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Waves CLA Nx Plug-In – A Real-World Review

Waves' latest Chris Lord-Alge plug-in, CLA Nx, is a virtual mix-room emulation of his Mix LA control room.

Waves CLA Nx Plug-In
Waves CLA Nx Plug-In
THE TAKEAWAY: “If you want to simulate listening to various monitors in an excellent-sounding control room while mixing on headphones, you’ll be quite pleased with CLA Nx.”
COMPANY: Waves •
PRICE: $34.99
• Realistic in-the-room acoustics.
• HeadTracking option is a matter of taste, and not necessarily for everyone.

Waves is a leader in developing virtual-mixroom plug-ins for headphones. The first was Nx, followed by releases such as Abbey Road Studio 3, Nx Ocean Way Nashville and Nx Germano Studios.

But the Nx concept goes beyond a simulation of mixing on monitors. It allows users to monitor through an emulation of the superb and well-treated acoustics of a particular space by using convolution technology to model the acoustics of world-class studio control rooms. Unlike a standard headphone signal, in which left and right are discrete, the Nx plug-ins simulate a studio’s room reflections, which means you hear some left in the right, and vice versa, just as you do when listening to speakers.

Waves’ latest Nx plug-in is CLA Nx, which models the acoustics of Chris Lord-Alge’s Mix LA control room. Waves has collaborated with Lord-Alge on numerous high-quality plug-ins over the years, and the Nx plug-ins I’ve used before have been excellent, so I definitely wanted to check this one out.

The monitor choice in CLA Nx includes a pair of Avantone CLA-10 monitors (NS10 emulations endorsed by the engineer) with an added subwoofer; and soffit-mounted Ocean Way HR1 monitors, each with two 15-inch drivers. You can also switch to a Sony ZMS-1 boombox. The plug-in’s GUI features an Ambience knob, available in all three monitor simulations, allowing you to dial in more or less of the room sound.

When you open the plug-in, the Nx HeadTracking application is launched. It functions by making use of your webcam or the optional Waves Bluetooth Head Tracker (or both together) to track your head movements and adjust the orientation of the audio image accordingly. You also have the option to manually rotate your position in the studio up to 180 degrees—no webcam needed.

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In my previous experiences with Nx plug-ins, I’ve never found head tracking to be that useful. I’d just as soon turn it off and hear a consistent stereo image as I’m facing forward in my mix position. For me, the shifting image is more of a distraction than helpful. Nor have I ever found it useful to rotate the mix position. I’m sure there are plenty of others who do. That’s why it’s nice to have options.

With or without the head tracking turned on, the two main speaker options in CLA Nx sound quite realistic. I imagine most users will listen mainly to the CLA-10 + Sub setting and switch to the Ocean Way monitors for an alternative perspective, or to check bass elements. When you do flip the switch, the plug-in realistically captures the full-range sound of large studio monitors.

The Boombox option is handy. You sure do get a different perspective on your mix, with a lot less bass and more upper-midrange emphasis.

Like the other NX plug-ins, CLA Nx features a switchable Headphone EQ section that lets you apply a curve specific to your headphones to make them as “flat” as possible, so that you’ll get the most from the monitor simulations. Waves has significantly expanded its list of supported headphones from 12 to 270.

Whether CLA Nx is better than Abbey Road Studio 3 or Ocean Way Nashville, or Germano Studios is hard to say because they’re all high-quality. And taste is taste; we have choices.

What I can say with certainty is that if you want to simulate listening to various monitors in an excellent-sounding control room while mixing on headphones, you’ll be quite pleased with CLA Nx.