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Waves Audio MultiRack Native

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

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

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

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.

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