My Top 7 Waves Plugins for Mixing Metal Guitars

Plus some EQ, Compression, and Limiting Tips!


For a long time, Waves plugins were ridiculously priced and were only for those “top metal mixer” guys. Thankfully, Waves has recently adopted a completely new pricing model and they have made their plugins much more accessible to everybody. Oh, and using Waves Central is a big plus, which means you don’t need an iLok anymore to use Waves plugins!

Anyway, the top 7 Waves plugins for mixing metal guitars, in my opinion, are:

  • 1. Q10 Equalizer;
  • 2. API 550;
  • 3. API 560;
  • 4. SSL E-Channel;
  • 5. C4 Multiband Compressor;
  • 6. Renaissance Axx
  • 7. L1 Limiter.

How to EQ Hi-Gain Metal Guitars

One of the big reasons why I like the Q10 Equalizer so much is because of the very narrow bandwidths that you can set up. You literally can EQ a single point of the frequency and that kind of accuracy is amazing.

This is also one of the most affordable EQs out there now, since you’ll find the Q10 Equalizer on sale for as low as $29 quite often. You can click here to see what kind of price it is at the moment.

Waves Q10 Equalizer Plugin
My go-to EQ plugin, the Q10.

When it comes to actual EQ of hi gain metal guitars, you want to employ the EQ Sweeping technique. This basically means that you’ll grab a band on the Q10 Equalizer, increase the gain and narrow the Q, and as the guitar is playing, you will look for annoying resonances or frequencies. The best way I can explain this is that you’ll know it’s a bad frequency when it’s a whistling noise that just doesn’t seem to go away regardless of what is happening on the fretboard.

Now that you found the frequency, you’ll want to adjust the width of the Q to either include more of the frequency range (if it’s a bigger area than just the narrow Q you’re working with) or to keep it the same. From there, you want to start attenuating.

Now it’s never a good idea to just blast a frequency and kill it with -18dB of attenuation. That frequency is still important to the overall sound of the guitar, you’re simply trying to neutralize the annoying aspects of it. You’ll want to very slowly attenuate the frequency until you basically can’t hear the offending sounds anymore.

As you are doing this process, you should A/B the sound often and quickly so that your ear doesn’t have time to get used to the sound.

In my online course for creating metal tones with amp simulators, I dedicate quite a bit of time showing this exact process. Click here to check that out (and get a big discount as well!)

Adding Color to Metal Guitars

It’s one thing to clinically EQ hi-gain metal guitars and get rid of annoying frequencies, it’s altogether a whole different thing if you want to add color or unique character to the tone. This is where 3rd party plugins like the SSL E-Channel, API 550, and API 560 come into play as they will not only EQ, but introduce their own characteristics into the guitar sound. I’m basically giving away my secret recipe again.

Waves API 550 Plugin
The API 550 - I love adding color with this.

I love to use the API 560 to add a boost to either the 7K or 10K on guitars. Only 2dB or so. It just does something for me that I really like the sound of. Additionally, sometimes I may even dip out some of the 800Hz region of guitars to see how it sounds. I’m a bit of an old school guy so I do enjoy a nicely scooped sound.

The API 550 has specific frequency ranges that you can adjust, often you may be doing work in the 2kHz or 4kHz range, so it’s just convenient to have that already there. The API, in general, is a favorite in the metal genre because you can get a kind of edge to your sound when you push them a bit. Again, this is all about taste and I generally like the way the API sounds.

Both of these plugins quite often can be found, again, for $29 on sale. Especially during holiday sales.

  • - Check the price of the API 550 here.
  • - Check the price of the API 560 by clicking here.

Sometimes, however, I reach for the SSL E-Channel. I will use this if I want to add some soft hi-mids in the 3kHz to 5kHZ range. It boosts the area but still remains quite neutral and soft. I may even boost around 12kHz sometimes if I feel the guitar may be lacking some air. However, when it comes to guitars, I typically stick to using the APIs.

A long time ago, the SSL E-Channel was only found in the SSL 4000 Collection, which was a hefty price. They recently allowed you to buy it all on its own, and I wish I could have picked it up in the same manner when I got the SSL 4000 Collection!

Anyway, since then, I’ve seen this thing go on sale once for $29, which was ridiculous. Typically, it will go on sale for about $100. It could dip even lower on Black Friday sales or holiday sales. Click here to see what Waves has the price at right now.

Metal Guitars: To Compress or Not to Compress

So, basically, here is the deal. With down-tuned metal guitars, you’ll want to employ some kind of compression somewhere in your chain to help keep things smooth and uniform. I mean, you’d still have to compress if you were playing in Standard E, but you wouldn’t have to be so careful about it.

After you’ve double or quad tracked your guitars, you’ll start to really hear some low-end build up around the 150Hz-300Hz area. There are two ways you can deal with that.

The first way is to do preliminary compression with the Renaissance Axx to do about 3dB of gain reduction on the really loud chuggity-chug-chugs and the end of each guitar chain.

Waves Renaissance Axx Plugin
Slap this on your guitar tracks to even them out.

The second way is to put the C4 multiband compressor and employ a version of the Andy Sneap trick. I prefer to have only the first band enabled up to 250Hz, and maximum the range. When the guitars get to super chug parts, I’m looking for about 3-5dB of gain reduction, or until I hear the boxiness and muddiness disappear.

In combination of both working together and with proper EQ, you’ll be able to get the low end of your guitars tightened right up.

Once again, thanks to the new Waves pricing policy, you’ll find these on sale literally all the time. The C4 and Axx regularly go on sale for $29.

  • - Check out the price of the C4 Multiband Compressor.
  • - Check out the price of the Renaissance Axx.

Brickwall those Metal Guitars with Waves L1

Yep. I literally can’t work on guitars without the L1. There is no magical science or any secrets here. Using the L1 to decrease the last levels of dynamic range of the guitars really brings them up in the mix and makes them sound loud, fierce, and in your face. The added benefit of the L1 is the Output level which you can adjust, allowing you to keep your main instrument faders and unity.

The L1 Limiter, again, goes on sale quite often but the lowest I’ve seen it is usually only $39. However, by the time you’re reading this that could have changed. In any case, Black Friday and holiday sales will be the best time to grab the L1, as well as all of the plugins I’ve mentioned in this article.

  • - Click here to check the current price of the L1 Limiter.

And thanks to Waves for finally coming up with a decent and normal pricing policy!

If you guys have any questions, you can contact me and I’ll be happy to help out as much as I can. Also, I used all of the plugins in this article in my Udemy course about metal guitar tones in case you were wondering.

‘Till next time, have a good one!

-Scott

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