Mac Audiosuite, Premiere, VST, MOTU / PC VST and DirectX; TDM version also available
Reviewed: PC VST version
Rather than replacing plug‑ins in the original NPP, Waves's new Native Power Pack II instead contains a different collection of plug‑ins designed to complement them. This time round there are four in the pack: the Renaissance EQ, Renaissance Compressor, DeEsser, and the MaxxBass bass‑harmonic generator. MaxxBass was originally available separately (and was reviewed back in SOS February '98), and can be surprisingly effective at adding deep bass to a mix without making it sound lopsided, and in making mixes multimedia‑friendly.
The DeEsser has a fairly simple interface: you select the offending frequency (presets are provided for Male Ess, Male Shh, Female Ess, and Female Shh, as well as one for a Full Mix), and then pull down the Threshold slider until the sibilance is suitably reduced. Clicking on the Monitor lets you listen to the side‑chain to fine‑tune the controls, and the side‑chain filter can also be switched between band‑pass and high‑pass depending on the type of problem. Finally, the Audio button toggles between Split mode (only high frequencies are affected) and Wideband (the whole signal is pulled down).
The original Native Power Pack is still the yardstick by which others are judged.
The Renaissance EQ is one of the best I've heard, and is one of the easiest to set up as well. A sizeable proportion of its graphic interface shows the frequency response, and you can grab any of the 'dots' to change gain (up or down), frequency (left to right), or Q (left to right with the Alt key held down). Current values are shown on the three rows of buttons underneath, and you can also change values here by dragging them with the mouse. REQ is installed as two‑, four‑, and six‑band versions, and each band can be switched in and out and toggled between a selection of filter types. The middle bands can either have a Bell (Baxandall‑style) response or a Resonant Shelf, while the two end bands can also be switched to high‑cut and low‑cut respectively.
The Bell response is asymmetric (more like that of a Pultec EQ than the classic Massenburg) so that, for a constant Q value, a cut will show a narrower shape than a boost. The Resonant Shelf is derived from the work of Michael Gerzon, and provides an overshoot/dip shape. The Q10 is still better for emergency corrective work, making a better job of things like hum removal simply because more bands can be piled up at the desired frequency. However, for creative work REQ is hard to beat and sounds wonderful.
The Renaissance Compressor combines elements of the C1 and L1, along with Waves' new ARC (Auto‑Release Control), which can be switched in instead of the more normal manual release. Two types of compression are offered: Electro generally has much faster release times, while Opto behaves more like an opto‑coupled design. Character can either be Smooth (untreated) or Warm, in which case low‑order harmonics are added with higher levels of compression — this is rather like the SoftSat feature in the TC Works range. The other five controls are those of a classic compressor — Threshold, Ratio, Attack, Release, and Gain. There are a huge range of presets covering most situations, and the RCL looks good, sounds good, and should cope with just about any job where you don't need a side‑chain.
The original Native Power Pack is probably the best known of all plug‑in bundles, and despite having been around for some years, is still the yardstick by which others are judged. Some people complain about the ever‑present Waves dongle, but personally I have never had a single problem using it, and find this type of software protection far more user‑friendly than being repeatedly asked to insert CD‑ROMs in the middle of a session. This second pack is complementary to the first, but won't suit many people as their first bundle, unless you are also prepared to buy a stand‑alone reverb such as the Cakewalk FX3. Both MaxxBass and the DeEsser work well and are very useful, but it is the 'audiophile' quality of the REQ and RCL that will sell this package to committed users. Both are extremely well designed and sound excellent, and my only grumble is the price — you can upgrade to the Native Gold pack (I and II) for £299 if you already have the original NPP and dongle, but the full price of the NPP II is £399. Martin Walker