I’m going to approach this review sort of backwards and start by saying that I
tried it and I bought the Waves H-EQ.It
got a good start because I first saw an advert for it just as I finally decided
to cull my plugin bloat.After several
years of accumulating freeware and bundled plugins I figured that it was time
to get back to the music and that the best help I could give myself to do this
would be to reduce the time (and the agony) I was spending making choices
between 5 different versions of every processor I use – see The Great Plugin
Purge blog entry. The flexibility of H-EQ was hugely appealing, as was the
introductory price (I don’t know how long this is planned to last but it was
$99 when I bought it in Nov 2011) and the promise of a $100 voucher to use
against other waves plugins (ditto – Nov 2011). So really, all it needed to do
was to be good enough to replace a variety of other units with a reasonable
degree of competency.
I think it’s plentymore than good
enough.Here are the basics
5 band parametric eq, bands 1 and 5 selectable low/high shelf and bell curve.
Plus dedicate high and low pass filters – so it’s really 7 bands.
Graphic display of eq curve.
Switchable input and output real time frequency spectrum analysis display.
Each eq band is switchable between 7 different filter types.
Linked/Dual L/R stereo mode
MS matrix mode.
Keyboard mode for frequency selection by note rather than by frequency.
Master Analogue control adds noise/hum based on 5 different classic contours.
Master THD control adds harmonically related distortion to the output.
If I had one concern about H-EQ it was that I could be trading too-many
different plugins for a single one with too-many different options and that I
might get too hung-up on which eq model to use in any given situation.The reality was that when I started the trial
I couldn’t get it to do much that was useful at all.I’ll say now that I have never bought into
the photo-realistic interface model for plugins, I have a couple of hardware
controllers sitting covered in dust as testimony to this because I discovered
that I like to see curves and I’m perfectly happy typing numbers into
boxes.I have used a couple of knobby eqs
in the past for character or broad-brush duties but mostly I’ve favoured modern,
digital units with sharp, pointy curves. In deciding to keep things simple I
initially just left the curve types on the default US Vintage setting – let’s
face it; they’re not going to make much of a difference really!OK, stop and re-calibrate, those models make
a HUGE difference.
Waves doesn’t seem to be too keen to identify the models beyond
UK Vintage 1
UK Vintage 2
Which is fair enough, but inquiring minds need to know; a decent guess
would beUS Vintage – Pultec
UK Vintage 1 – Neve
UK Vintage 2 – Neve
US Modern – API
UK Modern – SSL
...and some of those curves do quite different jobs. Perhaps the
default starting point should be Digital 2 which does pretty much the
same job as the DAW console eq, it allows fine peaks and notches at high
Q values and just gets the job done in a clean and unfussy manner. In
reality, if this was all you wanted I’d suggest that you use either your
DAW’s mixer eq or else download the Cockos Reaper freeware reeq and be
The vintage and modern modelled eqs are generally gentler (and dare I say “warmer”?) and I have found that I tend to use them for tonal shaping rather than for fixing problems. Selecting a model actually turns-out to be pretty easy; find the settings that you want to use as you would with any other eq then step through the available models. In some cases it really doesn’t make a lot of difference, in others one will suddenly just fit. I quite often use different models on different bands on the same channel and it’s pretty stress free. A quick note about the shelving filters; I have no idea what Waves have done here but the shelves are somehow superb.
I’ve saved Digital 1 until the end because it’s really quite special. The spec tells us that it has a unique asymmetric shape that is tilted by the Q control. Now I’m not sure if this really is unique, but it’s certainly very useful for making fine adjustments where you want to carve a hole or build a peak without messing up the set of the frequencies on one side; think bass/kick balancing or splashy cymbals against a mix.
The other section of H-EQ that warrants a few lines is the Analogue section which allows you to add noise and mains hum (yes, it does mimic the correct mains frequency for the country of origin of the selected filter type, no you can't have a Neve plugged into a US supply at 60Hz and the modern and digital filters don't hum at all) and Harmonic Distortion with values ranging from “not there at all” - to “normal for the unit” - to “hell’s-teeth, best get this serviced pronto”. At extreme settings (THD goes up-to 1000%) you can hear noticeable distortion, at more moderate and realistic settings it's very good at softening a part into a mix.
But wait, there's more! Under the analyzer display is a keyboard image - this allows you to eq by note rather than frequency. It sounds like a bit of a gimmick but when I was working on a bass part that had a really nasty resonance on a particular E note it was so simple to assign a band and select the noteand fix it – it’s a great idea.
Tucked over to the left of the display is one of the most powerful features of H-EQ, and one that I suspect many users will never use - the mode selector. The ability to eq left and right channels of a stereo (or dual panned mono) track independently is useful, but the ability to process mid and side information separately is outstanding, suddenly you can reduce reverb levels on 2-tracks, take the bass out of the side signal, add massive mid range to the sides whilst leaving the middle clear for the vocals; I think I feel another blog entry coming on.
The Output fader includes a useful “Trim” feature which allows you to “normalise” your settings once you have applied your cuts and boosts - a small thing but most useful when you have applied a number of bands of processing and want to optimise the output.
As a final note, the Waves interface is very well featured, it allows you to undo and redo up to 32 levels of changes, assign your current settings to another slot at the push of a button and switch between them at the push of another button (I use this all the time) as well as the usual options to use and save presets.
At the end of the day I put my money (well, credit-card) where my mouth is and bought H-EQ and I've used it on everything I've done in the since. When I cleared-out all my other EQs I kept Cockos reaeq and Sonimus Son EQ and I have some others included in TRacks - but I haven't used any of them in the meantime. What I haven't done is compared and contrasted H-EQ against its peer group - there may be equal or better out there but I believe that this is an excellent plugin with some very useful and unusual features and a great sound. Good one Waves!
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