There are producers aplenty that would argue one-click mixing is damaging, but there’s a niche without multimillion-dollar studio access that can appreciate chained audio processing plug-ins. Waves‘ Chris Lord-Alge Artists Signature Collection (MSRP: $830, henceforth referred to as CLA Sigs) offers some effortless impact to those who don’t want to carve individual frequencies. And yet, these aren’t casual tools.

As an engineer, Chris Lord-Alge has manned the desk for marquee modern-rock radio artists, and these plug-ins exude airplay ambition. The CLA Sigs put a chassis atop modeled versions of Lord-Alge’s favorite compressors, channel-strip EQs, reverbs, delays, pitchbenders, doublers, etc. to give tracks punch. Each of the six application-specific CLA Sigs (Bass, Drums, Vocals, Guitars, Unplugged, and Effects) is interfaced in a mini-mixing board GUI with eight sliders and six buttons, so there’s more than just hitting Insert. Project studios, however, can have modest processing power, so testing was in Logic Pro 9 on a 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro with 6 GB RAM. As expected, these plug-ins are resources-hungry, so don’t anticipate running more than a few instances on a slimline rig (this may require, say, affecting bussed drums instead of separate kit pieces), but the end results aren’t limited.

Applied to stems recorded by Gigantor of Evol Intent/Computer Club, the CLA Sigs could both open up and subvert. Each plug-in’s components has three cheekily named presets to cycle boosts, cuts, widening, gating, re-amping, flanges, etc. It’s intuitive, but also easily abusable, making things bright, yet with sub-bass-eclipsed mids if not properly calibrated. Used conscientiously, however, these plug-ins compellingly sit vocals, accent drums (or creatively distort them), and push stringed instrument presence.

Sure, you can shape more idiosyncratic transients, apply custom impulses, etc, but if you’re blending live band elements and time is money, these EQ curves are cash well spent.