3 Waves Audio Alternatives to Switch Up Your Productions

Waves has one of the largest catalogs of music production plugins you’ll ever find. But if you’ve been following them recently, you’ll know they fumbled the launch of their Creative Access subscription service.

But whether you’re disappointed by their recent business practices, or you’re just curious about other plugins, there are other options. Here are a few Waves Audio alternatives with unique collections of mixing, mastering, and effects plugins.

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Quick Look: The Best Waves Audio Alternatives

None of these alternative brands can match the sheer number of plugins that Waves has. But chances are, you’d never use them anyway. 

Each of these three brands offers a more compact selection that’s just as good as anything from Waves. Between them all, you’ll find a healthy mix of modern and vintage-inspired plugins.

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Best Modern Plugins
Best Vintage Emulations
Great All-Around
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This Dutch software company goes out of its way to invent brand new music production tools that inspire creativity and deliver pro-sounding results. They offer some of the industry's absolute best plugins for EQ, compression, reverb, distortion, and more.

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Slate offers 60+ virtual effects plugins, most of which are spot-on emulations of vintage gear. There's also an incredible library of educational courses. You can pick up all of Slate's products at once in the All Access subscription.

Description:

Known for their hardware and software synths, Arturia also offers a supreme collection of modern software effects, plus a range of plugins inspired by vintage gear.

Best Modern Plugins
Description:

This Dutch software company goes out of its way to invent brand new music production tools that inspire creativity and deliver pro-sounding results. They offer some of the industry's absolute best plugins for EQ, compression, reverb, distortion, and more.

Best Vintage Emulations
Description:

Slate offers 60+ virtual effects plugins, most of which are spot-on emulations of vintage gear. There's also an incredible library of educational courses. You can pick up all of Slate's products at once in the All Access subscription.

Great All-Around
Description:

Known for their hardware and software synths, Arturia also offers a supreme collection of modern software effects, plus a range of plugins inspired by vintage gear.

1. FabFilter — Best Modern Plugins

A huge part of Waves’ catalog consists of emulations of vintage gear. Same goes for the other two brands on this list.

But FabFilter is less interested in recreating classic gear. They’re more focused on moving forward with brand new plugins that modernize your sound and workflow.

Their collection is fairly small, but incredibly powerful. Instead of bludgeoning you with 20 cheap equalizers that all work differently, they have one highly versatile EQ plugin that can handle any mix.

It’s the same kind of story with all their other plugins. FabFilter has something for EQ, compression, reverb, distortion, and other effects.

FabFilter doesn’t offer any subscriptions. But you can pick up all their products at once and save with their Total Bundle.

FabFilter

This Dutch software company goes out of its way to invent brand new music production tools that inspire creativity and deliver pro-sounding results. They offer some of the industry's absolute best plugins for EQ, compression, reverb, distortion, and more.

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2. Slate Digital — Best Vintage-Inspired Plugins

A variety of Slate Digital plugins.

Slate Digital has a slew of plugins modeled after analog gear. Their massive collection features realistic emulations of vintage compressors, preamps, guitar pedals and amps.

They also have the super-impressive Virtual Microphone System. In short, the system takes a neutral-sounding condenser microphone and filters the audio with traits from classic microphones and preamps.

Slate Digital ML-1 Modeling Mic & Virtual Microphone System

The Virtual Microphone System lets you transform the ML-1 Condenser mic into a vast array of classic microphones. Run any signal through the VMS and instantly get the sound qualities of your favorite vintage mic.

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On top of all that, Slate has a number of music production courses and masterclasses. These educational materials can be a great alternative to Waves’ own courses.

That said: If you were upset by Waves’ attempted switch to a subscription-only model, you might be turned off by Slate as well.

Slate’s website makes it incredibly difficult to purchase individual products. Instead, they’ll aggressively push their All Access Pass. This is a subscription service that gives you access to 60+ plugins and all their courses. 

If you don’t mind the subscription model, then it’s a fantastic deal. But if you’d rather buy plugins one at a time, you’ll find that info buried at the bottom of each product page.

Slate Digital

Slate offers one of the absolute largest selections of virtual FX plugins on the market today. They have spot-on emulations of vintage gear, contemporary effects, and the powerful ANA 2 synth. Plus, there's the ever-expanding selection of educational materials.

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3. Arturia — Also Great

Many people know Arturia for their lineup of audio interfaces, hardware synths, and MIDI controllers. But they also have an impressive line of software products.

Like Waves, many of their mixing and FX plugins are designed to mimic vintage gear. You’ll find compression modules, plate reverbs, and even some filters modeled after classic synths.

They also offer a handful of modern plugins that produce effects like rhythmic stuttering and saturated distortions.

You’ll find that Arturia’s robust collection of effects plugins will instantly inspire creativity and quickly deliver pro-sounding results.

Arturia Software Effects

A supreme collection of modern software effects, plus a range of plugins inspired by vintage gear.

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Why Are People Upset With Waves Audio?

While many of Waves’ plugins are incredible, the business itself has a history of anti-consumer practices.

The latest controversy happened in March 2023 when Waves announced they were switching to a subscription-only business model. This was a sudden change that caused quite an uproar:

  1. There was no longer an option to buy plugins individually. If you wanted a Waves plugin, you had to subscribe to Creative Access.
  2. Anyone who bought Waves plugins in the past would need a subscription to update them. Again, there was no other way to do it.
  3. The change was immediate and came without warning. So customers didn’t have time to buy or update their plugins before Waves went to the subscription-only model.

Understandably, people were upset. And for many, this would be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

After a few days of backlash, Waves reversed the decision and started offering both subscriptions and perpetual licenses again. But for many, the damage was already done.

Why We Chose These Waves Audio Alternatives

Controversy aside, it’s undeniable that Waves has some of the best plugins in the industry. As such, I wanted to highlight brands that met the following criteria:

  1. They must offer a comprehensive range of mixing, mastering, and effects plugins.
  2. All plugins in their catalog match the quality and performance of anything from Waves.
  3. Their plugins all have to be available for standalone purchase.

FabFilter, Slate, and Arturia are all respected brands with a full suite of plugins for EQ, compression, reverb, and other creative tasks. Dig a little into their libraries and you’ll easily find something to replace your old Waves plugins.

On top of all that, you can buy individual licenses for each plugin. FabFilter and Arturia don’t offer any subscriptions. And while Slate Digital is very aggressive about their subscription plan, you still have the option to pick and choose their products.

Find More Mixing, Mastering, and Effects Plugins

While these are our favorite Waves Audio alternatives, there are plenty of other amazing brands that create mixing and effects plugins. If you want to explore more options, check out our favorite VST plugin companies.