For most anyone involved with computer-based recording and production, the name Waves is synonymous with must-have signal processing. In a move that's actually becoming more common than most would think, this longtime software plug-in manufacturer now also turns out some interesting hardware processors. A couple of the latest additions to this list are the MaxxBass 101 and 102 processors. The MaxxBass 101 is housed in a one-unit rackmount chassis; the 102 is a pared-down half-rackspace version. Both of these new processors essentially add the impression of increased low-end bass response without using EQ. Sound interesting? Read on.
Derived from its original plug-in form, MaxxBass technology accentuates low-end frequencies (less than 100 Hz) by making use of the Missing Fundamental Theory, in which the upper harmonics of the root frequency are boosted. Essentially, it's a psychoacoustic process in which your ear is tricked into perceiving bass tones that aren't actually there. Thus, the appeal for engineers is the ability to boost the bass response of a signal without adding distortion and without taxing speaker systems, so obvious uses for this product are fixed installations at clubs and other appropriate live-sound applications. Gigging electronic musicians and even DJs may find this product useful, as well.
The MaxxBass 101 includes stereo ¼-inch TRS, balanced XLR and terminal-block connections. The front panel boasts various controls and indicators, including input level, stereo level/clip, bypass, intensity, frequency range (25 to 100 Hz), locking control and power. The chassis itself features a sturdy aluminum design and a matte blue finish. The unit feels completely roadworthy: Each of the dials, buttons and connectors is built to endure a long life within a fixed installation or to survive the constant abuse of a touring rig. I would have preferred a three-prong power supply rather than the included wall wart, but no harm, no foul. The MaxxBass 102 includes all of the functionality of the 101 model but uses only unbalanced RCA connections.
The MaxxBass 101 processor is not designed to be a complex piece of gear. Instead, the unit is engineered to enable users to quickly achieve their desired results. I tested the unit with mastered pieces of audio from a standard CD player and backing material from an ADAT in a large rehearsal space designed to emulate the average club setting. The test P.A. consisted of two older JBL enclosures that each housed a single 15-inch low-end driver and a horn tweeter. The stage included four two-way wedge monitors, each with a single 12-inch driver and horn tweeter. The mains received 200W per side, and the wedges received 100W each. The space was approximately 500 square feet with 20-foot ceilings, and the system had little difficulty achieving average club-level SPLs.
I first ran a run-of-the-mill CD player through the MaxxBass, and with a few quick adjustments, a warm, boomy low-end presence became apparent. It was easy to oversaturate the room with bass, but by backing off the Intensity knob, it sounded great. On the stage side of things, I used MaxxBass to help some backing bass-synth parts cut through the mix within a live-band setting. The singer noted that with everyone playing at full volume, the MaxxBass made it much easier to pick out the bass tones and stay on pitch.
Throughout the course of testing the unit, I became convinced that the MaxxBass would be great for small venues and one-off parties. For shows inside coffee shops, retail spaces and even more clandestine affairs, a single MaxxBass could easily take the place of a massive array of subs that eat up both space and rental dollars.
Club owners and P.A. rental companies should certainly have this product in their sights. For a meager investment, the bass response of a room or package P.A. can be augmented greatly. Musicians and producers should also be able to get a lot of mileage out of the MaxxBass, sweetening the low end of both live playback material and studio recordings. Users might find it especially helpful on MP3 or Real Audio files that are lacking in bottom end.
MAXXBASS 101 > $350
Pros: Augments low-end response without damaging equipment.