Equipment Review: Waves on the SD10

In the last post, I discussed my experiences mixing for a few weekends (including Easter and Good Friday) on the SD10. I didn’t ask for it, but when the SD10 arrived, I found a Waves SoundGrid sever installed in the case, along with an iLok that unlocked quite a few of the installed Waves plugins. 

I don't care who you are, this just looks cool.

Now, before I go any further I want to go on the record stating that I really liked the Waves plug-ins I used while I had the desk. They sound really, really good and I love, love, love the user interfaces they’ve come up with (actually, much of the time, they’re simply graphical representations of classic gear).

I didn’t have time to test out every single Waves plug-in that was installed; it was mostly Easter week after all. But I did talk to my friend Dave Stagl to get some recommendation on starting points. Mostly I played around with the Chris Lord-Alge compressors (CLA-2, CLA-3A, CLA-76), along with some of the EQs (API 550, SSL G-Channel) along with the H-Comp and C4 and C6 multi-band compressor/EQs. We also played around with some effects, like R-Bass. 

R-Bass is great for toms, kick and earthquakes.

Entire articles can be written on any one plug-in, so I won’t try to do justice to any or all of them in this post. Rather, I want to give you my general impressions of them as a group. I’m choosing this approach, because I suspect many of you—like me—have suffered plug-in envy. You know, if you don’t mix on an Avid console, and you hang out with those that do for any length of time, you will soon be inundated with tales of the latest plug-in they’re playing with that sounds amazing! 

I’ve been there too; two of my good friends are avid Venue users (see what I did there?), and are all over plug-ins. After playing around with some of them for a few weeks, I can see why they like the Waves stuff so much. They sound great! And they’re super-cool. But I’m not going to run out and submit a PO for a SoundGrid any time soon. Not because I don’t like it, but because I don’t feel I need it. More on that later.

Though it looks daunting, the graphic display is actually incredibly helpful and easy to grasp.

The SoundGrid server integrates into the DiGiCo consoles via a card that communicates directly to the FPGA. A simple network connection handles UI and administrative tasks. To access the Waves Rack, you go to the Master screen, and hit the Waves button. The 16-space rack appears and you can start adding plug ins as you desire.

I used most of them on inserts, but you can patch them like any other source/destination. Latency was very low, but because the DiGiCo doesn’t have any delay compensation built in, if you want do do any parallel compression stuff (like I did on my drum spank/drum groups), you’ll need to route both groups through the SoundGrid to keep things in time. 

Overall, the integration is very easy and you can change effect parameters via snapshots in the console. The software manages that in the background so you don’t have to do much with it. As I was doing mostly comps, I didn’t worry about it. We encountered a few bugs with the integration, and crashed the server a few times. After speaking with my friends at DiGiCo, I’ve been assured that there is a software update that fixes the issues we encountered. To it’s credit, we never lost audio. 

 

One of my favorite UIs ever.Editing the effects is easy on the DiGiCo if you have the Solo Displays Insert option checked. Pressing the solo button will bring up the Waves rack associated with that channel and you can edit away. Touching any control assigns it to the Touch ’n Turn knob, and I found it very quick to use. 

All the plug-ins I tried come pre-loaded with built-in starting points to get you running quickly. I almost always started with a preset, then modified it to suit my tastes. That was a good way to go, because there were so many choices. To some extent, having a bunch of Waves plug-ins around can put you into decision paralysis; there are simply too many choices. Then again, you can probably get the sound you want.

One thing to be aware of if you’re looking at putting a SoundGrid on a DiGiCo. There is apparently an issue when you enter Virtual Soundcheck mode (Listen to Copied Audio) that adds a good 20-30 ms of delay to the SoundGrid routing. That can cause all kinds of phasing issues, especially with drums. My work-around was to simply patch the output of my RME MadiFace into the MADI 1 port input (after disconnecting my DigiRack) and not changing any input settings. This tricked the SD10 into thinking the audio was coming from the rack and thus, we could play with effect settings without any timing issues.

This seems to be an RME, DiGiCo, Waves interaction kind of thing, and I’m not sure if/when a fix will be found. If I were going to purchase a SoundGrid server for our place, I would probably route all my MADI I/O into a patch bay to make this easier to work with. 

As much as I liked playing around with the Waves plug-ins, I’m not going to be buying it anytime soon. LIke I said, I really like them, but I don’t feel I need them. And I will elaborate on that thought in the next post.

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