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Top 30 Audio Plugins to Try in Your Sessions

May 03, 2022

With Waves Creative Access subscriptions, the massive catalog of Waves plugins is at your fingertips. Not sure where to start? Check out which user-favorite plugins you may want to try first.


Waves has several vocal specialty plugins, designed specifically for vocals. Many of the plugins below are included in both Waves Essential and Waves Ultimate subscriptions, except OVox, Waves Harmony, and Clarity Vx Pro, which are in Waves Ultimate only.

Waves Tune Real-Time
Tune your vocal takes automatically, in real time, while you’re tracking them or after recording. No effort needed. No drawing or painstaking tweaking. No theory or knowledge of scales required. You can easily make the pitch correction sound natural and unnoticeable, or you can use it for those creative, heavily pitch-corrected hip hop “T-Pain” effects.

Waves Tune Real-Time

Vocal Bender
Vocal Bender is a real-time voice manipulation plugin – the fastest and easiest way to get that pitch-and-formant-shifted vocal sound heard in so many hip hop, pop/R&B and electronic tracks, from Travis Scott to Billie Eilish to Frank Ocean. It’s zero-latency, so you can use it while you’re tracking the vocal to hear the effect in real time.

OVox Vocal ReSynthesis
A next-generation voice-controlled synth and vocal effects processor with the ability to transform your vocal productions in limitless ways. Includes a palette of vocal morphing, tuning, harmonizing, vocoder & talkbox effects and more.

Clarity Vx
Clarity Vx is a groundbreaking AI-powered noise removal plugin, tailored specifically for vocal and voice recordings. Powered by Waves Neural Networks®, Clarity Vx is optimized with a simple interface to guarantee the best results with zero learning curve: impeccably clean vocals – no artifacts, no damage to the performance – AND results in seconds.

For deeper noise removal possibilities, try the more comprehensive Clarity Vx Pro, included in Waves Ultimate only.

Vocal Rider
Adjusts the volume of your vocal automatically. This is a time-saving plugin which can be used instead of (and without the artifacts of) compression, or simply as an end-of-chain gain riding tool to keep the singer under control and on top of the mix.

CLA Vocals
This is an all-in-one vocal processing palette that’s super-quick and easy to use, curated by Chris Lord-Alge himself. Different colors of EQ, compression, reverb, delay and vocal doubling can be added and tweaked to perfection for your vocal tracks.

Waves Harmony
This plugin lets you create instant vocal harmonies. You can create up to 8 new voices from just one voice. You can also change the character of each voice with built-in controls for pitch, formant, panning, delay, filtering, and drag-and-drop modulation—a real vocal manipulation playground.

Renaissance Vox (R-Vox)
This is the most efficient and effective plugin for compressing your vocals and making them sit in the mix, period. There are only 3 controls for gating, compressing and output level, and there’s literally no catch; it just sounds good every time. Try it.

The most transparent de-esser on the market: removes any harsh “s” sounds from the vocals, without any artifacts. Once you engage Sibilance, you can use an EQ to give the vocal as much high-frequency ‘shine’ and sparkle as you want, without worrying about harshness.


Waves EQs cover everything from modern precision equalizers with a highly visual interface like F6, to emulations of classic analog gear by SSL, API, Neve, EMI/Abbey Road, and more. The plugins mentioned below are available in both Waves Essential and Waves Ultimate subscriptions, except API 560 which is available in Waves Ultimate only.

Renaissance EQ
This classic EQ is a super-intuitive, easy-to-use equalizer, with classic analog-style sound and all the convenience of digital EQs, including a real-time analyzer. If you want a great-sounding EQ, with a ton of control but with minimum hassle and learning curve – R-EQ is a great choice.

F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ
A surgical EQ which acts dynamically based on the input and sources which change over time. This plugin will allow you to tame a singer’s tone that varies from a close-mic’d, intimate performance to a belting chorus in the one take. The EQ cuts and boosts are threshold dependent and will respond only when a problem arises.

F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ

API 560
This plugin has a “proportional-Q” design that’s known for a very smooth, very “forgiving” sound. With a very user-friendly interface consisting of 10 simple sliders, this is an easy-to-use EQ for quickly shaping the tone of complex audio sources with rich frequencies, such as drum overheads, pianos, and guitars.

PuigTec EQs
An iconic tube passive-EQ, known for its musical abilities in broad-stroke boosting and cutting on both individual tracks and the master bus. A classic trick is to cut and boost at the same frequency, creating a clean resonant shelf that never sounds bad. If you need a “smiley face” curve on your mix, this should be your go-to solution.


The Waves catalog includes no fewer than two dozen compressors (including plugins with a compression module, such as channel strips). The Waves Essential subscription includes compression classics such as CLA-76, R-Vox, R-Comp, MV2, and H-Comp. Waves Ultimate includes all of those, plus CLA-2A, API 2500, SSL G-Master, C6, Abbey Road RS125, PuigChild, dbx 160… too many to list here. Here are a few standouts:

The legendary slow-attack compressor that has few rivals when it comes to vocal compression on a ballad or crooning voice. Like the original tube-powered unit, this plugin adds a smooth harmonic saturation to the source, and shines on bass and guitars as well.


A model of one of the most famous analog compressors of all time, this plugin delivers the aggressive and “forward” sound of the original unit. Incredible on lead vocals, drums, guitars and pretty much anything else that needs a little energy. The plugin includes 2 character-variations of the original unit; black-face and blue-face.


API 2500
An analog model of a super versatile compressor, the 2500 is favored for its punchiness on drums and superior transient shaping abilities with powerful attack and release settings. Designed as a buss compressor, this can also instill serious character on drums and any individual track in the mix.

C6 Multiband Compressor
Need more precision control in your compression? C6 is a multiband compressor that lets you surgically compress different frequency bands in your tracks, complete with internal and external sidechaining per band.


While Waves Essential gives you, well, essential delays and reverbs such as H-Delay and R-Verb, Waves Ultimate envelopes you with diverse ‘verbs including H-Reverb, CLA Epic, and the classic Abbey Road Plates and Abbey Road Chambers:

CLA Epic
Created with mixing legend Chris Lord-Alge, CLA Epic is all about creating amazing depth and dimension in your sessions – quickly. This complete reverb + delay suite allows you to blend 4 different delay effects and 4 different reverb effects – all in one plugin with a super-simple, intuitive interface.

One of the most versatile reverb plugins on the market. If you could only use one reverb, H-Reverb might be your best option. It has a rich bank of sounds based on Finite Impulse Response technology, and in-built processing for EQ, compression, modulation, BPM sync, and just about every other control you need to shape an interesting FX tail.

This is an old-school style analog delay plugin that is renowned for its simplicity, ease-of-use and great sound. Pull it up, dial in a sound. It has modulation and lo-fi options for even grittier tones. Try it, it’s easy to see why this is the go-to delay plugin for musicians and engineers all around the world.

Abbey Road Chambers
This is a special sounding reverb which provides a unique “flavor” that can’t be found anywhere else. It models the actual reverb chamber from Abbey Road studios used on many classic recordings, as well as a few other vintage rooms. It also doubles up as a delay plugin with its S.T.E.E.D. setting, another ‘60s technique. Hard to beat on rock drums and hip-hop vocals.

Abbey Road Reverb Plates
Plate reverb is pretty much a go-to for pop vocals and anything that needs “shine.” These are accurately modeled plates from Abbey Road Studios and instill an uncanny thickening effect on whatever you put them on. The effect can be subtle or drastic, but always sounds beautiful.


You’ll find several channel strips in the Waves Essential, including SSL E-Channel, Magma Tube Channel Strip, and EMI TG12345. Waves Ultimate adds more SSL plugins including SSL EV2 and SSL G-Channel, plus the powerhouse Scheps Omni, CLA MixHub, and Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain:

SSL EV2 Channel and SSL E-Channel
Both of these plugins are official models of the classic SSL 4000E console channel strip – both authorized by Solid State Logic. SSL E is a classic, used in countless tracks over the past two decades. SSL EV2 is a totally new emulation, released in 2021, with newly modeled sound plus new features such as the Brown EQ and console mic pre saturation. Which should you choose? That’s a question of taste, and you may find that you like one of them better on certain tracks and the other better on others. The sure bet is to get the SSL 4000 Collection which has them both.

Scheps Omni Channel
An all-in-one channel strip plugin crafted from Grammy-winning mixer Andrew Scheps’ choice of processors. Based on an assortment on analog units, the plugin offers different flavors of pre-amp saturation and compression, a gate, EQ, two de-essers and a limiter. This is like 8 amazing-sounding plugins in one.

Magma Tube Channel Strip
If you want super-cohesive, super-glued warm analog channel strip sound, but you don’t want to deal with multiple controls and deep settings—Magma Channel is for you. You can quickly sculpt rich, textured tube-based sound, with just a handful of quick controls that let you quickly saturate, EQ and compress.

CLA MixHub
This plugin captures both the rich console sound and workflow of Grammy-winning mixer Chris Lord-Alge. You get an accurate model of his SSL console channel strip with input drive, EQ, two types of compression and gating. As a serious bonus, you also get the ability to mix in a “bucket” workflow, where you can process multiple channels side by side, from a single window.

CLA MixHub

Your basic mastering needs are covered in Waves Essential, which includes quick mastering solutions such as L2 and Pusher. But Waves Ultimate is where you’ll get deep mastering and master bus power, including the entire L-series, the Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain, SSL G-Master, Abbey Road’s J37 Tape, and much more:

SSL G-Master Buss Compressor
Probably the most famous mix bus compressor of all time, this plugin responds the same way as the original hardware with its uncanny ability to “glue” all the elements of a mix together and add some serious punch. If you don’t yet have a compressor dedicated for your master channel, this would be a great choice.

J37 Tape
A model of the classic reel-to-reel tape machine used at Abbey Road Studios. With numerous tape saturation settings, wow, flutter and even a delay built in, this is more than a one-trick pony. Put this on the mix bus to glue the song together or add it to any track to give it vintage warmth and depth.

J37 Tape

L2 Ultramaximizer
The legendary brickwall limiter—probably used on the master bus of more pro sessions than any other limiter around. If you need a limiter to bring up the loudness of your mix without clipping, this solution is the original and the greatest.

Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain
A modular-style mastering suite modeled after the original EMI TG12410 transfer console from Abbey Road’s mastering rooms. Provides you tools for input level and tone shaping, EQ, compression/limiting and stereo spreading—everything you need for a warm and punchy mix bus and master in one plugin.


These two plugins, both available in Waves Ultimate only, will enable to shape drums and drum samples and get them to perfectly fit your mix:

Smack Attack
A transient shaper which allows you to quickly add serious impact to your drum and percussion sounds without using compression. This plugin lets you shape the attack and sustain envelope of the drum hits in a static fashion, unaffected by input level. If your drums are feeling a little flat, this would be perfect.

Torque enhances your drum tone by pitch-shifting individual elements, always maintaining the original timbre of the instrument. Try this on a real snare, sampled kick or even toms. The natural attack and resonance of the drum will remain, while the pitch can be adjusted to suit the key of the song.


The Waves catalog include a ton of specialty plugins—here are just a few you may want to explore first. While R-Bass is included in both Waves Essential and Waves Ultimate, the other three plugins mentioned here are in Waves Ultimate only:

Aphex Vintage Aural Exciter
This is a unique-sounding tube unit which has the ability to enhance the presence, energy and vibrancy from vocal and instrumental tracks without the use of EQ. It’s a special kind of brightness on the track that can’t be achieved any other way.

Renaissance Bass (R-Bass)
This is a one-stop shop to both fatten and tighten your low-end information. By producing a harmonic series from the fundamental of your bass or kick drum, R-Bass allows these instruments to be heard on consumer playback devices that can’t reproduce low frequencies. The result on any system is a richer, deeper low end.

Brauer Motion
This can add panning and automation in 3 dimensions of the mix without you having to manually write it in. A super simple and creative technique to add some life and depth to different elements in the mix.

Nx Ocean Way Nashville
This spatial audio plugin recreates the superior acoustic environment of the famed Ocean Way Nashville studios – on any set of headphones, using psychoacoustic Waves Nx technology. If you don’t have an acoustically well-treated mix room, this plugin is your solution. It’s also a great reference environment for your mixes, no matter what room you have: it will help you know, on headphones, how your mixes will ‘translate’ to speakers in real listening environments. A must-have when finalizing your mix.

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