A bunch of my peers scoffed when the YouTube videos for Waves Clarity Vx dropped, and so did I. There was no way this simple-looking noise-reduction plug-in could compete with iZotope RX, right? Then I downloaded the plug-in to see what it was all about, and I wasn’t scornful anymore.
B&H asked me to see how these two plug-ins stack up in a back-to-back comparison. A spoiler alert: after putting the plug-in through various mixes, I have come to the conclusion that I have to use both plug-ins in my workflow.
But this is my career. I can write off plug-ins on my taxes. Whether or not you need to shell out for iZotope RX, Clarity Vx, or both depends on your situation. I cannot make the decision for you. After you consider my results, you might make that choice for yourself.
iZotope RX, in a Nutshell
iZotope RX is the industry-standard software for cleaning up audio in need of repair. You can de-noise a vocal, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can also remove mouth clicks, eliminate room reverberation, remove sudden blasts of wind, fix warbly tape, restore lost frequencies to zoom recordings, re-pan elements in a stereo mix, break full mixes into individual stems, and more.
RX comes in three tiers, with each one providing more options and more control. RX Elements is for beginners, RX Standard is your next level up, and if you want to make a career out of this, you ought to buy RX Advanced.
When you download RX, you don’t just get a slew of plug-ins. You also get an audio editor that works as a stand-alone application. This editor is an absolute lifesaver. When you want to take out lav rustle, handling noise, or a stray siren from an otherwise usable bit of dialog, this is where you turn.
Clarity Vx, in a Waveshell
Unlike RX, Vx is designed to work in your DAW or NLE. There is no stand-alone editor. Clarity comes in two editions, with Clarity Vx being the less expensive one. It supplies a one-knob/one switch user interface.
Clarity Vx Pro adds more bells and whistles, such as multiband operation, ambience gating, and ambience re-introduction through the Reflections control.
Noise Reduction: a Back-to-Back Comparison
Here are some badly recorded vocals, begging for noise reduction.
If I were going to use RX Spectral De Noise, I’d loop some dead air to train the algorithm to learn the noise profile. Then I’d choose a Quality mode and tweak the threshold/reduction sliders to taste. I might also play with the reduction curve, which refines how the de-noiser will approach its target, or dive into the advanced settings.
On this recording, this is about the best I’m going to get.
That sounds overprocessed to me, so I’d probably go with something subtler, accepting the higher noise floor as a compromise.
With Vx, I’d simply select between two algorithms and tweak the big knob until it sounds good.
The operation is easier than RX, the plug-in is cheaper, and the results are what they are.
If Clarity Vx is already good, what does Clarity Vx Pro have that warrants the extra money?
So far, it’s been fantastic for nightmare scenarios, where broadband noise is such a problem that gating, noise-reduction, and a tunable multiband approach are all necessary.
The following audio would be nearly unsalvageable with common noise-reduction.
But with Clarity Vx Pro, we can get to something that’s usable, in a pinch.
This is what iZotope RX’s Dialog Isolate would sound like:
Remember that Dialog Isolate is only available in the stand-alone audio editor. You’d have to use it as an AudioSuite in Pro Tools, or with an external editor in other DAWs. Either way, it’s more steps, which means it takes longer.
So, Should You Choose Clarity Vx Pro over RX?
The short answer is no. While these new plug-ins from Waves are powerful, they have their drawbacks.
First, both are processor hogs, especially in Pro Tools. On my M1x MacBook Pro, I could only run a few instances of Clarity Vx in Pro Tools before running into session problems. Many users have had a similar experience. Performance is better in other DAWs, although you can run into occasional stability issues that necessitate a restart of your session if you use too many instances. There is no Native Silicon version yet.
Second, Clarity Vx is not as predictable as RX. Vx deploys neural nets to de-noise your signal, and sometimes these nets accidentally catch an occasional noisy artifact, particularly at the beginning of a region or a clip.
Third, there’s less overall use for Clarity Vx than there is for iZotope RX. Whereas RX can de-noise, de-verb, de-click, de-clip, de-hum, de-plosive, de-breath, de-wind, and perform myriad operations that don’t start with the letters “de,” Clarity Vx is for noise-reduction alone. Vx Pro can also isolate ambience, which is helpful. But that’s only two use-cases to iZotope’s myriad uses.
This is not to say you shouldn’t choose Vx at all. Far from it. The plug-in performs excellently, giving you great on-the-fly noise-reduction in an instant. It’s just not a replacement for RX. It’s a complement.
Which Plug-In Should You Buy?
Here are my recommendations for which user should purchase which product.
Hobbyist Podcaster (working with the same audio all the time): Clarity Vx if all you need is noise reduction, RX Elements if you need de-clipping and de-clicking as well.
Bedroom Producer (looking to reduce fan noise for demos and rough mixes): Clarity Vx
Video Editor (looking to reduce noise during film assembly): Clarity Vx
Aspirational Mixing Engineer (with a day job): RX Standard and Clarity Vx
Full-Time Music Mixing Engineer (on a deadline): RX Advanced and Clarity Vx
Professional Podcast Engineer (on a deadline): Clarity Vx Pro and RX Advanced
Professional Re-recording Mixer (on a deadline): Clarity Vx Pro and RX Advanced
Need to Save Time? You Know What to Do
The biggest strength of Clarity Vx is its ability to save you time while delivering fantastic results. If that’s important to you, purchase Clarity Vx to handle your in-line noise-reduction needs. It excels at what it does. If you need more than de-noising, RX is still the program to beat.
Which do you think will work best in your workflow? Or both? Make some noise in the Comments section, below.