23 Best Waves Plugins for Vocal Processing (2024)

Let me start off by saying, Waves has got to be one of my favorite audio plugin developers out there. They’ve released so many amazing tools for working with vocals over the years that it can be hard to choose which ones are truly the best. 

So in this article, I’m going to break down the finest Waves plugins for processing those precious vocal tracks. 

Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have a better idea of which Waves plugins deserve a spot in your vocal workflow. 

Alright, let’s get into it!

1. Waves NS1 Noise Suppressor

The first step in processing vocals is getting rid of any unwanted noise or hum. The NS1 Noise Suppressor is my go-to for cleaning up vocal recordings.

Waves NS1 for vocal processing

It uses smart algorithms to analyze your vocal track’s noise profile and reduce noise between sung phrases. The result is super clean vocals, even if you recorded in a noisy environment.

I especially love using NS1 when recording rap vocals, since it keeps the vocal sounding crisp during gaps between lyric delivery. 

It’s also great for removing AC hum or amp hiss when recording singers with live guitar or bass amps bleeding into the vocal mic.

2. Waves Sibilance

One of the biggest problems with vocal recordings is harsh, piercing sibilance. Those overly bright “s” and “sh” sounds can ruin an otherwise great vocal take.

Waves Sibilance is the best de-esser I’ve found for taming sibilance quickly and transparently. It uses Organic ReSynthesis to separate out the harsh frequencies causing sibilance and smooth them out.

The great thing about Sibilance is you can be very targeted in reducing sibilance. I like to set the detection band around 6-8kHz and dial in just enough reduction to take the edge off. 

This leaves the body and air of the vocal intact.

3. Waves DeBreath

Vocalists have to breathe, which means vocal recordings inevitably capture breaths between lines and phrases. While a few breaths here and there are natural, too many can make a vocal track sound congested.

That’s where DeBreath comes in. It automatically detects and reduces breaths between sung lines, cleaning up the vocal track. 

The reduction amount is configurable so you can dial in just what you need.

DeBreath is perfect for smoothing out vocal tracks in choruses or group vocals where there are a lot of audible breaths. It makes the vocal sound tighter and more polished.

4. Waves Tune

As a solo artist, I’ve tracked many slightly off-key vocals. Waves Tune repairs pitch mistakes like nobody’s business. 

Many beginners also love how easy it is to use too – just select the root note and scale and Tuned tackles the rest.

The result?

Subtle tuning without sounding robotic, every time.

5. Waves DeEsser

While Sibilance is my go-to for smoothing out harsh “ess” sounds, the classic DeEsser still has its place when you need focused de-essing.

Waves DeEsser

The DeEsser has adjustable frequency and reduction controls so you can hone in on the exact sibilant range you want to tame.

You can also use the audition feature to isolate just the reduced frequencies, helping fine-tune your settings.

Pros like to use DeEsser on background and harmony vocals in addition to Sibilance on the lead vocal. It gives me another tool to make sure sibilance doesn’t poke out in dense vocal arrangements.

6. Waves Renaissance DeEsser

The Renaissance DeEsser takes de-essing a step further with adaptive settings that respond to different vocalists and material.

It has five bands spanning the sibilant frequency range. The plugin analyzes the input signal and determines which bands need reduction, rather than having to set fixed de-essing bands.

Many producers find Renaissance DeEsser works exceptionally well on tracks with multiple vocalists, where the problem sibilant frequencies may differ. 

It automatically adapts and applies the right type and amount of smoothing for each voice.

7. Waves CLA-2A

There’s no better all-around compressor for vocals than the CLA-2A in my opinion. Based on the legendary LA-2A hardware unit, it adds warmth, density and consistency to any vocal it touches. 

Pros like to use multiple instances of the CLA-2A on a vocal bus for extra oomph without things getting harsh.

8. Waves Renaissance Vox

While we’re on the topic of adaptive processing, Renaissance Vox is an all-in-one “vocal aware” processor.

It features compressor, de-esser, and limiter sections that automatically adjust based on the input signal.

The compression ratios become more gentle during voiced sections and more intense during gaps and breaths. The de-essing zones also become more sensitive and targeted for “ess” sounds.

Renaissance Vox takes a lot of the guesswork out of dialing in compression and de-essing. I’ll often use it as a first-pass processor to smooth out vocals before more detailed shaping. The automatic adaptation saves tons of time.

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9. Waves SSL G-Master Buss Compressor

For bus compression duties, the SSL G stays in my template at all times. Its smooth, punchy response is perfect for tying a collection of vocal tracks together as a unified sound.

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Whether applying subtle glue or heavier squashing, the SSL G delivers the transparency and immediacy needed on those vocal groups.

10. Waves PuigTec EQs

For surgical EQ work, the PuigTec bundle is tough to top. Both the EQP-1A and MEQ-5 allow for bold, musical boosts that don’t harsh up the vocals. 

The 10k shelf on the EQP-1A is my secret weapon for bringing vocals forward, and the MEQ-5 masters midrange sculpting duties. Warm and accurate – what more could you ask for?

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11. Waves Doubler

Thickening and widening vocals are hugely important for modern pop and rock mixes. My secret weapon for making vocals bigger is the Doubler plugin.

Doubler creates a delayed copy of the input signal which can be panned, filtered, and modulated for realistic double-tracking effects.

It’s WAY better than simply copying and panning a track.

A good trick is to set a 12-16ms delay time and light modulation with short feedback. Panning the dry and delayed channels opposite gives nice thick vocals with great stereo spread.

The Doubler really brings vocals to life.

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12. Waves CLA Vocals

When I want to quickly dial in polished vocal tone and dynamics, CLA Vocals is my go-to all-in-one plugin.

Developed by mixer Chris Lord-Alge, it features a compressor, EQ, de-esser, saturation, and reverb designed specifically for vocals. The preset browser makes it easy to quickly find the right starting tone.

I’ll often use CLA Vocals on individual harmony vocals to add cohesion with the lead vocal tone. 

The compressor helps tie them together, while the reverb provides some natural space.

It’s a huge time saver compared to adding separate plugins for compression, EQ, etc. 

I can be up and running with a pro vocal chain in seconds.

13. Waves RCompressor

For more transparent control over vocal dynamics, my choice is RCompressor. It’s an ultra-musical compressor that adds punch and balances out uneven vocal lines.

The thing I love about RCompressor is that it always just seems to “work” without squashing the life out of vocals or pumping.

The nifty metering helps you zero in on the right amount of gain reduction.

RCompressor is best used on sparse vocal sections to control dynamic peaks. The fast attack prevents sudden volume spikes from taking over the mix. 

For smoother, more gradual compression I’ll reach for RCompressor over a VCA compressor.

14. Waves J37 Tape

Whenever I come across a vocal that needs more depth or a low-end body, I reach for the J37 tape emulator. It adds immaculate warmth through subtle saturation, carefully woven into the track. 

And it does so without pumping up levels like a traditional compressor. A little J37 goes a long way in filling out lean-sounding vocals.

15. Waves MV2

If I want smooth vintage vocal compression, the MV2 is my first pick. It’s modeled after Manley’s famous Variable Mu tube compressor, which has been used on countless hit records.

The MV2 imparts lush tube warmth while gently controlling dynamics. It excels at bringing out the midrange character of vocals. Switching to the “tube 2” mode adds even more rich harmonic character.

You have to be careful not to over-compress with the MV2, as it can quickly start to sound muddy. 

But used subtly, it gives vocals a silky smooth retro vibe that fits perfectly in mixes aiming for an old school sound.

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16. Waves Vitamin Sonic Enhancer

The Vitamin plugin is based on the classic Aphex Aural Exciter, which adds sheen and detail to vocals. It’s like an EQ that enhances clarity and presence without drastically altering tone.

On vocals, I often use Vitamin to add a subtle lift around 4kHz. This brings out the upper midrange “cut” in a voice, helping it poke through a busy mix. Vitamin also creates a nice sense of air and space.

A little bit of Vitamin goes a long way. Pro mixing engineers recommend mixing it very low, around 10-20% wet, just tickling high frequencies. But even a touch makes a noticeable difference in opening up vocals.

17. Waves MetaFlanger

For psychedelic vocal effects, you can’t beat MetaFlanger. This flanger emulates the classic tape flanging effect using adjustable tape head spacing and modulation.

MetaFlanger excels at lush, pitch-bending flanger sweeps. You can sync the rate to tempo for rhythmic effects. I love using it on breakdowns and transitions to give a mind-bending melted vocal effect.

The tone controls let you shape the warmth and low-end of the flange. I’ll often cut some mud for a tighter sound.

MetaFlanger can also do metallic robotic flanging when you crank the feedback and mix. Definitely a fun creative effect!

18. Waves H-Delay

Simple, great sounding vocal delay is often all you need for a professional mix. H-Delay nails the classic analog delay vibe, making it my go-to vocal delay plugin.

The tone controls are perfect for sculpting delays to sit nicely in a mix. I always roll off some lows and highs and add a touch of the “Smoothing” filter. 

This makes the delays recede subtly into the background.

Using ping-pong delays with a little bit of feedback widens vocals for a more immersive, spaced-out vibe. 

Syncing delay times to 1/8th or 1/16th notes also works nicely for rhythmic effects. H-Delay handles all my basic delay needs.

19. Waves Ovox

Now this is where things start getting really fun. The Ovox plugin morphs vocals into manipulated synth-like statements with its built-in vocoding, Pitch Correction, and formant shifting capabilities.

It’s come in really when used to create unforgettable choruses, pad-like backgrounds, and more. 

It encourages experimentation like no other plugin in my arsenal.

20. Waves Abbey Road Chambers

For lush, spacious reverbs, I swear by the Abbey Road Chambers.

Modeled after the plate rooms from Abbey Road Studios themselves, these plugins recreate that iconic warm, dimensional ambience to a T. 

A little Chambers goes a long way in filling out a vocal space without masking the performance.

21. Waves Renaissance Axx

Talk about widening vocals – the Renaissance Axx is the master. With its true-stereo processing and modulation abilities, it spreads vocals beautifully across the panorama. 

Whether using it subtly on a compound track or going nuts on a a solo vocal, the Axx brings a lush, cinematic feel I haven’t found anywhere else.

22. Waves APHEX Vintage Aural Exciter

For adding air and bite without EQing, the APHEX Exciter is tough to top. A subtle dosage boosts clarity and brightness in such an organic way. 

Professional mix engineers like using it on sub-groups as well to bring individual tracks together into a cohesive blend. It’s definitely earned a spot in my go-to toolbox for mixing finishes.

23. Waves C6 Multiband Compressor

Finally, for true surgical compression chaining talent, the C6 is second to none. As a multiband dynamics plugin, it allows pinpoint control over the timbre, tone and texture in separate frequency sets. 

C6 compressor

Whether enhancing lows, sculpting mids or lifting highs, the C6 gives me unparalleled finesse over a vocal’s final identity.

In Conclusion – Best Waves Plugins for Vocal Processing

With all these vocal processing plugins, it’s no wonder the big guys use a Waves plugin bundle. The bundle has everything a producer needs to process vocals without looking at other vocal plugins. 

Best Waves Plugins for Vocal Processing

For beginners, these might be a bit overwhelming at first, but with practice, the result is astounding. Many producers swear by the Waves’ plugins’ crispy and warm sounds on their vocals. 

This just goes to prove how dedicated the Waves team is to providing quality plugins that elevate any sound processing project. 


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