Gear Reviews

Waves StudioRack & StudioVerse Review: Free Mix-Ready Chains for Your DAW

This review is preceded by what can only be described as a bunch of fortuitous coincidences. Back in May I received an offer of a discount on my Waves maintenance package which would save me 25% on the yearly cost which, if memory serves me correct, is capped at $240. Prior to this I also remember seeing various articles and comments of complaint about attempts by Waves to switch users over to a subscription based service and while I personally don’t have a problem with subscription based services, I could hear valid arguments from both sides of the divide.

I only own a select few Waves plugins, and with a maintenance fee that matches the price of a yearly subscription – approximately $21 a month for the entire Waves catalogue or a mere $12.50 for the Waves Essential option – it’s a no brainer. So I needed to subscribe, especially as there were a number of other plugins I wanted to try like some of the CLA and Renaissance offerings, plus those I needed to buy like clean-up tools Clarity and the newly released De-Reverb.

At the beginning of lockdown I had a hard disk fail which contained amongst other things my Waves licences and Waves Central. In my haste to get everything up and running again, I paid out for my updates and second licences along with a new M1 Mac and a better storage solution. I could have done without the expense of replacing everything all at once but these events teach us valuable lessons – keep things up to date. Or in my case, regular insurance keeps things running smoothly!

So there I am trying to weigh up whether I should wade in up to my neck and subscribe to Waves Ultimate or paddle around for a bit in Waves Essentials. OK, I still want all my Abbey Road stuff and my fave H-Reverb, so ‘up to my neck’ it is.

Rack it Up

StudioRack is a revelation! Why oh why have I never used this before? Probably because I wasn’t aware of its amazing capabilities. The first time I opened StudioRack it gave me the option to scan my system for 3rd party VST3 plugins. I have a few, some of which I use regularly. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is for the exclusive use of Waves products; this is an all encompassing VST3 chain builder!

Up until this point I had been creating templates for regular work that involve a particular plugin or set of plugins in each channel to speed up workflow. The thing is I still need to load further presets into each plugin to get my template to my optimum starting point. But no more – I simply load any Waves or third party VST3 into StudioRack, tweak every plugin as desired and save the entire chain as a preset. I haven’t yet found a VST3 plugin that doesn’t work in StudioRack. This does of course mean that for Logic and Pro Tools users, the raft of supplied application exclusive plugins still need to be saved as either part of a template or loaded individually, but that aside, StudioRack is a huge time saver as well as a major game changer in terms of workflow.

Even though StudioRack only loads VST3 plugins, it’s available in all formats, which means a plugin chain created and saved in Logic can be loaded in Pro Tools or any other DAW. So whether you’re using Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase etc, it’ll provide you with the ability to create incredibly complex chains which will drastically speed up your workflow. Boy am I pleased I downloaded all formats of every plugin I’ve ever purchased. Imagine the horror of Pro Tools and Logic users who only downloaded .AAX or .AU units in an attempt to save disk space.

StudioRack has another couple of neat tricks up its sleeve. When you hit the + button to load your first plugin, you’re presented with two options at the top of the list: ‘Parallel Split’ and ‘Multi-band Split’. These two options provide additional flexibility and control. Imagine the vintage flavour of the CLA-76 as a multi-band comp – now it’s available. You can also parallel process your audio rather than using a mix control, with individual level control over each signal path. For stereo busses you have ‘Pan’ and the added ‘Width Control’, which sounds and behaves like the Waves S1 imager and is dead useful for narrowing or widening those stereo keyboards or bringing those hard panned sampled overheads into a more authentic kit sound.

StudioVerse puts the knowledge of professionals in the hands of aspiring creatives.

There is also a Macro view which allows you to set up key control functions without having to open individual plugins. Just simply click on one of the eight control functions and a drop down menu lets you select the parameter that you want access too. You can right click on any control within a Waves plugin and select ‘Add Macro’ to quickly assign it to a macro control. You can also use the parallel split and assign its output fader to a macro and control the effect of any 3rd party VST3 without having to continually open the plugin. There is an ‘ALL’ button which expands StudioRack even further and gives you both Macro and individual plugin access, which is extremely useful while setting up macros and checking that everything you’re doing is what’s going to save you time going forward.

Can I Pick Your ‘Collective/Creative’ Brains

Now you may think that with some 240+ plugins to wade through, it’s going to take you years to get to grips with all the permutations and countless combinations now available to you – not so my friends. This is where the AI search function of StudioVerse comes to your assistance.

StudioVerse is a combination of intelligent decision making and a collective online community of award-winning professional engineers and producers at your beck and call. Simply add StudioRack to the audio channel that needs attention, play the audio and hit the listen button. StudioVerse then offers up a list of suitable plugin chains for you to click through and try. These are in no way fixed plugin chains; you still have the ability to go in and customise, edit further, add to and generally make full use of. You can then save them locally or upload them to StudioVerse for others to try.

Not only is this a hugely time saving facility, but it gives established and new users alike a real insight into what the professionals are using and how to go about achieving the result you’re striving for. In many ways, it also shows us that it’s the result that counts – not how you get there.

Of course, you don’t have to use the AI function if you don’t want to, but it’s by far the quickest way to find options. You can also use the extensive StudioVerse search facility which indexes everything via Tags, Genre, Plugins, Settings and Relevance. Simply start typing what you’re looking for and select the options as you go.

You may be thinking, if you already have StudioRack, that because you don’t have a full complement of Waves plugins it’s not going to work for you. Not true; StudioVerse takes into account what you have in your arsenal and makes suggestions accordingly. It will make suggestions as to what you should add, but will still make suggestions based on what you have available. Also don’t forget that being a VST3 host, you can always use 3rd party alternatives.


StudioRack featuring StudioVerse is a free plugin and it works in any AU, VST3 and AAX compatible DAW and hosts any VST3 plugin, whether Waves or 3rd party. For this alone, you should be using it. The ability to save multiple plugins as one preset is a game changer. If you already own Waves plugins, you should already be using it. If your maintenance renewal is coming up or if you are planning on buying additional Waves plugins in the near future, take a look at the company’s subscription offerings – they could save you money.

As for StudioVerse, what a brilliant concept! In the six weeks since I first subscribed to the Waves Ultimate package I have spent every available minute exploring StudioVerse and the endless scope of Waves’ plugin library. Professional audio revolves around the plugin chain and how particular combinations create the music we currently enjoy. StudioVerse puts the knowledge of professionals in the hands of aspiring creatives, a sentiment we at Headliner wholeheartedly endorse.