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PCRECORDING.COM - - WaveWarp 2.03 Review

WaveWarp Effects Digital Effects Processor
Manuf: Sounds Logical
Price: $199.00 American
OS: 95/98/ME/NT
Min. Req.: Intel-based PC or compatible (Pentium 233 or higher), 16 MB, Win9x, ME, 2000, or XP

Overview

Software-based digital effects have been available for years for PC-based DAWs. Users oftentimes had to spend large amounts of money to get high-quality results, yet were limited to the particular combinations put together by the manufacturer. Now, several companies have begun to produce effects engines that allow the user to create his own effects package. One of the premier ones is WaveWarp by Sounds Logical.

I first encountered WaveWarp at the AES show in Los Angeles back in 2000. I spoke with one of its founders, Yusuf Jafry, PhD about it at the show and was quite impressed. In the meantime, I have studied it and its next update, version 2.03. which is the subject of this review.

Installation

WaveWarp is available only by download from Sounds Logical's website. The buyer is given a password upon purchase that will allow the full download. I downloaded the program without incident. (it is large so a broadband connection is ideal). Installation went smoothly. Upon first startup, the program prompts the user to send a challenge code to the Sounds Logical website. I did so and quickly received a challenge response which unlocked the program. The installation was very smooth and easy. Yusuf Jafry, PhD told me that in the next version of WaveWarp they will be dispensing with the challenge system.

Features:

I have lifted the feature directly off of the WaveWarp site below. Click here for a complete set of features from the WaveWarp website.

  • Modular architecture with over 260 highly-efficient "native" DSP components, no expensive peripheral DSP hardware required Seamless integration with your favourite audio sequencer via the real-time DirectX plugin interface.
  • Sample-by-sample execution of all modules, allowing arbitrary connections in series, parallel, feedforward, and feedback networks (impossible with conventional DirectX or VST plugins)
  • Multirate engine supports on-the-fly integer-factor sample rate conversion between modules, allowing the contruction of elaborate "multiband" designs
  • Supports 8-, 16-, 20-, 24-, and 32-bit WAV files of any sample rate
  • Supports multi-channel/multiple-soundcard live audio input and playback via any Windows-compatible soundcard(s) with WAVE driver(s) Controllable audio file playback engine for real-time non-linear manipulation of sample ordering (e.g. for implementing granular synthesis)
  • ASCII file interfaces for audio data, digital filters, wavetables, noise spectra templates, envelope control functions, etc., offering complete flexibility for user-customization
  • Includes a suite of MATLAB m-files for import/export of audio data, digital filters, wavetables, noise spectra templates, envelope control functions, etc, giving convenient access to the MATLAB technical computing environment for power off-line analyses and design

Useability

WaveWarp has a very extensive feature set that is simply too long to list in its entirety here. There are technical aspects to this program that I cannot even grasp. For purposes of this review however, it can be used as a "live" input processor, a stand-alone device, or as a DirectX plugin with other audio software. The main difference is that WaveWarp provides building blocks that the user use to "build" effects from scratch. The user can build the effects and processors in the stand-alone mode, save them, and then use them as DirectX plug-in effects in audio software. Virtually any combination of routing and device the user can think of can be implemented via the Drawing Board.

WaveWarp opens with a large page GUI that initially looks very busy. On first impression, it is a bit overwhelming and looks complicated. However, if the user takes advantage of the very well-written tutorial help section, the ease and power of WaveWarp becomes more apparent. It is advisable for a new user to go through the tutorials from the start - - this will let the user get up to speed much quicker than trying to go it alone. I found the tutorial to be very informative, easy to use and a great time-saver. In addition, the User's Guide features indexes of component libraries and example Drawing Boards that provide excellent starting points for a project. While WaveWarp does become easier to use with some practice the GUI remains too large for those users with a smaller screen. The user can control the size of the Drawing Board default settings to save some screen real estate.

Libraries:

As one can see from the screen shot there are a large number of tabs on the opening page. Each tab opens a library that includes a variety of functions the WaveWarp can perform, and, the various presets it has on hand for immediate use. It is also indicative of the breadth of functions this package can perform. The tabs only scratch the surface of the power of this software.

By clicking a tab, the user can select a wide variety of tools, functions and devices from the drop-down menu. These tools then appear in the Drawing Board below and can be connected via virtual cables. Each processor/device can be adjusted by double-clicking on it which causes a separate properties window to open up. The device's properties can be changed and saved as new name or to overwrite the original. Devices are connected by mouse-clicking the appropriate point on each device - - a virtual wire appears indicating the connection has been made.  

 

 

 

A set of hot-keys makes for quick access to common windows and tools.

Though the program has a large number of professionally designed presets that should prove adequate for most any application, if the user is looking for a particular effect he can build it from scratch. Provided one has a rudimentary understanding of how effects are "built", a grasp on routing signals and the like, this can be done with relative ease.

 

 

 

All connections are done on a Drawing Board depicted here. (Simple Delay). As one can see, the virtual cables indicate the routing, the little boxes identify the device processing the signal and the output sources. Simple devices like the delay here are as easily put together as more complex ones the user thinks up.

 

 

 

 

 


While the delay above is a simple device, a good example of how complex the devices can get is the PingPong Delay depicted here - - one of the presets available with WaveWarp. One can see the complexity of its routing and the capability of the program.

 

 

 

 

 

Compatibility:

WaveWarp worked in Samplitude 2496, n-Track Studio, and SawPro 2.8 as a DirectX plugin. It was a bit slow to load in SawPro for some reason but was instantly available in Samplitude and n-Track. Its function was like any other DirectX plugin.

Sound Quality

The most important question is whether this software sounds good. Well, the presets sound very good as one might expect. The phasers, flangers and delays all work and sound like they should. Controlling their collective effect on the audio stream is done in the common DirectX manner via audio software and through WaveWarp's own set of controls. As for the user-made effects sound quality, the skill of the maker and the logic of the construction determine the sound quality. Fortunately, WaveWarp makes it easy to experiment, try out combinations and connections. The beauty here is that totally unique effects can be constructed in the virtual environment here, tried on a recording in a non-destructive fashion and adjusted or discarded accordingly. The only limit is the ingenuity and imagination of the user.

Suggestions:

One of the problems with WaveWarp is that it is so capable, so broad in scope that it appears to be hard to fit it all in on one screen. I would suggest that the initial GUI not be so large, that the tabs structure remain but be collected and categorized more compactly. I found that when I went to edit an effect, the GUI would take up a lot of space on my 19" monitor, making it a bit of a challenge to keep track of the rest of the windows I had open. Minimizing the WaveWarp window was helpful but it became a bit cumbersome to click back and forth. Otherwise, this program is simply great.

Conclusions

WaveWarp works well as an effects processor whether in its stand-alone mode or as a DirectX device within audio software. It has capabilities for the advanced engineer/technician that go well beyond the scope of the typical small studio user. For the small studio user, it allows unsurpassed flexibility to build specific, unique effects not available elsewhere. The only limit is the skill and imagination of the user. It passes the "cool" test with flying colors and with practice becomes an invaluable tool in the studio arsenal. I see this as being a very useful program for virtually any person needing effects, be it audio recording, film/TV scores and the like. Will I use it? Absolutely, I already am using it regularly on my projects.

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