This year, audio plugins giant Waves is looking to make a splash with its SoundGrid technology and range of associated products. Ever since its launch some 26 years ago, Waves has been a company fuelled by innovation. Launching with the world’s very first audio plugin in the form of the Q10 paragraphic equaliser, it has continued to evolve at a rate of knots, its products and solutions a ubiquitous presence across studios and live events the world over.
As with any trailblazing business, the key to its success lies in its unwillingness to stand still and rest on its laurels. While its activities in the plugins market continue to gather pace, Waves is also sharpening its focus on the increasingly exciting, and, indeed, lucrative
AV/install sector. What’s more, it is currently breaking new ground with its SoundGrid software and hardware solutions, which are designed to bring ‘real-time processing and networking and the power of Waves tools to any system’.
To find out more about SoundGrid and Waves’ plans for 2019, PSNEurope caught up with the company’s EVP sales and marketing, Mick Olesh… Waves has been working extensively on its SoundGrid products.
What can you tell us about the philosophy behind the technology?
The basic idea with SoundGrid was to create what was, until now, a non-existent platform. By working through this novel technology, we can now transfer Audio-over-Ethernet through various Waves SoundGrid units and third-party compatible/SoundGrid integrated hardware, resulting in the ability to use I/Os or servers in a quick and effortless fashion; the latter, by using one Ethernet cable per a device (Cat 5e/6 STP or Cat 7), which greatly reduces cable runs and interference. This allows streaming of high counts of digital audio channels (up to 128) and the ability to process that audio through plugins at ultra-low-latency (as low as 0.8 ms), all taking place over a 1Gb network.
SoundGrid is a proprietary Ethernet Layer-2-Protocol and EtherType. In layman’s terms, that means SoundGrid is a way to move audio data between devices that are connected to the same local network and “speak the SoundGrid language”. These devices automatically
convert SoundGrid to different audio formats and vice versa. Audio is routed and streamed between devices – I/Os and servers, all connected to the same network. I/O devices convert SoundGrid packets to and from other audio formats. Servers receive audio from I/O devices, take care of plugin processing, and send the processed audio back.
To allow for continuous, uninterrupted traffic, only SoundGrid devices should be connected to the network. In other words, SoundGrid is a private network. You can still use different network ports on your computer for other networks (such as internet). This makes SoundGrid a great fit for any environment – from simple project studios to live venues, to complex networked AV Installations and broadcast facilities.
What are your plans for SoundGrid in 2019?
Waves SoundGrid technology and its various applications are continuing to evolve. We are perpetually at work to broaden SoundGrid capabilities, updates and features, together with expanding SoundGrid’s availability to more third-party companies that have realised the benefits of being SoundGrid compatible. The latest release (V10) of the eMotion LV1 Live Mixer has delivered a new I/O sharing feature, where you connect your LV1 mixers to the same network switch and share stage boxes between them. This means you can get your sources from the stage to multiple destinations at the same time, with separate gain control for each engineer and without having to split the signal with dedicated gear.
Similar developments are in the works for the SoundGrid Studio Application (which runs on your host computer and manages all software and hardware connected to the SoundGrid network) - a newly designed rack system and additional hardware I/O and format conversion boxes.
Talk us through the latest launches.
Our most recent products include the Axis One: a standardised computer, custom-designed and optimised to run Waves LV-1, packed in a half-rack 2U case; the SoundGrid Server One-C: a plugin processing powerhouse, which relieves your computer from plugin processing, enabling you to run hundreds of SoundGrid compatible plugins in real time, live or in the studio; the SoundGrid Extreme Server-C: a compact and powerful, light and robust DSP unit, which can effortlessly process hundreds of SoundGrid-compatible plugins in real time, live or in the studio as well, while taking the space of only half the width of a standard rack; the SoundGrid Mobile Server, great for traveling, mixing small live shows, or for the studio; and the eMotion LV1 Live Mixer V10, now with new features and including I/O sharing.
Do you have any examples of recent projects that have incorporated SoundGrid - and if so, how have they benefited from the technology?
To name but a few, FOH engineer for Twenty-One Pilots, Shane Bardiau, is using the Waves SoundGrid Extreme Server on their Bandito tour. He conveyed to us that with them being only two guys on stage they are still at 78 inputs, and that the Extreme Server has enough power to run 28 rack spaces and all 33 of his plugins simultaneously while staying under 70 per cent capacity. Another example is mega church Saddleback Church in Lake Forest California. Its technical director, Aaron Ruse, needing to be in control of a full five-to-seven piece band, supporting six-to-eight singers and at times, a 60-80-person choir, a pastor and guest speakers, as well as frequent live shows by touring artists.
The church is using two Waves MultiRack systems running through SoundGrid Extreme Servers. They also use Waves MultiRack together with a SoundGrid Server One in order to run a large selection of Waves plugins at all of its broadcast locations. Elsewhere, FOH engineer James Gebhard uses a Waves SoundGrid Extreme Server for plugin processing on the current Whitesnake tour. He claims that mixing with the Waves LV1, together with not being limited in his use of plugins, has enabled him to achieve studio level sound, and to go from being a live engineer to being a live producer.
Also utilising SoundGrid is the musical Jagged Little Pill, for which sound designer Jonathan Deans is using two Waves SoundGrid Extreme Servers (one main, one backup) and Waves MultiRack, which offers the processing power needed to run plugins in real time during the show. To quote Deans: “Without plugins, it would be quite a different show. I would not have been able to achieve the tonality required for the performances, with the goal of creating a sonic experience fitting for an audience of all generations. Plus, using this setup has enabled me to respect and stay true to Alanis Morrissette’s music, her overall wishes, and the expectation of the fans – including me.”
The AV and install market is becoming evermore lucrative. Is this an area you will be looking to make further inroads to in 2019?
Definitely. SoundGrid is naturally being embraced and implemented by the AV and installation market. If we only consider the obvious prerequisite of the aforementioned smooth and easy networking, in this field, where reliable and optimal networking is a must, SoundGrid is the perfect solution.
What are the biggest areas of opportunity for Waves and SoundGrid at the moment? And the biggest challenges?
Waves is passionate about music and sound quality and has always striven, and still strives, to provide the very best tools possible for use in the artistic and creative process, as well as to develop and provide solutions that enable unparalleled sonic quality for all audio applications. To do so, Waves invests a substantial amount of resources in R&D. We have a yearly plan that goes through an ongoing revision process, since in order to stay ahead of the game one must be attentive to ever-changing paradigms. As Waves has an obligation to cater to every kind of user out there, including all musical genres and all fields - be it studio, live, broadcast, post production, sound design and more, we need to be able to react accordingly and accommodate diverse user requirements.
There are ever-changing paradigms in the industry today, such as the quality of tools that people expect, where and how they use these tools, the manner in which they are exposed to marketing and their purchasing habits. These continuous changes force us to adjust and perfect our strategies on an ongoing basis, not to mention the challenge of keeping our nearly 200 plugins up to date and ready to use in every host and every platform.
What else does Waves have in-store this year besides SoundGrid?
In the relative short term, Waves will be releasing additional products to its expanding line of state-of-the-art virtual instruments and there will be substantial developments within our Nx headphone technology. We are especially excited at the prospect of revealing and demonstrating a unique and compelling soon-to-be released innovative plugin that will dramatically change how you mix. This upcoming release is being developed in collaboration with one of the most prominent engineers in the industry today.
Following Waves’ hugely successful Abbey Road product releases in 2018 - The Abbey Road Chambers and Abbey Road TG Mastering Chain plugins - in 2019 we will be releasing a brand new product encompassing one of the most unique, workflow enhancing and ground-breaking technical achievements that this prolific relationship between Waves and Abbey Road has ever produced.