Les Test: Waves APIs Compared With URS "A" Series

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by LSchefman, Feb 22, 2009.

  1. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    You guys know I love plug-ins, right? And they just seem to keep getting better and better. I've been using the URS "A" Series - excellent plugs - for quite some time, but hadn't tried the Waves API bundle, and decided it would be interesting to do a comparison. So I downloaded the Waves demo.

    And indeed, they do sound different. I feel that with gear, there is no "better" when you're comparing two quality pieces, it's a matter of taste, so this was more a comparison than a "shoot-out".

    First, I was very careful to make sure I got the levels as close between them as I could, both by ear and by meter. Since API stuff is known for what it does for drums, I used a drum mix to compare them. I set each plug to sound as much alike as I could get them, both by the controls, and by ear.

    And I could get them to sound remarkably alike, by the way!

    Then I instantiated each similar plug on the same stereo drum mix track, and simply bypassed one plug at a time. The very short time interval between shutting one off and turning the other on did present a psychoacoustic problem in that it interrupted my concentration for a second. The more I worked with the plugs, the less of a problem it was, but this is a very real phenomenon when A/Bing at times.

    I chose to work with a stereo mixed track because I wanted to check out stereo width, etc, and a drum submix is a good use for the stereo compressors.

    On the Waves API compressor, I used the feed-forward setting, because that's built into the URS, and the 100% stereo setting, because this is also built into the URS. In addition, I switched back and forth between the "analog" switch on the Waves, since the URS doesn't have this switch. Though some of the controls are not labeled in the same way (most are in this bundle), it was not difficult to get them to sound close enough that I had to concentrate to hear the differences.

    Everything went into my Neve summing mixer, and then into a pair of JBL 4328s set up with the acoustic software built into the system for my room. I find the speakers quite accurate, and they translate well everywhere I take my tracks (mostly I take them to the RingSide studio, where they have several sets of Genelecs, including the big soffit mounts that run tens of grand).

    So, what did I find? Here we go:

    Generally, the Waves plugs had a wider stereo stage, and transients were very subtly more defined against the black background than the URS. There was indeed a slight sense of more "analog-ness" with the analog switch up, and the difference between the two maker's plugs was a bit more subtle with it switched out. But the wider soundstage of the Waves version, and the slightly more carved sound was still noticeable.

    I don't know if this is a plus or a minus, but it was somewhat easier to get the Waves plugs to get a pumping, breathing, raunchier sound using the compressor than the URS, which was a bit smoother. This was sometimes really nice, and sometimes awful. Your own ears need to be the judge of this stuff.

    In general, I'd call the URS sound a smoother sound, and the Waves sound a more sharp sound. But we are talking about small differences here, differences that you have to concentrate on and listen for. But that's what we do, right? We spend hours and hours concentrating and listening for stuff like this. Still, they sound more alike than I had imagined they would.

    In a way, this was more like comparing a set of D/A converters than EQ/Compressor gear, which does kinda make sense since we are talking about digital emulation of analog gear.

    Price: The Waves works out to about $300-400 pricier than the URS.

    Both sound great, ultimately. Were they different enough to be worth having both? Honestly, I'm still making up my mind.
     
  2. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Thanks Les.

    I've always liked the URS API stuff.

    It's a bit odd that one plug would be "wider" than the other in that application. Is it possible that one compressor was stereo linked and the other unlinked? Unlinked dual mono typically sounds wider (it's affecting both sides differently, making the image wider) so I wonder if that was the cause. Perhaps a link button wasn't pressed?
     
  3. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    No, I was careful to make sure I linked them.

    In fact, I set the control with the Waves to 100% (you can set the percentage of "link" with a control). The URS plugs don't have a choice of link or not.

    Don't get me wrong, I love the URS "A" series plugs. They've been my go-tos on drums since the day I got them.

    I don't think the Waves are "better", just different. I do like the difference, and might have to go with both, but...at $800 street, there's a lot of other stuff I might consider first for my studio.

    In any event, now that I have the Waves JJP stuff, whose EQs I do ever so slightly prefer over the URS Fulltec EQ, it's nice to see that Waves is getting back to the cutting edge of what's possible instead of resting on their laurels with the stuff they did years ago.

    Again, it's an $800 question for me, and that's approaching hardware territory if you're into lunchbox type stuff. So I dunno. I think if the price was lower, having both the URS and the Waves would be a no-brainer.
     
  4. elambo

    elambo Member

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    The thing about hardware, as you know, is that it's $x for one channel, whereas plugins are $x for as many channels as your CPU(s) will allow. That's quite a shiny bargaining chip.

    But, in almost every category, hardware wins sonically, so if it's the "best" you seek then it's hardware you seek. Although EQ is one area where software has nearly closed any remaining gap, ime.
     
  5. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    I tend to agree.

    Actually, I've decided in regards to the API stuff that I wouldn't use the compressor much, and the EQs are so closely covered in URS, that I don't know if it's worth switching.

    I do as of now have a slight preference for the Waves API and V series plugs over the URS equivalents, having spent another day with them. Again, worth the expense to switch? Dunno.
     
  6. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    Well, since there was a 20% off sale that ended today, I decided to buy the Waves API plugs. Too good a deal to pass up.

    And...

    Gosh they sound awfully close to the URS. Very tiny differences, and both are great. It's weird, some tracks sound better with one, some with the other.
     

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