If compressors had been invented several decades later than they were I suspect they would have looked a lot like WaveRider Tg. Compressors are integral to the sound of contemporary recordings but the innovative uses by the likes of Joe Meek and the Beatles took compressors and to some extent subverted them from their intended purpose. Compressors were invented to automate and improve on the task of maintaining a consistent output level.
Early compressors took the technology available at the time and did a remarkably good job of replacing someone listening and manually adjusting or “riding” a fader to maintain a more consistent level. Remarkably good but not without its problems and the fact that these compression artefacts have become seen as desirable doesn’t get around the fact that compressors do something similar to, but not exactly the same as, a person riding a fader.
It’s common practice for compression and automated replay of manual fader rides to be combined in a mix so why not create the fader rides automatically, like the compressor was originally supposed to? That is precisely what WaveRider Tg can do and as we’ll see it does it extremely well.
What Is Waverider Tg?
The animation above shows what WaveRider Tg does. The big target in the UI is a clue and we assume the Tg in the name stands for “target”. WaveRider Tg changes the level of incoming audio towards a user defined target level. The controls offer control over the process but at the heart of it is a unique algorithm which is based on Leq (A) weighting but it, as Quiet Art put it “gets complicated”. It isn’t based on the BS. 1770 specification but it’s very useful for meeting loudness targets such as EBU R-128 or ATSC A/85.
WaveRider is a newer and simpler version of WaveRider v3, which is still a current product and offers features not available in WaveRider Tg. If you want to know more about WaveRider v3, below is an extended video review from Mike which illustrates the operation of the level riding features which WaveRider v3 and Waverider Tg have in common.
How Does WaveRider Tg Differ From WaveRider v3?
WaveRider Tg only rides levels, it doesn’t offer the ducking found in WaveRider v3, It’s also much simpler to set up as it doesn’t use the HUI protocol to do what it does. We’d prefer to think of it as a more focussed alternative to WaveRider v3 rather than a cut down version as although it lacks some of WaveRider v3’s features, it offers some new features too.
Firstly it is available in VST and AU as well as AAX. WaveRider v3 is AAX only. Another new feature is that it can do an offline bounce without needing to have done an automation pass first, which is something that was necessary with WaveRider v3.
How Is Riding Levels Different From Compression?
The big difference between conventional compression and WaveRider is that compressors don’t do anything to signals lower than the threshold. While we sometimes talk about compressors turning down the loud things and turning up the quiet bits, hopefully we all understand that the “turning up of the quiet bits” is the result of makeup gain and the relative levels of the information below the threshold are unchanged.
Because compressors only indirectly affect information below the threshold it can be necessary to apply more compression than you might otherwise choose and use make up gain to achieve an even output level. This can introduce unwanted compression artefacts. WaveRider turns up the level of signals below the target as well as attenuating for signals above the target so the output level stays more consistent without degrading the dynamics of your signal. Returning to my opening statement, if you wanted to design a device to reduce the dynamic range of a signal it should look a lot more like this than a traditional compressor.
The ability to control the level of information below the target level (or threshold if you want to think in compressor parameters) is enough of a reason for me to be interested but we all know that meticulous volume automation offers the ultimate in control of levels. However, we also know how labour intensive such detailed automation can be and I’m sure we’ve all let a compressor do at least some of the heavy lifting just to get the job done before.
WaveRider Tg can write its level adjustments as automation, allowing detailed tweaking of automatically generated automation playlists so if the algorithm doesn’t quite deliver what you were expecting, you can tailor the automation to precisely what you require and these tweaks can be read back by the plug-in on the next pass.
Setting Up WaveRider Tg
Setting up WaveRider v3 is a more involved process than is usual for a plug-in because it involves HUI. This isn’t the case in WaveRider Tg. When instantiated on a channel WaveRider Tg works straight out of the box but there are a couple of things which need to be done to successfully write and replay automation. The first thing is to enable the WaveRider volume automation, WaveRider Tg doesn’t write its automation to the Pro Tools volume automation playlist. Once WaveRider Volume is automation enabled Latch mode is recommended. Once correctly set up clicking the auto enable button will enable the write/read switch. Set this to write and record your automation pass. Once written, to replay this automation, or your tweaked version, just toggle the write/read switch to read.
Setting Up WaveRider For Use With A Voiceover
In the demonstration video below I show how to set up and control the levels of a voiceover using WaveRider Tg.
WaveRider Tg is going to be extremely useful to people working in post but it is just as useful in music applications, particularly as, unlike WaveRider v3 which was AAX only, WaveRider Tg is available in VST and AU versions too.
WaveRider can be used on vocals as easily as on dialogue and keeping in mind that the choice isn’t between using a compressor/limiter or WaveRider Tg - you can use both, the options for exactly what you use WaveRider Tg for are many. In the example below I use the bass guitar track from “So Cold” by Jess Hammond to illustrate how WaveRider Tg can be used to bring up the level of the sustained decay of bass notes while leaving the transients relatively untouched. In this example I also run through how easy it is to set up and replay an automation pass.
So is WaveRider Tg any good? I have to say, as someone who takes little pleasure in creating meticulous volume automation that WaveRider Tg easily achieves the basic test of any new product which so many plug-ins fail - “Does this plug-in solve a problem I have which can’t be addressed by any of the tools I already have?” the answer in this case is a categorical yes. There are a handful of products which do something similar to this but this one does it better. I don’t know how the algorithm works but it definitely does work.
However used we might be to tight control of dynamics resulting in a “compressed” sound, it simply doesn’t have to be like that. The choice has always been between using compression and limiting for quick control with the risk of unwanted compression artefacts and slow, manual automation passes. WaveRider Tg means you can now have the speed of a compressor and the control of automation, who wouldn’t want that?