Hear how Waves vocal effects can transform your recorded and live vocals - we've demoed and tested 10 plugins

Man singing into a mic against a graffiti covered wall
(Image credit: Getty Images/urbazon)

Vocal processing has been transformed over the last couple of decades, and not just by the ubiquitous Auto-Tune style effects that are so prominent in the music charts. You can now get many other vocal effects, from subtle tuning to very unsubtle formant shifters that turn male vocals into female, or into aliens and more! There are modulating monster effects that synthesize your vocal or others that turn your singing into MIDI data so you can play other instruments with your voice. 

Waves has every one of these effects covered in its huge arsenal of plugins and we've chosen 10 of the most creative Waves plugins to see and hear what they can do to your vocals. We're leaving the more subtle mix effects for another time, instead focusing on the most 'out there' and outrageous this time around! To that end, we've even included audio examples for every plugin, so you can hear how these effects can transform your singing. 

We've included a buyer's advice section to vocal effects at the bottom of this feature, with more information on the different types of vocal effects. If you want to know which we like best then read on or jump to our individual reviews of 10 of the most creative Waves vocal effects. 

Our best buys

If you want 'that' Auto-Tune style effect then Waves has you covered many times over, with everything from Waves Tune (subtle) to Vocal Bender (not subtle). But our favourite automatic tuning plugin is Waves Tune Real-Time, as it not only gives you both natural and hard robotic-stye tuning, but it does it in real-time so could really come to your rescue both in the studio and on stage.

For multi-effects you can't really beat Waves OVox. It's a synth, vocoder and vocal processor all in one plugin, and has a depth to it which takes some exploring, but rewards you with some stunning vocal results. For more mix-ready effects where you just want a great vocal sound, JJP Vocals from this round-up adds a lovely pro sound to help make any vocal shine.

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Waves top 20 best-sellers sale: Just $35.99 each

Waves top 20 best-sellers sale: Just $35.99 each
Including powerful plugins like Waves Tune, Vocal Rider, Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain, and the always useful SSL G-Master Bus compressor, Waves’ 20 best-selling plugins sale is a brilliant opportunity to bag some creative or utilitarian plugins for less. From EQs to AI tools, this selection of Waves’ most popular plugins are just $35.99 each, making them insane value for money. 

Full list

Create classic vocal sounds from the 1960s and beyond with ease

Specifications

Spec: Mac/PC, AAX Native, Audiosuite, AU, VST, VST3, 64-bit only; macOS 10.15 or later; Windows 10 or later

Reasons to buy

+
Classic vocal effects
+
Can go quite in-depth 
+
Works well on other instruments

Reasons to avoid

-
Bit of a one-trick plugin

Automatic Double Tracking was invented at Abbey Road by Ken Townsend when recording The Beatles, and has become a widely used vocal effect. It's not just a matter of the vocal being doubled, as variations in the original tape speeds from two recorders could cause all sorts of other characteristics. This plugin has them all covered with two completely modelled tape machines, each with many separate controls.

There's a surprising amount of variation in the effect created by Abbey Road Reel ADT, albeit one that is pretty narrow by definition. And as well as being a great vocal effect, it can also be used to fatten up other instruments, so Abbey Road Reel ADT is a very useful tool overall.

Read our full Waves Abbey Road Reel ADT review

Audio demos

Great plugin for edgier and more prominent vocal productions

Specifications

Spec: Mac/PC, AAX Native, Audiosuite, AU, VST, VST3, 64-bit only; macOS 10.15 or later; Windows 10 or later

Reasons to buy

+
One knob controls many parameters
+
Good interface 
+
Lovely saturation

Reasons to avoid

-
Signal flow not obvious

We have a few signature plugins included in this round-up, and this one is from Garbage main man Butch Vig who has also worked with Nirvana and Trent Reznor. The processing here is hidden behind a welcoming UI and comprises saturation, filtering, EQ and dynamics to give you a generally up-front sound.

The saturation section is great for generating plenty of harmonics, while the Focus control offers a broad, mid-range boost to bring out key vocal articulation frequencies, and we found it very useful, especially for more edgy vocal effects when combined with other controls. 

Butch Vig Vocals is great for this more in-your-face vocal production style; subtle it isn't but it can also be highly creative because of that. 

Read our full Waves Butch Vig Vocals review

Audio demos

3. Waves CLA Epic

Big delays and reverbs for very big vocals and more

Specifications

Specs: Mac/PC, AAX Native, Audiosuite, AU, VST, VST3, 64-bit only; macOS 10.15 or later; Windows 10 or later

Reasons to buy

+
Some of the best delays and reverbs
+
Easy to get great results 
+
Not just for vocals

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited to just delay and reverb

Waves has many plugins developed with producer/engineer Chris Lord-Alge (Muse, Foo Fighters, Bruce Springsteen), and in truth, his CLA Vocals is the more obvious vocal choice, but as we're going for more creative effects, we've chosen Epic instead. This is a collection of Chris's favourite reverbs and delays to give your vocals the richness and depth they possibly need.

Epic can be applied to many other instruments as well, but in the video below Chris applies it to some backing vocals with incredible results, turning a flat performance into a vibey and lively recording. It's probably the most flexible plugin in this round-up, and will benefit many of your mix parts, but is a real boon for vocalists. 

Audio demos

Fantastic and straightforward way to get vocal harmonies, fast

Specifications

Spec: Mac/PC, AAX Native, Audiosuite, AU, VST, VST3, 64-bit only; macOS 10.15 or later; Windows 10 or later

Reasons to buy

+
Fast, efficient harmony creation
+
In-depth modulation 
+
Can be used live 

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be CPU heavy

This is quite simply a refreshingly straightforward take on creating vocal harmonies. You can manually input your harmonies, use a keyboard, or let the plugin just do its smart thing and create harmonies for you. This latter option is done by hitting the Generate Notes button, and whatever vocal is coming in gets multiplied with up to eight voices using Harmony's smart algorithms. 

You can also lock to key and scale, adjust formant, pitch delay and filter parameters and utilise a number of modulation options.

This is among the fastest ways to get very good vocal harmonies with no messing about - unless you want to dig deeper - and the plugin makes a fine job of working out your harmony needs and does so very quickly. 

Read our full Waves Harmony review

Audio demos

Waves JJP Vocals

(Image credit: Waves)
A very easy way to add some pro polish to your vocals

Specifications

Spec: Mac/PC, AAX Native, Audiosuite, AU, VST, VST3, 64-bit only; macOS 10.15 or later; Windows 10 or later

Reasons to buy

+
Add sheen with ease
+
Can go quite extreme if you like 
+
Not just for vocals

Reasons to avoid

-
Not a lot of depth

Jack Joseph Puig is a producer/engineer who has worked with some big vocalists in his time, including Bono from U2, Lady Gaga, John Mayer, and the Rolling Stones. He teamed up with Waves for this more unusual vocal multi-effect which can be used as a more subtle mix effect, but we think there's enough under the hood for it to be included in this creative round-up. 

You get Magic, Space, Attack, Attitude, and Presence controls. It is not obvious what effects are behind these, but there are several at play including compression, EQ and reverb, and really you don't need to know too much as each slider really does deliver what it says. 

There are extras for de-essing and you can even get variations of the plugin for different instruments (see our full review, linked below). Otherwise, it's a neat way of adding shine to your vocals and a cheap Waves option to boot. 

Read our full Waves JJP Vocals review

Audio demos

6. Waves OVox Vocal ReSynthesis

Out-there three-in-one multi-effect for some crazy vocal effects

Specifications

Spec: Mac/PC, AAX Native, Audiosuite, AU, VST, VST3, 64-bit only; macOS 10.15 or later; Windows 10 or later

Reasons to buy

+
Synth, vocoder, and processor
+
Completely new styles of vocal effects
+
Use it as an instrument or effect

Reasons to avoid

-
Some features are complex

OVox is a lot more than just a vocal effect with synth, vocoding, and vocal processor features, and with so many applications it can be used as a MIDI-controlled instrument or effect, or as a standard insert effect. You can use the plugin for generating chords, robotic vocoding, tuning effects, vocal arpeggiations and more. It even allows you to convert your vocal to MIDI and then trigger other instruments. 

It's fair to say that if you want to go deep with your vocals, there's little out there that comes close to OVox. The effects can be extreme and the plugin can be complex, but it's a richly rewarding experience if you master it. Learn more about how to use OVox with our tutorial.

Audio demos

7. Waves Space Rider

Flexible multi-effect that can dramatically lift a flat vocal

Specifications

Spec: Mac/PC, AAX Native, Audiosuite, AU, VST, VST3, 64-bit only; macOS 10.15 or later; Windows 10 or later

Reasons to buy

+
Three effects in one
+
Adds a great sense of space
+
Not just on vocals

Reasons to avoid

-
Effects quite basic when used on their own

Waves Space Rider is one of the company's newest vocal plugins and comprises a chorus, delay and reverb that you can use in chain or individually. Waves says it is designed for producers to quickly create high-quality spaces in their mixes. You get a couple of lovely reverbs: Space is the more realistic, algorithmic reverb and Plate not surprisingly emulates the lush sound of a plate reverb unit. The delay section has low and high pass filters, and there are two types of chorus to fatten your sound up. 

Overall there's plenty to create that space, and while you can also apply Space Rider to any instrument, it really does make vocals shine. 

Audio demos

8. Waves Tune

Natural vocal tuning plugin with detailed but easy editing

Specifications

Spec: Mac/PC, AAX Native, Audiosuite, AU, VST, VST3, 64-bit only; macOS 10.15 or later; Windows 10 or later

Reasons to buy

+
Deep pitch and micro editing
+
Great graphical display
+
Good for natural tuning

Reasons to avoid

-
Less emphasis on other more artificial effects

Waves Tune will do that automatic tuning synthetic vocal process, but it's more about detailed note editing, with a UI that lets you get in and surgically change notes. You can get the software to do this automatically by setting up song pitch, plus vibrato, formant and more, but the editing is very easy to do manually, with zooming options for micro-tuning and detailed edits. 

You can use Waves Tune to get the famous automatic tuning robotic effect but the plugin's real strength lies in more natural vocal tuning and it is great for this more subtle side of vocal processing.

Check out our article comparing Waves Tune vs Antares Auto-Tune.

Audio demos

9. Waves Tune Real-Time

Fantastic automatic tuning for singing live

Specifications

Spec: Mac/PC, AAX Native, Audiosuite, AU, VST, VST3, 64-bit only; macOS 10.15 or later; Windows 10 or later

Reasons to buy

+
Great low latency live vocal tuning
+
Fantastic and clear UI
+
Loads of real world applications

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be processor intensive

Where Waves Tune will give you detailed tuning down to a micro level, Waves Tune Real-Time ups the ante - and the CPU processing - to deliver tuning of a live vocal. That means if you are in any way doubtful over your own or an artist's live vocal performance, this could put your mind at ease. The plugin shows the tuning of the live vocal passing through, and you can set a range around it of allowed notes and the overall pitch. 

Other controls for Speed, Transition and Tolerance allow a certain amount of that automatic tuning effect to be applied too, so you can get the more robotic tuning effect, but live!

Real-Time is low latency so avoids delays so the singer or engineer can hear the results instantly, which makes this a fantastically practical and useful tuning plugin.  

Audio demos

Easy-to-use and more creative vocal tuning plugin

Specifications

Spec: Mac/PC, AAX Native, Audiosuite, AU, VST, VST3, 64-bit only; macOS 10.15 or later; Windows 10 or later

Reasons to buy

+
Dramatic levels of vocal manipulation
+
Very easy to use
+
A lot of fun!

Reasons to avoid

-
You can't go as deep as other plugins

Vocal Bender delivers fast, real-time contemporary vocal effects, all behind one of the slickest interfaces around. Its intuitive workflow will have you creating formant and pitch effects and vocal stacks in no time, the only danger being you might just overdo things and take your vocals into a novelty realm. Vocal Bender can be used for more straightforward vocal doubling and harmony effects too, and can be as unsubtle or subtle as you like while doing it. It's also capable of the most extreme robotic style hard tuning. 

Used wisely and perhaps with some restraint, Vocal Bender is one of the most creative and useable Waves vocal plugins with instant and fun results. 

Read our full Waves Vocal Bender review

Audio demos

Buying advice

Woman singing into a microphone with two neon lights behind her

(Image credit: Getty Images/AzmanL)

We've chosen more creative vocal effects in this round-up as we're assuming that you want to add some contemporary effects to your vocals and other instruments. We'll be looking at more subtle vocal mix effects in a future round-up so for now, what you need to do when buying any of these effects is to decide which kind of vocal effect you are aiming for.

Many of the more 'out there' vocal effects include formant shifting, where you can turn a male voice into a female (or vice versa), for example. Some plugins in our buyer's guide also include harmonising or doubling a vocal, where a single vocal line is multiplied to produce a vocal group. Then there is vocoding, where a voice becomes a robotic voice, an effect originally used back in the 1970s. This has become popular again thanks to extreme tuning plugins (notably Antares Auto-Tune) where a robotic vocal sound can be a side-effect of extreme, hard tuning - see more on these plugins below.

Our buyer’s guide also includes plugins like Waves Tune for more natural vocal tuning. Every vocalist can have a bad day in the studio or on stage, and these plugins can help with live performances and studio recordings to a subtle or less subtle degree. Waves Tune Real-Time, for example, can be used in both the studio and on stage and genuinely does work in 'real-time' with very little latency. Indeed you, your vocalist and audience need never know such tuning has taken place!

Of course, you might not want 'subtle' and that's where the aforementioned hard tuning plugins come into their own to deliver the famous and much used 'Auto-Tune' effect, made famous by Cher in the late nineties. The effect is produced when these plugins tune a vocal extremely fast, resulting in an unnatural vocal sound which the original plugins were not intended to be used for, but it has become ubiquitous in the charts over the last three decades and shows no sign of slowing down. 

So when buying your vocal tuning plugin, you simply need to decide if you want natural or robotic results, or indeed a plugin capable of both. Waves has a plugin for every tuning situation - every vocal process, in fact - from natural to alien and beyond.

Andy Jones

Andy has been writing about music production and technology for 30 years having started out on Music Technology magazine back in 1992. He has edited the magazines Future Music, Keyboard Review, MusicTech and Computer Music, which he helped launch back in 1998. He owns way too many synthesizers.

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