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Waves Magma Tube Channel Strip

Dynamics, EQ & Saturation Plug-in By Paul White
Published May 2023

Magma offers a one‑stop shop for analogue‑style attitude and warmth.

Waves Magma Tube Channel StripWavesMagma Tube Channel Strip is an analogue‑modelling plug‑in that offers compression, expansion/gating, a three‑band EQ and saturation, the last of which is based on the True Valve Modelling algorithms used in the company’s BB Tubes plug‑in (reviewed in SOS February 2023). Oversampling (2x) is used to minimise aliasing, and all the usual plug‑in formats are supported, as is Apple Silicon.

New Tube

Of course, most of us already have EQs, compressors and saturators, so just what extra can Magma Tube Channel Strip bring to the table? Well, for one thing, it is decidedly unfussy and easy to use. But to answer that question properly, you really need to listen to it. It can deliver anything from a very gentle saturation to a more obvious soft clipping, and its subtle analogue character seems to add warmth and depth to just about anything you put through it, while it somehow still keeps the highs sounding smooth.

The saturation is set using a drive control, with low‑cut filtering at 60Hz, 100Hz or flat, and there’s a control to flip the input polarity. A virtual trim pot sets the input sensitivity. The EQ is very straightforward: three bands with fixed high and low shelving frequencies and a variable‑frequency mid that goes from 100Hz to 5kHz. The mid has a wide bell shape when boost is applied but this narrows when cutting, and the HF filter affects frequencies above 2.5kHz.

In the dynamics section, the expander can also work as a conventional gate, and adjusting the one‑knob compressor simultaneously changes both the compressor threshold and the make‑up gain. This also has a Smash switch to make it altogether more aggressive, with a higher ratio, a fast attack and a fast release when compared with the normal mode; without Smash, it produces a more transparent result.

There may be only a single rotary control for this compressor but it covers a lot of ground, from gentle dynamic gain reduction to audible pumping. Both the expander and compressor have their own five‑LED gain reduction meters and the expander works very smoothly, pulling down the level of quieter sections such as spill between vocal phrases.

A virtual moving‑coil meter monitors the output level, and a red, click‑to‑reset, LED indicates where peaks hit or exceed 0dBFS. The meter can also be calibrated to match the working levels used in your DAW: you just drag on the screw adjustment below the meter. The main faders adjust the output from the plug‑in between ‑48 and +12 dB.

Despite the simplicity of the user interface, Waves have included lots of user presets (over 450) that were created by ‘name’ producers and mastering engineers, including Greg Wells, Joe Chiccarelli, ‘Pooch’ Van Druten, Matt Schaeffer and Jeff Ellis. can work wonders to inject some attitude into limp‑sounding drums, or more generally to dirty up sounds like drums and bass to add a lo‑fi edge.

Hot Rocks?

I found Magma Tube Channel Strip to have a very analogue feel, adding substance to sounds without making them in any way muddy. The EQ behaves very predictably and, in the main, does just what you want it to. The single‑knob compressor is very effective, while setting drive values up to around five adds a smooth analogue thickening, without the sound becoming obviously distorted.

Set the drive control past halfway, and it is a very different story: the sound gets progressively more gnarly, and it can work wonders to inject some attitude into limp‑sounding drums, or more generally to dirty up sounds like drums and bass to add a lo‑fi edge. While I’ve found that it works well on individual tracks, it also seems to do a great job as a mix processor, providing what we often describe as ‘glue’: namely, it helps the individual elements blend together in a coherent manner.

In summary, then, Magma Tube Channel Strip might not be the most feature‑packed channel strip plug‑in but it imparts an endearing analogue‑like quality to whatever you feed through it. It has the advantage of being very easy to use, and it has enough range to go from subtle tube‑style warmth to overt distortion, bolstered by a smooth compressor and a sweet‑sounding, friendly EQ.  


A good‑sounding, easy‑to‑use and surprisingly versatile channel strip plug‑in.


Available in Waves Essential ($14.99 pcm) or Ultimate ($24.99 pcm) subscriptions.

Available in Waves Essential ($14.99 pcm) or Ultimate ($24.99 pcm) subscriptions.