Review: Waves C6 Multiband Compressor, By Tommy Mokas

WILLIAMSBURG, BROOKLYN: One of the first companies to convince scores of engineers that digital could be the future, Waves continues to innovate and push the limits of audio manipulation. Yet they have always kept their interfaces clean and simple to understand, even while packing in tons of features. The C6 Multiband Compressor from Waves continues a plug-in legacy comparable to the greatest of hardware manufacturers, taking simple ideas and continuing to rewrite the book on what can be done “in the box.”

I’ve always had mixed feelings about using multiband compression; it kind of feels like I’m cheating! In my recent experience with the C6, however, I’ve found there are certain times when using a multiband compressor is the best way to sculpt a signal into submission.

The risk in using a multiband compressor lies in the fact that you can almost instantly suck the life out of a signal. This is due to the nature of what you’re doing: compressing the total frequency range at multiple crossover points. For the uninitiated, a traditional compressor is used to reduce the dynamic range of a signal, a multiband compressor can be used to reduce the dynamics of a specific range of frequency within that signal.

Waves’ previous offerings – the C4 Multiband and the Linear Multiband – both offered you a seemingly simple way to calm offending frequencies while leaving the other parts of your signal in tact.  There were a lot of times, however, when that wouldn’t be the result.  There would be situations where the multiband compression would be working when you didn’t want it to, and finding the sweet-spot threshold(s) could be an impossible battle.

Of course, an experienced engineer would say, just use the sidechain. But alas, neither of these powerful multiband compressors HAD a sidechain! Sometimes, you could use yet another Waves plug-in for such a problem, the C1 Compressor/Sidechain, but this tool seemed designed to do heavy handed control. Even when using the Notch EQ on the sidechain, it was never surgical enough to tame certain things.

Enter the C6.  The magic feature that makes this baby kick certain sonic issues to the curb, fast, is there are sidechain inputs on every band of compression. This allows you to do some very complex compression on any signal, including in some very creative, esoteric applications. Have you ever thought of gating a pad of two different chords at two different frequency ranges for a progression in a song? NO?  Well I have! And let me tell you, to do that with your average plug-ins takes a lot of extra work, but with the C6?  No problem!

Waves C6 Multiband Compressor Plug-In With Sidechain

How about gating a certain frequency range in a kick drum so your bass synth cuts through while your kick still hits hard? All possible with the C6.  It’s like an entire world of chained plug-ins are possible with one single plug.

Granted, the Waves C6 has totally utilitarian functions as well, such as taming an extremely tough vocal track. Let’s say a singer has a gigantically wide range stylistically, and that the vocals range over a few octaves. With the Waves C6, you can totally tame the low end, in the lower range of their voice, while still retaining the top end.

In their upper range, you can maintain that smoothness while boosting the silky top end and avoiding any harsh frequencies – with the C6 you can tame all of this in a very simple and systematic fashion. One of the greatest features of the C6 is the two “floating bands” which along with the predictable ranges of a multiband compressor, allow you a couple of wild card frequencies, to tame (or boost) whatever it is that is bothering you without breaking up a traditional flow.

Now, I haven’t even touched on working with a stereo mix, which, when it comes to multiband compression, I personally find to be a bit taboo. I have always looked to mutiband compression as a last resort, when I’m up against a wall and nothing else will work. However, this is not so with the C6. A simple automation of a sidechain input on a certain frequency range can make a pesky thing disappear, ducking it in a very slick manner – especially if, as we are often asked to do, you are both mixing and mastering a track. Having access to all the elements, you can use your multiband compressor to calm jumpy parts of the mix, either on the 2-track mix or a grouped buss of an element.

Beyond the typical, expected applications for a multiband compressor, I found additional uses for the Waves C6 plug-in.  Imagine, if you will, that you have a horrible kick drum sound (I know, a total stretch). Let’s say you wanted to suppress 250Hz and boost 5k without totally cutting or boosting the sound.  This is what the C6 does in spades.  And we’re just scratching the surface!

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