Tip: You will need SoundApp 2.4.1 or higher
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application for MPEG audio files, and then start reading the Waves review.
Of course, you can read the review without listening to the samples.
In that case, start reading now about an interesting add-on to your
Macintosh recording studio.
(by Peter J. Bloemendaal.)
Back in the late 80's, I managed to do my very first digital audio recording
on a MacPlus, using MacRecorder. Great stuff, bad quality though. I
didn't care: with a little help of the Hypercard scripting language,
I managed to "compose" a song. It sounded like the RealAudio thing in
it's early days: bad, mono, absolutely no brilliance or bass. But: back
then, I realised the ultimate conceptual powerful possibilities of this
way of handling audio in my (at that time) tape based analogue home
studio. And: all my friends, who were so stupid to buy a DOS PC, couldn't
do it at all ;-).
Today, digital audio recording and post-recording-production on Mac
has taken a flight heavens high. On other pages in this site I already
told you about the magnificent Deck II for recording and arranging your
audio, and about sonicWORX to do the best professional heavy duty final
post production you can get on the Macintosh platform today. On these
pages, I add a new dimension to your Mac home studio: digital audio
We invited Waves to send in it's Native Power Pack (NPP): a set of effect
PlugIns, that work under a wide range of digital audio software packages
that support native audio input on your Mac: Macromedia Deck II, Macromedia
SoundEdit 2.0, Bias Peak, Opcode Studio Vision Pro, ProTools 4.0, Steinberg
Cubase VST 3.02/3.5 and Adobe Premiere 4.0. For audio software that
needs dedicated audio hardware (like SoundDesigner, ProTools 3.5 or
Digital Performer), you'll need a different and even more professional
set of plugs. But: most of us poor musicians will just have the money
to buy a budget native Mac, so I tested the native PlugIns for you.
I used a PowerMac 6100/66 with 24MB RAM. Not the fastest machine for
audio production, but a good and affordable workhorse.
The working principal of Waves NPP is in fact quite simple. When you
install the software, a folder with the NPP PlugIns is installed on
your harddisk. Then the installation program searches for software on
your Mac that can work with the NPP, and installs a WaveShell in the
PlugIns-folder of those applications. The WaveShell makes the interface
connection between the audio software and the PlugIns. When you buy
more PlugIns later, you can install them easily to the Waves folder:
the WaveShells will "see" the new PlugIn next time you startup the audio
application. Imagine: this way you can build a complete effectrack in
your Mac, that expands the possibilities of the already rich equipped
NPP. Remember those old racks with 19 inch babies in your local recording
studio? It's all on your harddisk, ready for you to boost your music
right into audio heaven.
That sounds great, doesn't it? But of course the main question here
is: does Waves deliver? To find out, just read on.
The Native Power Pack (NPP) contains 5 powerful Plug Ins with which
you can bring your audio to a good and vivid audible life. Anyway, that
is what Waves tells us in their promotion. Let's see if this is true.
When you buy the NPP, the software comes in a firm box, containing a
very well written manual and a CD-ROM. After a smooth installation procedure,
during which the Installer finds all programs the NPP will work with,
a new folder in the root of your hard disk is made. In this folder the
Plug Ins are installed. The WaveShells are installed in the plug in-folders
of the supported software. Shells of software you don't have are installed
anyway, but in a separate folder for later use. Any old plugs and shells
you may have from earlier versions are moved to a special folder and
kept apart there. They are not deleted. Good feature: this way you still
have your older versions available if needed. Not very likely, but you
never know... ;-).
In the plug ins-folder you will find a bunch of Plug Ins, plus a lot
of additional stuff such as the WaveKey Utility. You will need this
unique copy to install unlock Plug Ins you may buy later. The NPP itself
is unique already and UnKeyed with your personal serial numbers. To
prevent illegal copies of the NPP, the software comes with a hardware
key, which plugs between your Macs keyboard and the computer. I've heard
a lot of protests against software vendors that use this kind of protection.
I do not agree with these protests: a hardware key (or dongle) is still
one of the better ways to protect your investment (as a software developer,
but as a buyer as well).
The newly installed folder contains demo-versions of other Waves Plug
Ins (such as MultiRack) and programs (such as WaveConvert). An extra
folder named Setup Libraries contains more then 50 predefined setups
for the Plug Ins, so you can start experimenting right away. Well done
Waves: by providing these presets Waves enables the newbie to get started
without having to read tons of papers first. But: reading the tips,
hints and tricks in the manual will help to improve the effects and
thus the results of your post production activities. As is goes with
any effect: use with care. Too much is too bad: overkill kills. Yip,
So: now the software is installed. Let's have a look what we've got
(and we quote Waves between the parenthesis):
- Q10 - 10-band stereo equalizer:
"Q10 is the "Swiss Army Knife" of equalisers"
- C1 - Compressor/Gate: "The ultimate processor for the adjustment
the dynamics of audio signals"
- L1 - Ultramaximizer: "The world's best peak limiter. Ideal
for getting hot sound with minimal side effects".
- S1 - Stereo Imager: "Provides detailed control, rebalancing
and enhancement of stereo images, without nasty side effects".
- TrueVerb: "Reverb/Distance
Virtual Space Processor, which simulates the actual sound of a good
OK. Let's test! We decided to use audio
software that is widely spread: SoundEdit 16 version 2. Of
course, the same goes for all software that can work with the NPP.
Just by using SoundEdit we hope to find out if using this good and
simple in use editor will bring us the professional results as Waves
promises. And if that goes for SoundEdit, it will definitely go
for other heavy software like Cubase VST or Peak as well.
The testfile: Ups.
We decided to put the four Native Power Pack Plug Ins to the test
on a rather difficult AIFF file: the song Ups, which was composed
originally as a movie soundtrack. We took about 1 minute of this
file, that starts with some violins and a piano, then brings up
a pan flute, and then bursts into an arrangement with drums. First
we recorded the file as it comes directly from our synthesisers
rack, using a Roland JV880 and a Korg M3R. Direct, using no effects
at all. Except maybe for some minimal reverb that the synthesisers
produce itself. Though these synthesisers are well know to produce
very good quality sound, the result isn't as vivid as it should
be: it sounds a bit flat, and the stereo image is a bit narrow.
Here it is (a MPEG-copy of the original, thus having a bit less
quality than the AIFF-file of course:
1 - Upsshort.mp3, the original file (1,29
When you listened to the non enhanced file, you will agree with
us: sounds nice but doesn't live and contains a bit narrow stereo
image. So: here is where the Wave Plug Ins come in. By the way:
we tested TrueVerb with another audiofile, the results of which
you can find lower in this page. For now, we start with Q10, C1,
L1 and S1.
Step 1: we make the stereo image more broad with the S1 Stereo Imager.
The violins in the background now are broader in the stereo-image.
Step 2: now it is time to push the piano solo a bit forward and
give it more brilliance than my Roland JV880 (a very good synthesiser
by the way) can ever give me. A nifty combination of the Plug Ins
Q10, C1 and L1 gives the file it's final better attention and more
It goes too far to describe all steps we did with each and every
PlugIn: that would take half a website with text and images and
you definitely do not want to read all that. It's the audible result
that counts, not the words. Right?
Believe me: I was thrilled to find what these Plug Ins do to your
recordings. Absolutely fantastic and professional, all in my very
own PowerMac. The violins on the background sound a bit more warm,
the piano's presence is clearly enhanced and the baseline in the
middle of the file sounds more prompt, deeper and stronger. When
the drums come in at the end, they now really come forward much
more stronger than in the original file. Listen for yourself:
The "2-UpsShort.mp3"-file, now with the above mentioned enhancements
That sounded more vivid and persistent, didn't it? Yippo! By installing
the NPP I just upgraded my PowerMac to an even better and more professional
studio than it already was using Deck II and sonicWORX.
As said above, we tested TrueVerb somewhat different. We did that
by playing a marimba in the cathedral. What? Read on.
With the Waves PlugIn TrueVerb you can position your digital recording
into any environment you like. At least, that is what the promo
on the Waves install CD says. True? Let's see.
I've always wanted to play on a marimba in a large cathedral, but
never came to it. Carrying around a marimba instrument to our local
church (which is quite a little cathedral by the way) never appealed
to me that much. So, when I found the preset Cathedral with the
TrueVerb PlugIn, I finally can make this dream come true without
running a risk on getting a hernia.
I just fired up my good old Roland D50, which has a nice and dry
Marimba patch in one of it's sound banks, and recorded a simple
marimba tune in Deck II. Here is what that sounds like (a 217K MPEG
1 Layer 3 version if the original: with some lower quality compared
to the original of course):
Quit a composition, he? Well, just wanted to keep it simple to get
your attention focused on the PlugIn, not on my music. Having recorded
this tune, I opened the TrueVerb PlugIn through the Wave-Shell,
previous installed in the Deck II PlugIns folder.
I selected the fresh recorder marimba masterpiece ;-) and them told
the Waves TrueVerb PlugIn to apply the cathedral preset. It nicely
did. But: since Deck only works with mono SD2 audio files, the cathedral
effect became....yes, mono. Not what I wanted to hear. Check for
No problem: when you buy Deck II as a separate product, you get
SoundEdit 16 2.0 as well. Which I have on my harddisk too now, of
course. SoundEdit 16 can handle Waves PlugIns as well. So: I did
an undo on the mono cathedral effect in Deck II to get my "dry"
original back, and then I mixed the marimba masterpiece to harddisk,
in stereo AIFF 44Khz format. SD2-format stereo will work fine too.
I then closed Deck II, opened SoundEdit 16 and opened this file
into SoundEdit 16. Then, I fired up the WaveShell again (remember:
within SoundEdit this time) and applied the Cathedral preset from
TrueVerb again. As the AIFF file is in stereo, this time I really
got what I wanted to hear:
I must say: I was happily surprised that finally my dream was fulfilled:
I played my marimba in a cathedral. Not bad, isn't it? Did you hear
the long reverb at the end of the file? OK, that ended a bit too
corruptly. So: I saved the "cathedralled" file again, quit SoundEdit
16, reopened Deck II and imported the "cathedralled" file back into
Deck II. Now, you've got the full stereo effect in Deck, not the
mono one. To finish this exercise, I applied a fade-out at the end
of the file to give it a more professional ending. Here is the result:
Great, isn't it? For this example, I just used the presets. The
TrueVerb interface gives you a bunch of parameters to reshape the
effect. RoomSize and distance are two of them, but there is more.
For the effect on the marimba we used the Cathedral preset. This
preset gives an amazing result, and even better: you can fool around
with the cathedral in this example, as you can with every preset.
You can do so by changing the values in the number boxes (by sliding
your mouse while pressing the mousekey), or visually by sliding
the crosspoints and vertical lines (yellow and blue with their slider
Change the dimension of the church with the Dimension parameter
and the RoomSize. Place yourself with your nose on top of the marimba,
or a couple of feet away from the instrument in the back of the
church. Determine the Balance between original and processed sound
and give extra accent with the PreDelay and Density settings. Playing
with these parameters, you can create any virtual church you want:
from a small village chapel with 20 chairs to the Notre Dame in
Of course -as with any audio effect- use with care. If you do so,
with this PlugIn you can realise amazing effects and put real life
to your e.g. synthesisers. The Preview button will let you listen
to a part of the recording, so that you will know in advance what
the effect does to your original file. The Bypass temporarily silences
the effect so you can quickly compare. When you've created your
personal cathedral, Save it for future use and the press OK. Your
pretty dry recordings you had to live with up to now will never
be the same again.
I've seen quit a lot of freeware and shareware that provides some
sort of reverbing, but it always was a disappointment when the effect
came out. With Waves, you get a true professional verb in your Mac,
which is really useful, provides high quality reverb, and gives
high quality room to your digital recordings. Any room (size and
shape) you want. I've just have this PlugIn in my Mac for about
a week now, but I truly wonder how I ever could have produced my
audio without it!
In this country (Holland), the school ratings go from 1 (very bad)
to 10 (great) in steps of one. I'd give this plug a 9.
If somehow Deck or Waves would be able to work around the mono "problem"
in Deck II, it would have been a 10. Just to be clear: not Waves
is to be blamed for that, but Macromedia. Deck is great audio producing
software, but it lacks just one thing: support for stereo effect
PlugIns on native machines. They all work just mono. As you have
seen above, there is a simple and quick work around using software
like SoundEdit 16 of Peak, but it would have been nice of this extra
step was not needed. Well, at least I can live with it ;-)
All reviews in AudioMac.net are written by Peter
J. Bloemendaal. All rights reserved.
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