Any engineer who’s had the privilege of working in a beautiful, spacious recording studio with a huge mixing console and loads of expensive outboard gear has inevitably at one time or another heard the following sentence from an artist or musician new to the facility: “So, do you really know what ALL those knobs do?”
Being an engineer meant that yes, you did know how to work all those knobs, dials and faders and you looked good doing it because it showed just how technically minded you were!
Most of the time, however, engineers don’t look for the most technically complex way to make something sound great. They’re looking for the best sound and the easiest solution so no one else in the room has to wait as they patch, dial and tweak their way to the desired result.
In this spirit, Waves has done away with the complexities and complications that bog down so many plug-ins with endless possibilities, parameters and variables. The solution? OneKnob. Waves has created a bundle of seven plug-ins, each of which do one task and do it well while being extremely easy to use.
TECH SPECS: The Waves OneKnob Series is available as a native plug-in supporting RTAS, Audio Suite, VST and AU format for PC or MAC. Mono and stereo components and support for up to 24bit/96khz resolution are standard (two of the units go up to 192khz). The plug-in comes standard in Waves flagship Mercury Bundle and is also available a la carte for $320.
WHAT IT DOES: The OneKnob series is comprised of seven units that serve a wide range of sonic enhancements to your tracks with one simple adjustment knob – Brighter, Driver, Phatter, Filter, Louder, Pressure and Wetter.
THE INTERFACE: As simple as it gets! Beautiful design that is slightly reminiscent of the classic Moogerfooger style units with one simple knob. Two of the units (Filter and Pressure) also have a selector switch for a few variations on their sound. They really are that simple! Seven plug-ins, seven knobs.
IN USE: One of the most interesting things about this bundle is that each plug-in isn’t simply designed to increase or decrease the amount of one parameter the more you turn the knob. It’s clear that the algorithm in certain units is changing and evolving at each step of the dial creating a different sound than one normal knob would allow. I got the chance to use these plug-ins on a couple of mixes for songwriters with full bands. The OneKnob came in handy on many different occasions across a great deal of instrumentation and voices. Let’s take a look at these units individually and see what they have to offer…
Brighter focuses on the top end of the EQ spectrum, simply making your tracks brighter! Waves refers to this unit as “an intelligent treble booster that adds brightness from the midrange on up.” The unique feature of this plug-in is that the further up the dial I go, the sound doesn’t simply get brighter and brighter. The first few notches 0-4 have a reasonable amount of high mid range and the higher up the dial I go, the less mid range is boosted and the more top end “air” type sound is present.
If Brighter had a display like the Waves Renaissance EQ you would notice that turning the knob up did not just increase the amount of brightness but also drove the notch further up the frequency spectrum. This intelligent design allows the entire range of the knob to be useful making “Brighter” one of the most unique EQ’s I’ve ever used.
Working on a new single by Boston artist Rebecca Muir, I was impressed to find just how different the sound of a finger-picked acoustic guitar was at each range on the “Brighter” dial. The first few notches bring out the high midrange tones of the instrument with just slight amounts of top end. As I continue turning up, the high midrange is dampened and replaced with the airy sound that really brings out the strings. On a close-miked cello, the subtle features of Brighter are even more apparent.
With very little high midrange qualities to the cello, Brighter is almost unperceivable from 0-5 and only begins to show itself after 5 on the dial where the very top end of the bow sound begins to take shape. Very impressed with Brighter.
Driver encompasses everything from light grit to full-on heavy distortion depending on how far you go up the dial. Like Brighter, Driver is a plug-in that is constantly evolving. On clean lead electric guitar licks, Driver does an excellent job of adding subtle amounts of overdrive to the sound with a sound very natural to the amp itself. One downside here is that Driver does tend to filter out a lot of top end, softening the sound a great deal the more you increase the processing. A good workaround for this is to use Driver as a parallel bus and sneak in the dirty stuff with your original sound.
There are a wide range of uses for Driver from simple guitar and bass DI sounds for demos and scratch tracks to an excellent array of effects for quick and dirty lo-fi sounds on vocals, drums, piano and anything else you can imagine.
…is described as “Brighter’s heavier set brother” but is one of the simpler plug-ins in this bundle. Phatter simply increases the low end and warmth to the sound it’s inserted on. The frequency range is somewhere around 100Hz and doesn’t seem to change much based on how high you turn up. I will note that the subtlety here — as with all the plug-ins in this bundle — is appreciated. Depending on how thin your sound is, it is conceivable that the very top notches of Phatter would still be a possibility unlike some units where the very top limits are completely stratospheric and unusable.
Phatter is particularly helpful on a top snare mic to increase the perceived warmth and low end of the sound easily and without too many problems. On a mix for Ukulele sensation Julia Nunes, Phatter was the perfect quick solution to beef up the kick drum on our drummer’s kit. Electric guitar, piano and virtually any other instrument recorded too thin can benefit from Phatter. While not as complex as some of the other plug-ins in the bundle, Phatter is a quick and easy solution for tracks and instruments that need a boost in low end and warmth.
Filter is a low pass filter knob with a twist. The interface features a resonance button which defaults to “Moderate” and can also be set to “High,” “Extreme,” or “None.” With no resonance, Filter is simply a very quick and easy low pass filter that’s useful on kick drum, bass DI and any other instrument sources where you want to focus the low end in your mix.
The resonance features allow Filter to act more as an effect for DJ’s and electronic musicians on synths and loops and could easily be seen as a great live tool. Out of the seven units here, Filter saw the least amount of action in my mixes but did prove quite useful on an inside kick drum mic to pull the snap out of the sound extremely quickly.