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Waves CLA Nx Plugin | New Features, Comparison to ALL Nx Products, Review, Demo & Analysis

Waves CLA Nx Plugin | New Features, Comparison to ALL Nx Products, Review, Demo & Analysis

Is the new Waves CLA Nx plugin worth it?

💥Check out the NEW CLA Nx Plugin Here: bit.ly/3f3cowH

This article dives DEEP into the new CLA Nx plugin and WHY you need it if you want to mix and master music on headphones. If you want to just skip all the text and watch a video review, just click here.

This plugin is an exact acoustic replication of CLA’s famous LA studio and brings that sound into any pair of headphones. This video explains:

✔ Why making music in a home studio is so challenging
✔ WHY mixing on headphones causes us to make dumb decisions
✔ How the CLA Nx plugin can solve these problems

I walk you through ALL the features of this new plugin and give you my recommendations to get you started making better music!

Finally, I compare the Waves CLA Nx plugin to ALL OTHER Nx products including Ocean Way Nashville, Abbey Road Studios 3, and the original Nx Virtual Mixing Environment.

 

The problem with home studios

I’ll start by saying that there is nothing wrong with a home studio. They are great! BUT, they are designed to be a home, not a studio.

so more often than not, the dimensions are wrong and not ideal for making music. So the acoustics can be way off and fixing these issues after the fact is challenging if you want an ideal listening environment to mix or master your music.

Or maybe you live in an apartment and can’t put acoustic treatment on the walls or just don’t have the money or time to acoustically treat your room. So we are stuck with wherever room we fit all of our music gear into, sacrificing our ability to hear audio clearly. 

 

Mixing on headphones

One solution is to mix and master using headphones, but that is notoriously challenging because we as human beings don’t perceive sound that way. We rely on crosstalk to spatially pinpoint the direction of the sound. Crosstalk is just a fancy word for we get both direct and diffuse sound in our ears when we hear sounds in a real space. 

Waves - What Is Crosstalk

Crosstalk is sound from one speaker that goes into both our ears.

 

Our brain can then reconstruct an image of where that sound came from… and this doesn’t happen on headphones! Instead the music feels like it’s running through the middle of our head.

So trying to position elements in a mix is confusing and we can do weird stuff when mixing or mastering.

 

A possible solution to mixing and mastering on headphones?

The new Waves CLA Nx plugin simulates the actual space of a studio using what’s called an impulse response. It essentially a way to capture the exact same sonic sound of a specific room at a specific location. You might have heard of reverb effects that use impulse responses – this is the same idea.

However, Waves captured the sound of one of the most iconic mixing rooms EVER for rock and metal – CLA’s famous LA studio. 

CLA Studio

Image of CLA’S LA Mixing Room

How to use Waves Nx CLA when mixing and mastering on headphones

Let’s start by what the plugin does NOT do.

  • It is NOT a reverb.
  • It is NOT a plugin designed primarily for processing your audio; rather, it is designed for monitoring your audio.
  • It is NOT an EQ correction plugin. It simply provides three-dimensional acoustic emulation of CLA’s mixing room.

 

Is this any different from the other Nx plugins?

Fundamentally, it does the same thing as the other Nx plugins – it creates a virtual space to help you when mixing and mastering on headphones. This plugin is different in that the virtual space is different and you have different speakers you can emulate listening through.

There is a new speaker monitoring feature – the “boombox” – which allows you to preview your song through a “lofi” sounding speaker system. I actually find this really helpful to know if your kick and bass guitar can still be heard when playing your music.

 

Comparison of ALL Nx Waves plugins for headphone mixing

 

Waves - Nx Virtual Mix Room

Waves – Nx Virtual Mix Room

 

Waves Abbey Road Studio 3

Waves Abbey Road Studio 3

 

Waves - Nx Ocean Way Nashville

Waves – Nx Ocean Way Nashville

 

Waves CLA Nx Plugin - Full Review, Comparison to all Nx Products

The New Waves CLA Nx Plugin GUI

 

CLA Nx plugin features

Studio monitors

There are 3 different sets of custom studio monitors that you can use:

  • Nearfield monitors: CLA-10 (custom NS-10 model) + subwoofer
  • Farfield monitors: Chris’s custom modified Ocean Way HR1s
  • Boombox : A special oldschool radio to check how mixes translate to small-speaker devices

Ambience knob 

I’m so glad they have this feature! This allows you to precisely dial in the amount of room simulation you want to hear. I tend to like a little more dry sound with this set to 65 or 70.

Setting it to 100 will mimic the exact sound captured at CLA’s studio. You can even go over 100 if you want a more live sound. I think this feature should be required on every future Nx plugin period.

Headphone EQ

If you happen to have one of the headphone models listed, you hit the jackpot – this will help fix the imperfections of those headphones to match a target curve that is more balanced and well suited for mixing and mastering. It can sound weird at first, but trust me it is much better.

Here are a  list of headphones that Waves includes a FREE EQ correction for in the CLA Nx plugin for free.

  • Audeze EL-8 (Closed-Back)
  • Audeze iSINE 20
  • Audeze SINE
  • Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
  • AKG K-702
  • Beyerdynamic DT-880 (250 ohm)
  • Beyerdynamic DT-990 (250 ohm)
  • Sennheiser HD-280 Pro
  • Sennheiser HD-600
  • Sennheiser HD-800
  • Shure SRH-440
  • Sony MDR-7506

I highly recommend you correct your headphones either using this plugin or something like Sonarworks SoundID Reference. If you do use Sonarworks or some 3rd party plugin, be sure to put CLA Nx or any other Nx series plugin BEFORE Sonarworks correction. This will ensure that the stereo EQ correction works as it should.

Sonarworks SoundID Reference

Sonarworks SoundID Reference – Corrects EQ of Headphones

 

And just so you are aware, you do NOT want to use BOTH the headphone correction built into the plugin and something like Sonarworks.

 

Head modeling

CLA Nx offers a head modeling feature which uses Waves proprietary Nx technology to include channel crosstalk, inter-aural delays (ITD), and filters (ILD) to more accurately recreate the way you would perceive the audio if sitting in CLA’s studio.

You literally measure your head and enter in the values.

 

Rotate studio

This knob allows you to rotate the studio around your position. This is basically a manual version of the head tracking which to me is almost pointless because the head tracking features are so much more immersive and realistic than controlling your orientation manually.

 

Head tracking

If you are strictly mixing and mastering, I feel that this feature is a little bit of a gimmick. I don’t think it helps you make better mixing or mastering decisions because I never turn my head when I mix or master music.

But what it does do is make this plugin INCREDIBLY FUN and truly immersive.

You can track your head movement one of two ways – either with a webcam or by using the Waves Nx head tracker

 

Waves Nx Head Tracker

Waves Nx Head Tracker

 

If you want the best experience, the Waves head tracker does a better job of closely tracking your movements compared to the webcam.

The head tracking feature is pretty seamless whereas the webcam can lab behind sometimes. There’s also a bonus feature to link both the head tracker AND webcam to make it SUPER responsive, but that is for another article.

You can turn around in 360 degrees and both of those devices can identify your head position. When you have the tracking feature on, it really feels like the sound is coming from a pair of speakers and not the headphones. It’s absolutely wild.

If you want to hear it for yourself, I give examples in the video review below and compare it to the other Nx products by Waves.

 

How does it sound?

Hear it for yourself! The video below does a deep dive into the new Waves CLA Nx plugin, shows you all the features, compares it to all the other Nx series plugins, and gives some recommendations for using it and initial thoughts and experience I’ve had using it to mix and master music on headphones.

Before watching the video, you should be wearing headphones to get the full experience. Listening on studio monitors will just sound confusing and not give you an accurate representation of the sound of the various Nx series plugins.

 

Video timestamps

0:00 Intro
00:27 Problem with Home Studios (and possible solution)
02:05 Download my favorite FREE plugin guide (free gift)
02:49 What this plugin does NOT do
03:17 Overview of ALL the Waves Nx Virtual Mix Environments
05:14 How To Set Up Plugin Correctly (Including Right Plugin Order With Sonarworks)
06:21 CLA Nx Plugin Feature Overview
12:43 Head Tracking Feature (Webcam and Waves Bluetooth Head Tracker)
16:34 Comparison of Waves CLA Nx to ALL Waves Nx Products (Full Mix)
17:20 Waves Nx Abbey Road Studio 3 Plugin Demo
18:04 Waves Nx Ocean Way Nashville Plugin Demo
18:54 Waves CLA Nx Plugin Demo
19:57 Can You Actually Mix Better With Waves CLA Nx Plugin?
23:25 *SUMMARY, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND ADVICE*

 

Like this video?

👇👇👇

 

💥PLUGINS & SOFTWARE IN VIDEO💥

🔗Waves CLA Nx: bit.ly/3f3cowH
🔗Waves Oceanway Nashville: bit.ly/3iPDyYA
🔗Waves Abbey Road Studio 3: bit.ly/3qKvoDx
🔗Waves Head Tracker + Nx Virtual Mix Environment: bit.ly/3rLVDv6
🔗Sonarworks Sound ID (headphone correction): bit.ly/3BOIuG8

 

Could you actually use Waves CLA Nx to mix professionally on headphones?

I’ve been VERY skeptical about this as well.

From my experience so far, I’ve had the best luck up until this point using Ocean way Nashville Nx plugin to mix on headphones. Full disclosure, I also use Sonarworks to flatten my headphones, but like I said earlier the EQ feature included in this plugin is definitely a step in the right direction and will really help your mixes translate.

=My initial thoughts are that the CLA Nx plugin is hands down the best one Waves has ever done. Period.

I’ve gone as far as to analyze the impulse responses in this plugin and I found that the CLA speakers + Sub setting actually has a pretty linear frequency response throughout the bass and midrange. This frequency region is the most important to get right for mixing and mastering. I checked the frequency response by extracting the impulse response myself.

CLA Nx Impulse Response of "Mains"

CLA Nx Impulse Response of “Mains”

Now the large mains are not as flat and have a few room modes and dips around 31, 81, 100, and 154 hz and a nice exaggerated bump between in the sub range around 45-50 hz.

But for some reason I think this is actually really helpful because when you listen to the mains, they will let you know if you’ve overdone the sub bass region especially the kick drum and bass guitar. It will be very obvious.

Additionally, this gives you another perspective on your mix. So if you quickly pull up a reference that you know sounds amazing and listen to it on the main speakers, you will know if you got the low end right on your song.

The boombox feature is great as well – it’s literally the only extra feature I wished the Ocean Way Nashville plugin had. Its great for checking to make sure you can still hear your bass and kick drum when all the low frequencies are filtered out. You can think of this like a car test, but without the car.

 

Summary

This is hands down the best Nx product to date – in my opinion better than the original Nx Virtual Mix Room plugin, Abbey Road Studio 3, and Nx Ocean Way Nashville versions. I prefer a drier sound with the ambience set to about 65%. And for under $50 (sometimes as cheap as $29), I would recommend picking up a copy if you plan to mix or master on headphones.

Links to all the plugins shown in the video are below.

🎁You can also grab a copy of that PDF download I talked about in the video that contains all of my favorite free plugins for mixing and mastering music here: bit.ly/plugin-bo…

 

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About The Author

Bobby Balow

I'm an audio enthusiast, entrepreneur, and owner of Raytown Productions – an online mixing, mastering, and production studio. I love challenging artists and musicians to create art that is honest and resonates with others.

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