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Waves Vocal Rider Review

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Waves Vocal Rider Review

Audio production is one of the most demanding and time-consuming tasks in the world. The tools that producers use must be precise, reliable and deliver great results.

Waves Vocal Rider is one such tool that has become a staple in many professional music production studios around the world. In this blog post, we will be taking an in-depth look at the Waves Vocal Rider plugin and its capabilities. We will be discussing its features, its pros and cons, and how it can benefit music producers who are looking for a reliable vocal level balancing plugin. 

In short, Waves Vocal Rider lets you set the target range of the vocal level, allowing for more "in your face" vocals by constantly adjusting the relative volume of the vocals to the rest of the mix. It's a huge time saver that lets your focus your time and attention on the rest of the mix and balancing background instrumentation. It's probably one of the most used among my waves plugins, and there's a reason it's on my list of the best Waves plugins for vocals.



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Overview of Waves Vocal Rider's features


Waves Vocal Rider is an audio plug-in that automatically rides the level of vocal tracks, allowing engineers to easily adjust the vocal levels within the mix without any manual effort. It's designed to make the vocal volume sound natural and balanced while allowing engineers to customize the processing to their own workflows. One of the many good ideas included in the plugin is the music sensitivity control that allows you to sidechain other instruments to the Vocal Rider - from there you can automate it is so that when the other instruments are loud, the vocal is louder, or when the instruments get quiet, the vocals get loud - or vice versa! 



It also includes an automation track that allows you to write in your own fader rides. There is also the ability to choaose between a fast attack setting and a slow attack setting for more natural sounding vocals. Finally, there is a separate, adjustable output gain so you can make sure that the overall level is good for your signal chain.

All of these features make Waves Vocal Rider a powerful and versatile tool for quickly and easily balancing vocal tracks.


Ease of use


Waves Vocal Rider is highly regarded for its ease of use. The interface is uncluttered and all the necessary controls are conveniently located in the lower part of the plugin window. Just load the plugin onto your DAW track and set the target level. From there, you can choose the range min and range max you want to use for automatic level correction. There is an adjustable vocal sensitivity knob that lets you choose how much the fader reacts to the vocals.


Audio quality


The Waves Vocal Rider is equipped with excellent audio quality that makes vocals sound crystal clear and natural. It has a low-noise design and a smooth frequency response, which means that audio is reproduced accurately, without any distortion or background noise.

Also, the plug-in is optimized to work with any vocal style, from soft spoken to loud and energetic. As a result, it can make any vocal performance sound great.


Cost vs. Benefits


When it comes to Cost vs. Benefits, Waves Vocal Rider is a great choice for musicians on a budget. It's priced between an entry-level compressor and more expensive vocal processors, making it an affordable option.

Additionally, the cost-to-benefit ratio is outstanding, as the plugin provides a the exact right range of features and a great sound. In the end, the cost of Vocal Rider is definitely worth it, as it can provide a professional, polished sound to your vocals.


Pros and Cons of Waves Vocal Rider


The Waves Vocal Rider is a popular vocal compressor plugin that can help you achieve a consistent vocal level with minimal effort. It can be used for both manual and automated vocal compression, giving you the flexibility to shape your vocal sound just the way you like it. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of the Waves Vocal Rider to determine if it’s the right choice for you.




1. Low CPU usage and fast loading times

2. Excellent sound quality and natural-sounding compression 

3. Easy to use and adjustable parameters

4. Can be used for both manual and automated compression




1. Limited to vocals only, not suitable for instrument processing 

2. Regular version not good for live applications; but it also comes with a real time version, the Vocal Rider Live component which is great for automatic riding of vocals. If you're using it live, it also pairs really well as the first of waves other live plugins, like Waves Tune Real-Time (read the Waves Tune Real-Time review here)

3. Cannot be used to shape the sound of a track



Alternatives to Waves Vocal Rider


There are several alternatives to Waves Vocal Rider. First, you could try to focus on better tracking of the vocals to capture a consistent incoming signal that needs less processing. Depending on the vocalist and the song, though, this will only get you so far.

The next option is to adjust the physical mixing console fader and capture the track automation so that the levels of vocal tracks are consistent. This is the traditional method, and worth doing to some extent. But I like to use Waves Vocal Rider first as a true timesaver, then manually automate the right fader for a bit of fine tuning.

The next Waves Vocal Rider alternative is just to use some everyday compression on the vocal, like Waves CLA-2 or Waves CLA-76 compressor (or both). While using a compressor will limit the dynamic range of the vocal gain, the end result in more extreme situations may come at the expense of a transparent vocal. My preferred approach is to put the Waves Vocal Rider at the front of my signal chain, and then just use a touch of compression for tone shaping. It also pares really well with Waves CLA Vocals VST (read the CLA Vocals review here).

Finally, there are several other vocal rider plugins out there, like W.A. Audio's Outlaw. Outlaw is more expensive and offers less precision and transparency for vocals, but it does work better on other instruments, like bass. You could also try using Waves Bass Rider on vocals, which can work ok if the singer is a baritone, but generally won't be as sensitive at detecting needed vocal changes.




In conclusion, Waves Audio created another great plugin to have in your audio arsenal. It massively speeds up the vocal riding part of the mixing process. It is easy to use and offers a wide range of settings to get the perfect vocal level. It's also great for podcasts and video production, because it helps you easily maintain clear dialog levels.

The built-in presets and automatic gain control are great features that make it easier to get the right vocal sound. It is a great addition to any home or professional studio and can help you get the best vocal sound possible.


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