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Waves Magma Tube Channel Strip – Mix Real-World Review

Mike Levine put the Waves Magma Tube Channel Strip Plug-In, with its modeled tube-drive circuit, to the test.

Waves Magma Tube Channel Strip – Mix Real-World Review
MIX VERDICT: Waves Magma Tube Channel Strip
THE TAKEAWAY: “Turn a few knobs, and boom, your track sounds great.”
COMPANY: Waves •
PRICE: $34.99 introductory, $149 list; Also available through Waves Creative Access.
• Authentic-sounding, adjustable tube emulation.
• Compressor is versatile and sounds great.
• VU meter can be calibrated.
• Limited parameter control.

As you’d expect from a channel strip plug-in, the Waves Magma Tube Channel Strip provides EQ, filtering and dynamics processing—but unlike most, it also offers an impressive modeled tube-drive circuit for dialing in authentic-sounding saturation.

The plug-in is divided into four sections. The Input section includes the Drive knob, which controls the input level and the tube-style saturation. The harder you hit it, the more saturation you get. Waves used the same modeling technology in its standalone BB Tubes saturation plug-in, which sounds terrific. Depending on where you set the knob, it can give you everything from slight breakup to significant overdrive.

The Input section also features a polarity reverse switch and a three-position highpass filter with settings for Off, 60 Hz and 110 Hz. I was surprised at the lack of frequency options. I often set a highpass filter well above 110 Hz.

The EQ section provides three bands. The high and low bands have a single knob each to control shelf filters at fixed frequencies. The high is set at 2.5 Hz; the low isn’t specified but seems to be around 110 Hz. Waves did an excellent job of choosing the center frequencies to maximize the utility of the fixed bands in the EQ, but I found myself wishing for more control.

The most adjustable band is the midrange, which uses a bell filter and has a frequency knob in addition to the boost/cut switch. You can set the center frequency anywhere from 100 Hz to 5 kHz. The filter gets wider when boosting.

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The Expander/Gate and the Compressor each offer one-knob control with a mode switch. On the former—whose knob affects how much the gate opens and closes—I used it on a kick drum track and quickly found settings that reduced bleed without clamping down on transients. I had less luck on a noisy guitar track and wished I had attack and release knobs.

The Compressor sounds excellent. Its knob governs both threshold and makeup gain. Its normal mode gives you relatively transparent compression. Switch into Smash mode, and you get a higher ratio and faster attack and release times. Turn it up high, and you can crush the sounds in a cool way. I particularly liked how it sounded on drums.

The final section is the Output, which features a large volume fader and a VU meter, which you can calibrate to your DAW using a “screwhead” knob.

To test the plug-in, I inserted it on every channel of a couple of mixes I was working on, and it performed impressively. The ability to add tube saturation—whether light or heavy—on any track came in handy. Waves designed the Magma Tube Channel Strip to be easy to use, and it is. For less-experienced mixers, that simplicity will be particularly appealing. Turn a few knobs, and boom, your track sounds great. More adjustability would make it even better, but it’s excellent- sounding as is, and I plan to use it plenty.