Fig. 1. Bass Rider automatically rides levels for bass-instrument tracks.
MOST MIX engineers like to slap a compressor or limiter—or both—on the bass track at mixdown to breed big tone. But if the bass player’s dynamics are all over the map, the quiet notes don’t get compressed at all, while loud notes get squashed flatter than Metallica’s Death Magnetic album.
Traditional solution: Place the compressor post-fader, then ride the track’s fader so that its level is always in the threshold’s sweet spot. Better solution: Insert Waves’ Bass Rider plugin (Figure 1) pre-fader (before any EQ and dynamics processing), and it does the fader moves for you automatically in real time, saving you time and foregoing tedium. The crossplatform Bass Rider supports TDM, RTAS, AU, VST, and Audio Suite formats and can be purchased alone or as part of the Waves Mercury bundle.
Looks Familiar Bass Rider’s GUI is similar to that for its kissin’ cousin, Waves Vocal Rider. But unlike Vocal Rider, Bass Rider has no sidechain or built-in automation features because, frankly, it doesn’t need them. The streamlined feature set makes Bass Rider very easy to use.
On DI’d electric bass tracks played by ace session players, Bass Rider’s effect often sounded very subtle. That’s because those players had very steady dynamics that needed little if any correction. But used on a part played very poorly by an amateur bassist, Bass Rider helped even out the jerky levels. It wasn’t a perfect cure, but the plug-in remedied about 90% of the yo-yoing. Slapping Waves L1 limiter on the track downstream from Bass Rider took care of the rest. Bass Rider also made a big difference on a seesawing synthbass track, leveling the dynamics very effectively and saving me a lot of time and hassle.
When a player would intentionally goose a few notes for emphasis, Bass Rider would automatically dip them to keep the levels steady. I could override this unwanted action by clicking and holding the Rider fader (or dragging it upward to increase gain) with my mouse for the duration of the passage for which I wanted to preserve the original dynamics. As soon as I released the mouse, Bass Rider resumed riding levels. Sweet!
Transparent Sound In a blindfold test listening to a smoothly-played bass phrase, I couldn’t tell whether the plug-in was active or bypassed as long as it was set to Slow response. The Fast response setting produced a hair less air and depth, but provided the best control of levels on busy bass tracks.
Bass Rider produced negligible CPU drain. Digital Performer 7.21 and Pro Tools 9.0.5 each compensated for the plug-in’s inherent 42ms latency. Use the included low-latency version of the plug-in, Bass Rider Live, when you hit the stage.
If you work only with unfailingly rocksteady bassists, you probably don’t need Bass Rider. For the rest of us in the real world, Bass Rider is another useful Waves plug-in that takes the tedium out of mixing.
Michael Cooper (myspace.com/michaelcooperrecording) is a mix and mastering engineer and the owner of Michael Cooper Recording in Sisters, Oregon.
STRENGTHS: Saves time and fuss at mixdown. Transparent sound (using Slow response). Super-easy to learn and use.
LIMITATIONS: Probably not necessary on virtuoso tracks.
TDM $300, $200 MSRP