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Waves CLA Vocal Plugin Review: Easy Mode for Vocal Mixing

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Waves CLA Vocal Plugin Review

As a producer or engineer, you're no doubt always on the lookout for tools to enhance the most important part of any song: your vocal recordings. Waves are renowned for their plugins, so the CLA Vocal Plugin from Waves is sure to be of interest.

This blog post reviews the CLA Vocal Plugin from Waves, giving an honest and comprehensive overview of its features and performance. I take a detailed look at the plugin's user interface and sound quality, comparing it with comparable vocal plugins from other manufacturers. Whether you're an experienced producer or just starting out, this review will give you the information you need to make an informed decision about whether the CLA Vocal Plugin is the right choice for your needs.

I've been producing music for over a decade, with my songs on shows like 90 Day Fiancé and streamed millions of times. In my view, Waves' CLA Vocal Plugin is awesome for beginners, and still has some fun stuff under the hood for veteran composers.



Note: some of the links below may be affiliate links, meaning that I receive a commission if you purchase through them.


A little Background


CLA Vocal Plugin was designed by Waves in conjunction with the renowned mix engineer Chris Lord-Alge (the eponymous CLA). CLA is the producer behind the vocal sound of Green Day, Stone Temple Pilots, James Brown, Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, and countless other legends. In other words, he is a legend among audio engineers.

The plugin offers flavors of the top producers, with presets that highlight the very best settings the plugin has to offer. Unlike more complex stand-alone plugins, CLA Vocal Plugin was designed to transform everyday mixes into CLA's radio-ready rock sound with just a few buttons and knobs.


CLA Vocal Features


The CLA Vocal VST includes everything you need to get great rock vocals, whether you're slapping it on the vocal channel or vocal bus, or running it parallel on on of your aux tracks. While it's toolset is simple, just about any setting can work, depending on the styles of the singers you're applying it to.


The Layout of CLA Vocals is Streamlined, if a little dated


From left to right, it features an input and pan knob as well as an input meter. From there you have bass control (so you can get the right amount of bass and fullness into your vocals), a treble control, compression, reverb, delay and pitch control. Each of those main controls features three modes, which can help you to quickly dial in a tight sound. Finally, it features a knob to set the output level.


Useful EQ and compression controls


One of the most impressive features of the Waves CLA Vocals plugin is its streamlined EQ and compression controls. With two different EQs, and three compressor modes, users can easily shape their sound to get the perfect vocal tone with just a few tweaks without needing to understand what's going on under the hood. The plugin also features a variety of preset settings and an intuitive user interface, making it easier than ever to quickly dial in the sound you want. 

While a pro mixer might scoff and the simplicity, I think beginners can massively benefit from the streamlining provided by the plug in, allowing them to focus on improving their ear and sensibility for balancing a mix before digging deeper. As a more experienced mixer, I still find that it can often be super helpful to use CLA Vocal to get my initial vocal sound, then start tweaking it with additional plugins.



Simple, intuitive interface


One of the best features of the Waves CLA Vocals plug-in is its simple, intuitive interface. The main window is divided into four sections, each of which can be used for different aspects of processing. The top section controls the level of the vocal track, the middle section is for EQ and compression, the third section is for reverb and delay, and the bottom section is where you can add tone and character. Each section is clearly labeled, making it easy to find and use the parameters you need to get the sound you want.


Easy-to-use presets


The Waves CLA Vocals plug-in is a great tool for improving vocal recordings. One of the best features of this plug-in is the easy-to-use presets. These presets are designed to provide a range of vocal sounds, from classic vintage sounds to modern, radio-ready tones. You can select from a variety of presets, and then modify the settings to make your own custom sounds. The presets are easy to access and are conveniently organized into categories, so you can quickly find the right sound for your project.


Low CPU usage


The Waves CLA Vocals plugin is one of the best tools to get the most out of your vocals. Not only does it offer a wide range of effects and adjustments, but it also uses a low CPU usage so you can run multiple instances without taking a toll on your computer's performance. This makes it ideal for those who want to record multiple vocal tracks without worrying about system lag.


Shortcomings: No Built-in de-esser and noise gate


The CLA Vocal plugin is a great tool for quickly polishing vocals and getting a great sound without having to go through complex effects chains. However, one of the surprising shortcoming of the plugin is the lack of a built-in de-esser and noise gate. These two tools are essential to creating a clean, modern vocal, and their absence here is disappointing. And it's definitely a con that it doesn't include these features.

That said, most DAWs include both tools, so you can always place them before CLA Vocals in your signal chain.


Alternative VST Plugins


There are several other Waves plug-ins that do similar things like Butch Vig Vocals and JJP Vocals. I've found that it's easiest to get a straightforward, present vocal with CLA Vocals, but that you can get some dirtier more "alternative" sounds with Butch Vig. JJP Vocals doesn't really do it for me.

If you're looking for something a bit more complex, Waves makes the Scheps Omni Channel which is a really nice all in one plugin, though you definitely need to know what you're doing to get good results with it.

Waves CLA vocals also really pairs well with a couple of other Waves plugins for a complete vocal mixing toolset:


You can save a ton if you grab the CLA mixing bundle, which includes 6 CLA plugins at a massive discount.


Similarly, iZotope's Nectar plugin (full review here) is a total beast, and something that I use on almost every track. But it's not for beginners!


Review Conclusion


I tend to agree with Greg Wells the mixer behind Adele, Dua Lipa, and Keith Urban. Greg says that “CLA Vocals is insane. If you want a great vocal sound in thirty seconds, open that thing up and play with it a little bit – Boom! You’re done. It’s amazing.” It's the sort of solution that lets you focus on mixing wholistic to really dial in the vibe of the song and an absolute joy to play with.

You can usually find the best price on CLA Vocals by purchasing a digital download direct from Waves.


From a Frustrated Producer in a Ragtag Bedroom Studio to Major Placements on TV Earning $1,000s!


My name is Evan, and I've been making music since around 3rd grade. I'm from San Diego, California, but I've lived in Washington, DC for the last 20 years.

After 3 grueling years of grad school, though I had put aside serious attempts at making music. I found myself spending my days doing work that was dreadfully uncreative, with a ton of student student loan debt.
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