth bass pretty heavily. For the former, I applied it as a parallel effect using an aux send.

I started by opening the preset called Fat, which includes three instances of Abbey Road Saturator. I expected to do a lot of adjusting, but it sounded great right off the bat, so I used the preset as is.

The Low and Mid bands provide relatively modest amounts of saturation and feature the TG and Redd saturation algorithms, respectively. (Redd is modeled from a tube console and TG from a solid-state one.) The high band, which starts at 2.41kHz, uses TG saturation and has its gain about 3/4 of the way up. I didn’t use any modulators on this one.

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While working on the settings, I soloed each of the bands. It’s useful to do so because you can hear exactly how you’re affecting the sound in each of the frequency ranges. I could hear that the bulk of the distortion was coming from the processor in the high-band slot. Overall, the effect on the drum loop made it sound richer in harmonics and a little bit distorted.

One of the factory patches, “Fat,” which features three instances of Abbey Road Saturator, was applied via aux send to the drum loop

One of the factory patches, “Fat,” which features three instances of Abbey Road Saturator, was applied via aux send to the drum loop.

The original bass sound was a synth that had the kind of tone I was looking for, but was little bit pedestrian sounding. I used MultiMod to bring a lot of life to it.

I used a two-processor configuration featuring Abbey Road Saturator (using the TG algorithm) in the low band and MDMX Overdrive in the high. The crossover point was 524Hz. Most of the distortion was coming from Abbey Road Saturator, with MDMX adding a buzzy quality to the upper midrange and top. Once again, I didn’t use any modulation.

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A combination of Abbey Road Saturator and MDMX Overdrive was used on the synth bass

A combination of Abbey Road Saturator and MDMX Overdrive was used on the synth bass.

Percussion

The piece has a number of percussion elements that come in and out at various spots to add spice and interest. One of them is a cowbell loop. It already had some processing, including delay, but I thought it would sound better in the context of the mix with pretty heavy distortion. I panned it over towards the left in the mix, which is how you’ll hear it in the examples.

I inserted MultiMod Rack and used a dual configuration featuring Berzerk Distortion in the low slot and MDMX Fuzz in the high slot. I set the crossover at 264Hz, so Berzerk Distortion was working only in the low end, which it made pretty fuzzy. MDMX added quite a bit of distortion in the mid and high frequencies, which caused one of the loudest hits in the loop to sound almost like an electronic snare drum.

I also used one of the modulators to good effect on MDMX Fuzz. I activated an 8-step sequencer, which was set to repeat, and used it to modulate both the Mix and EQ Mix parameters.

With Berzerk adding some low noise and MultiMod Rack adding motion, the overall effect was to make the repeated notes from the delay sound smoother and more interesting.

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The 8-step sequencer helped add motion to the cowbell loop

The 8-step sequencer helped add motion to the cowbell loop.

Another track consisted of a hand percussion loop that was too clean and had too much low end. I used MultiMod Rack to fix both those issues, brighten it up and add a little more motion.

I inserted three instances of Abbey Road Saturation, with crossover points of 85Hz and 2.32kHz. Much of the distortion was coming from the middle slot. I used a high-pass filter in the global EQ to roll off at 173Hz, trying to get rid of some of the lower frequencies, particularly on what sounds like a low conga hit, which was otherwise too resonant.

The setting for distorting the hand percussion

The setting for distorting the hand percussion.

The module in the third slot had its Gain below half with the TG algorithm, but when soloed, it was adding some high, thin distortion. In conjunction with the other bands, it contributed nice brightness.

I also added a couple of modulators, most notably the Sequencer, which was attached to the Mix parameter of all three instances of Abbey Road Saturator. By modulating the mix, it created a strengthening and weakening of the saturation, which created movement in the sound. I used one of the alternate patterns available in the plugin for the sequencer. I wanted the overall sound to be more distorted than the original loop, but didn’t want it to completely lose its hard transients. I set the global Mix control under 50%, giving me a nice blend.

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Vocal Distortion

The second vocal sample—“Hey…what’s up”—that appears in the song comes in at bar 9. It’s two-measures long and repeats three times with two bar spaces between the repeats.

To make it build in interest, I copied the two repeats of the line onto a new track and distorted them using MultiMod Rack. The setting is a triple configuration consisting of Berzerk Distortion in the first and second slots. I experimented with MDMX Overdrive in the third slot but ended up bypassing it. The crossover points were 676Hz and 4.20kHz. Because I ended up bypassing the MDMX Overdrive in slot number 3, the signal above 4.2kHz was not processed.

The setting used for the lead vocal distortion used two instances of Berzerk Distortion. The MDMX in the third slot ended up being bypassed, so the processing ended at its crossover point

The setting used for the lead vocal distortion used two instances of Berzerk Distortion. The MDMX in the third slot ended up being bypassed, so the processing ended at its crossover point.

I used the distorted vocal underneath the main vocal. Mixed underneath like that, it sounded almost turntable-like. In my DAW, I automated several left and right pan moves for the distorted track to create motion.

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It’s a Wrap

I used MultiMod Rack on many of the tracks in this mix and probably could have applied it on all of them in one way or another. With all that, I only scratched the surface of what this plugin is capable of. Its features are deep and powerful, and the more you use it, the more you’ll be able to get from it. But even when you open it for the first time, it’s easy to load an appropriate preset, tweak it to your liking and get excellent results immediately.

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