I have been using Waves Q-Clone for about a year now, and thought it was time for a blog post.
As I understand it, Waves developed this plug-in some time ago (at least 10 years). I’m not sure it ever caught on, but it sure is a useful tool. When it originally came out, it cost more than $1k, and now can be purchased for under $100. I bought it for $49, though it typically is $99.
Q-Clone enables you to model hardware EQ and apply those models to your audio track. For example, if you have a guitar track that needs EQ, you can send the track through the hardware, tune the hardware, and capture the applied equalization in Q-Clone. That Q-Clone “impulse” can be used on the relevant track or saved and reused subsequently on other tracks.
Functionally, there are two components to Q-Clone — Q-Clone and the Q-Capture. Q-Capture is loaded on its own track, sends an impulse through the signal chain, receives the impulse back, and models the equalization. Q-Clone is loaded into a track as an insert, and the impulse/model is loaded into the plugin. The impulse is fixed and cannot be tweaked without resampling.
I really like Q-Clone, and use it continuously. For hardware EQ, I have a Manley Massive Passive and a Crane Song IBIS. I prefer hardware to software in all situations. Hardware has more ambience and 3D depth lacking in software. I have not tried software emulations of the Massive Passive, and don’t really care to.
I find the Q-Clone mimics the tone of the hardware very well, but lacks the musicality, or extra dimensionality. This makes sense, as the EQ settings are really just math. The extra secret sauce must be harmonics created in the signal path that are not apparent to Q-Clone. This is probably what we refer to as “character”. Q-Clone models only EQ, so if you have something like a compressor in the signal path, it does not model the compression, but only the resulting EQ. Most compressors do impart a sound, so this would affect the Q-Clone model.
While I prefer the sound of hardware to software EQ, what I really like about using the Q-Clone against hardware is turning real knobs on the hardware. But, more importantly, hardware designers have a philosophy about how the hardware works. In the case of EQ, there are multiple bands that interact and influence each other. Frequency and Bandwidth overlap. So its not a question simply of “turn this knob and the EQ-band X will increase”. Q-Clone is indifferent to how the EQ gets to where it is, only about modelling the result. But the how it gets there is largely what differentiates hardware.
I use Q-Clone to set up my EQ for track recording. When I record my own playing, I don’t have the luxury of tweaking the EQ from the control room. So I record a scratch track with flat EQ, run the track back through Q-Clone, monitoring within the context of the mix, set up the EQ, and THEN record the final track through the hardware. This works really well for me. In the process, I always save the model which I sometimes reuse.
To that end, here are some qClone-profiles I created, mostly using the Massive Passive.
To summarize, Q-Clone works really well for me, given a substantial investment in great hardware EQ. If you don’t have the hardware, it will be hard finding libraries of impulse samples. The product comes with some impulses, but because they are static, would likely be of limited use.