Waves Audio MultiRack Native

Plug-ins on the go from a virtual processing rack. 2/04/2011 7:04 AM Eastern

Waves Audio MultiRack Native

Feb 4, 2011 12:04 PM, by Steve La Cerra

Plug-ins on the go from a virtual processing rack.

The Session screen lets MultiRack users load up to 64 racks with eight plug-ins each.

For the past few years, I’ve been awaiting a hardware plug-in player that would run in the same manner I employ analog inserts on a live sound console. The ability to host plug-ins under a shell that has the I/O of a digital audio workstation without the recording capabilities would eliminate the need to carry a ton of rack hardware and allow use of my favorite plugs with most analog consoles. And as I already travel with a laptop, the only addition to my road pack would be the audio interface.

I’m familiar with Muse Research products, but they don’t have sufficient analog I/O, and they only run VST plug-ins. Waves Audio has answered the call with its MultiRack, a virtual rack that runs Waves Native plug-ins and works with a wide variety of audio interfaces.

MultiRack comes in two flavors: Native and SoundGrid. The subject of this review is MultiRack Native, which runs on PC or Mac. MultiRack SoundGrid runs in tandem with Yamaha’s WSG-Y16 mini YGDAI expansion card in a variety of Yamaha digital mixers. I ran MultiRack Native on a MacBook (2GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM) as well as on a Mac Pro Duo (2x2.66GHz dual-core, 5GB RAM), using MOTU Traveler-mk3 and 2408mk3 as well as Avid Digi 002 Rack interfaces.

Waves’ HDelay (Hybrid Delay) is one of two plug-ins bundled with the MultiRack software.

Waves’ HDelay (Hybrid Delay) is one of two plug-ins bundled with the MultiRack software.

It’s important to realize the MultiRack is a platform, and although Waves bundles it with IR-L (convolution reverb) and H-Delay (echo), you’ll probably need to purchase additional software. MultiRack does not host plug-ins from other manufacturers, and it requires an iLok (not included).

Just Load and Go

MultiRack has an easy learning curve; the only tricky part was assignment of hardware I/O to the virtual rack (details below). The software opens to an empty box, into which you install effects racks. One rack can include up to eight plug-ins. Double-clicking a blank panel opens a message asking how many racks you’d like to add and whether you’d like them to be stereo or mono. You can add up to 64 racks, and you can change a mono rack to stereo or vice-versa at any time without corrupting the signal flow. Click on “+” in the main rack window, and a plug-in menu drops down. Select a plug, and it’s loaded into the rack. Each rack has an on/off switch, bypass, mute, name window, group menu, meters and faders for I/O level, and buttons used to open the I/O menu.

A MultiRack Session contains the racks, I/O settings, plug-in assignment, and sequence per rack. Sessions run in either Show or Setup Mode. Setup Mode lets you change I/O, add or delete racks, and add/delete/edit plug-ins. Show Mode locks I/O assignment and negates the ability to add or delete racks or plug-ins (plug-in parameters may always be edited). In Setup Mode, I created a rack for each console channel I wanted to process, added the desired plugs, and then used snapshots to store settings on a per-song basis.

Snapshots don’t change the routing or plug-in complement per rack (no big deal) but they store plug-in parameters. This was a great tool for working with a band that had more than one lead vocalist, where I’d want a delay on the lead voice for one song and wanted to turn it off when the same person was singing backup. MultiRack’s Overview displays small graphics of every rack in a session, with the ability to open them by double-clicking.

In Setup Mode, a click on the button labeled “None” alongside the input or output faders opens an I/O menu. The first time I used the MultiRack through the MOTU Traveler, I hadn’t read the manual, yet after I patched the console’s analog to Traveler’s eight I/Os and assigned racks 1 through 8 to Traveler I/Os 1 through 8 respectively, MultiRack came to life.

Unlike most digital audio workstations, MultiRack assigns sequential numbers to I/Os without honoring the names used in the host’s audio system. So when I used the Traveler with Digital Performer on my laptop, inputs 1 through 8 show as up “MOTU Traveler Analog (1-8)” and inputs 15 through 22 (via ADAT Lightpipe) show as “MOTU Traveler ADAT (1-8).” In MultiRack, these simply appear as numbered I/Os. It was a bit confusing at first, but certainly not a disaster. Perhaps a future revision of MultiRack could acquire the I/O names used by the audio system.

Waves Audio MultiRack Native

Feb 4, 2011 12:04 PM, by Steve La Cerra

Plug-ins on the go from a virtual processing rack.

Am I Latent?

One thing that concerned me about using MultiRack in a live situation was latency. No matter how you slice it, A/D/D/A conversion plus sending the signal to a computer for processing equals a slight delay. In a live setting, it was not noticeable, mostly because there’s already latency (aka delay due to the speed of sound) from the backline and/or stage to the mix position. However, I did notice when processing drums that at times, I could hear a slight flam, typically when I MultiRacked the kick, snare, and toms, but not the high-hat and/or overheads. The processed tracks would be subject to latency, but the unprocessed tracks would not. For example, any leakage of snare into the high-hat mic produced a flam.

There are a few ways around this. First, MultiRack’s Preferences let you set the buffer size. Reducing buffer size increases the processor load while reducing latency and vice versa. You’ll have to tune this to your needs by listening for clipping and watching MultiRack’s SYS indicator. Second, MultiRack can organize channels into Groups, providing time-alignment of group members (automatically or manually) by delaying all channels to match the one with the most latency.

Some plug-ins are more latent than others (e.g. Linear Phase EQ, Linear Phase Multichannel Compressor, etc.), so it is obvious that Waves has done its homework in this area because the alignment worked perfectly. Latency may be more apparent in the studio, so you may have to record the return from MultiRack and manually align the processed track to match the position of the original.

As for the processors, in my review, I used a couple of new Waves plug-ins—the H-Comp and H-Delay—and they sounded great. I also liked the API bundle and used the 550b EQs across my drum inputs, especially on certain live consoles where the EQ left something to be desired.

Ready For Prime Time

Having the freedom to easily string a chain of processors into a channel with minimal patching provides incredible flexibility. As I don’t have the luxury of traveling with production, being able to use my virtual rack at the next venue (and console) was fantastic. I do, however, have a minor wish list for MultiRack: It’d be nice if mutes could be linked in a group, and I’d like the ability to create and recall templates. Last (I suspect this is easier said than done), MultiRack outputs cannot be shared. If they could, users could then save console channels by returning more than one processor back to the same input.

All that aside, MultiRack was easy to use and trust. I found it extremely stable, which is a must in live situations. And once you have the buffer size dialed in, you won’t hear a click, pop, or glitch. MultiRack may be the coolest addition to touring since Internet on the bus.

Product Summary

  • Company: Waves Audio
  • Product: MultiRack Native
  • Pros: Excellent sound, stable, easy to use, outstanding flexibility.
  • Cons: Latency could be an issue in certain situations.
  • Applications: House mix positions with analog or non-Avid digital consoles for stage performance or house of worship installations.
  • Price: $372 (including H-Delay and IR-L Convolution Reverb)


  • System Requirements: Windows XP or 7, Vista; Mac OS X 10.4.11
  • Compatibility: Supports Waves Native plug-ins, Version 7

Steve La Cerra is the front-of-house mixer and tour manager for Blue Öyster Cult.

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