The Waves Clarity VX is a noise-reduction plugin designed for music producers, recording engineers, artists, content creators, video editors, sound engineers, etc. Specifically crafted for vocals, this plugin employs AI-driven technology and works on other sounds to eliminate or reduce ambient noise in real-time.
The plugin offers the flexibility to isolate voice from the ambiance or vice versa, performing noise reduction with minimal impact. For simple applications, a singular knob manages the blend between the fully separated voice and ambiance, typically sufficient for basic needs. You also get advanced settings for precise adjustments to the processing intensity and gain across four customizable frequency bands. Now, let’s understand the plugin in more detail.
Before we jump to the details, consider checking our noise reduction roundup where we included VX Pro as well.
The plugin looked quite simple at first until I opened its advanced controls. It took me a couple of minutes of manual diving to get the hang of all the controls. But after that, it was a smooth ride. I was impressed by how clean it sounded, especially for indoor recordings.
Cleaning drum recordings are a bit complicated, so I didn’t expect much, but it definitely exceeded expectations. With busy and complicated background sounds, like outdoor recordings, it introduces some artifacts but overall is above par with most industry standard noise reduction plugins.
Waves Clarity VX Pro Interface
On opening, the plugin just displays its main knob and has all advanced functions and features hidden. You can turn them on by clicking the ‘ADVANCED CONTROLS’ switch.
With its advanced mode on, the plugin may seem like a complicated interface but is quite straightforward, given how much functionality it packs. It consists of up to six frequency bands you can isolate, monitor, and treat separately.
You can also change the interface’s skin between light (black) and dark (white) modes.
Main Controls: Ambience/Voice dial and Process Amount
This control governs the blend between the voice and ambiance, influencing the overall processing intensity. Rotating the dial clockwise diminishes the ambient elements, resulting in a more pronounced purple hue on the control.
At its maximum setting, only the voice remains audible. Conversely, turning the dial counterclockwise gradually reduces the prominence of the voice, intensifying the blue coloration. The graphical display visually represents these color changes, illustrating the equilibrium between voice and ambiance.
The process amount function interconnects the individual band process faders within the graphic display. Adjusting the process amount control upward or downward simultaneously modifies the process intensities across all bands while preserving their relative ratios.
Neural Networks: Algorithmic Settings
Clarity Vx Pro offers three distinct neural networks, each characterized by varying statistics, signal-to-noise ratios, and processing weights and biases acquired during training. The network selection depends on the input source and the desired emphasis on voice characteristics.
- Broad 1: Isolates primary and secondary voices from ambiance, preserving the main voice and some secondary voices while separating them from ambient sounds.
- Broad 1 HF: Similar to Broad 1 but with a heightened focus on high frequencies. It separates primary and secondary voices from ambiance, reflecting different training biases.
- Broad 2: Focuses on isolating the primary voice from the secondary voices and ambiance. This choice emphasizes the main speaker or singer, separating them from ambient noises and secondary sounds like background voices or environmental sounds such as traffic or construction sites.
- Broad 2 ECO: Works on dialogues and speech only but brings down the CPU load by a considerable amount.
Switching between these neural networks is swift, taking approximately 150 milliseconds. In real-time use, the network name may briefly gray out during loading, while in offline processing, networks appear grayed out even when ready for use. You can also enable the auto button for the plugin to select the algorithm based on the input signal automatically.
Meanwhile, sensitivity dynamically adjusts the input signal-to-noise ratio, enhancing analysis performance under specific conditions. It’s essential to note that these configurations don’t alter the audio signal but rather modify the sidechain input into the neural network.
Other Advanced Settings
Further, you also get an ‘Ambiance gate’ section with attack, release, mix, and threshold settings. You can also employ the ‘Reflections control’ to manipulate the processor’s release time. The Reflections parameter in the neural network process manages release times post-analysis. Lower settings prioritize accuracy, producing a precise sound, which may diminish the voice’s spatial presence and natural reflections.
Conversely, higher reflection values preserve the natural tail of the original signal but could reintroduce some of the initial ambiances. It’s important to note that settings exceeding 150 ms may yield a pleasing sound but pose a risk of smearing, resembling a plate reverb effect. Optimal settings typically fall within the range of 30 ms to 200 ms, striking a balance between maintaining natural qualities and avoiding potential sonic artifacts.
Still, there is a possibility of reintroducing some noise during the reflection tail, especially if the input signal contains a loud room sound. Finally, you get a peak limiter by the end of the plugin. Initially, I was slightly baffled about why Waves would put a limiter in a noise reduction plugin.
But one application it could serve is this. So, when you monitor the signal for any noise, you want to listen to it at its maximum level/volume. That’s when a limiter comes in handy to ensure that even if we increase the gain, the output is at optimum safety levels and doesn’t blast your speakers or harm your equipment.
Performance, Sound, & Applications
Clarity Vx DeReverb demonstrates pretty solid performance in tackling various acoustic issues, from extreme room reverberation to more subtle examples. The plugin effectively removes reverb without introducing noticeable artifacts, providing a cleaner and more professional sound to vocal recordings. While the plugin does have a slight delay in real-time usage, it is acceptable for mixing and post-processing.
The single-knob Clarity VX is also sufficient for hobbyists, practicing & aspiring sound engineers, and video editors. But for more advanced and professional sound engineering applications, like dialogue editing, podcast editing, treating location sound, restoration of old recordings, etc., the Clarity VX Pro can be of great help.
However, if you are a bedroom producer/artist looking to clean room sound from your recordings, the Waves Clarity DeReverb is a great alternative. Waves Clarity VX Pro’s ‘Reflection’ and ‘Ambience/Voice’ controls will also be helpful in those cases.
Indoor Location Sound
I tried Clarity VX Pro on a sound recording in an indoor location with air conditioning sounds, conversations in the background, etc. The neural network algorithm Clarity employs can distinguish between dialogue and background noise. It is satisfactory at eliminating unwanted elements, providing a clean result with no apparent room or reverb.
In an office without staff, it remarkably reduces mid-range artifacts, making the environment sound considerably cleaner, especially by eliminating the noise from a fan. While unsuitable for ADR due to occasional ducking, the ambient setting showcases the tool’s precision in isolating background sounds.
Even at 100%, the plugin maintains clarity. Adjusting reflections introduces reverb, though the reviewer notes a slightly artificial sound. However, applying a subtle office reverb can further enhance the overall cleanliness, effectively concealing any remaining artifacts.
Outdoor Location Sound
It works decently with indoor situations, studio, and home studio recordings. But how about outdoor sounds? Well, I also tested it there, and this is what I found. When adjusting the plugin for outdoor sounds in a bustling environment, going too extreme can introduce artifacts, but the beauty is finding that sweet spot.
The background birds become nearly inaudible by cranking up the settings, yet the dialogue remains crystal clear. This sets Clarity apart from tools like Voice De-Noise, which tends to sacrifice dialogue clarity when trying to eliminate background birds by raising the threshold.
Clarity does a fine job of distinguishing between different elements, even with ambient sounds turned up. It’s remarkable how well it performs with minimal tweaking – adjusting the voice settings yields impressive results. This flexibility allows you to fine-tune the balance, keeping desired elements like car sounds while suppressing more bothersome noises like birds.
- Artificial Intelligence:
Clarity VX Pro utilizes advanced AI and neural network processing to distinguish and effectively remove background noise, reverb, and ambient sounds, delivering clean and natural dialogue.
- Adaptive Real-Time Processing:
The plugin operates in real-time, making it suitable for live dialogue restoration during recording or post-production workflows.
- Low Latency:
While not real-time for recording, the plugin operates with low latency, making it suitable for mixing and post-processing without noticeable delays.
- Effective Ambience Control:
The ambient gate and sensitivity controls allow users to manage ambient sounds precisely, providing a seamless balance between dialogue clarity and environmental nuances.
- Natural Sound Preservation:
Even at 100%, the plugin maintains a natural and usable sound, avoiding artifacts commonly associated with reverb removal tools.
- User-Friendly Interface:
With intuitive controls, customizable modes, and a straightforward layout, Clarity VX Pro ensures ease of use for beginners and experienced users.
From removing room reverb to handling outdoor noise and background music scenarios, Clarity VX Pro proves versatile in addressing various audio challenges.
- One-Knob Simplicity:
The plugin’s user-friendly design simplifies the noise reduction process, making it accessible for users of all levels of expertise.
- Advanced Controls Enhancements:
Clarity Vx Pro includes advanced features like multi-band control and additional ambiance controls, providing more options for fine-tuning audio.
Compatibility and Installation
The Clarity VX Pro by Waves is available in AAX, VST3, VST, and AU plugin formats and is compatible with Windows 10/11 and macOS Catalina 10.15, Big Sur 11, Monterey 12, Ventura 13, and Sonoma 14 operating systems. You require a minimum of 8 GB RAM (Waves recommends 16 GB) to use this plugin.
Regarding installation, you must register with Waves, download and install the Waves Central application, and install the plugin. In Waves Central, go to Install Products > All Products, look for Clarity VX Pro, and click ‘Install’ to install it.
It’s amazing what technology has come to and the things that are possible with AI in 2024. Sound engineers and designers used to struggle with noise removal and audio retrieval for hours a few years back. With tools like Clarity VX, our work as sound professionals has become way less tedious.
Clarity VX is not perfect, but it’s quite close to it. It sounds clean, has an attractive and friendly interface with minimal knobs, has a variety of algorithms and customizations for different applications, and is definitely a versatile noise-removal plugin. It’s not entirely artifact-free, but it is more than acceptable. Priced at roughly $250, it’s also quite heavy on pockets, but it compensates for that with its functionality and sound.
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.