DIY Waves SoundGrid Server

DIY Waves SoundGrid Server

I am a huge fan of Waves Plugins in live sound. Some of my favorites are the Waves PSE, Waves C6, Waves CLA-76, and the Waves CLA-2A. In fact, that is my vocal plugin chain that I use on a weekly basis! If you are thinking of purchasing some Waves plugins, scroll to the bottom of this post as I have a 10% off coupon for you! But in this article I want to show you how you can make a DIY Waves SoundGrid Server to offload the Waves Plugin processing to, and use it live!

Native vs. SoundGrid

If you use the Behringer X32 or Midas M32 and are interested in using Waves plugins live, there are two ways of doing so. Both ways use the program of Waves SuperRack (which used to be Waves MultiRack, however SuperRack is the new 64-bit program which replaced MultiRack).

Native Processing

Native is the easiest way to get started with Waves Plugins and is perfect for running a small amount of plugin chains. The only downside is the extra added latency.

One option is using SuperRack Native, which utilizes your USB connection of your X-Air / X32 / M32 / Wing and computer’s CPU to process the audio with Waves SuperRack Native. Latency is added into the signal chain because the computer is doing the processing, which requires a buffer.

This buffer is how much of the audio file is brought into the computer’s short term memory at a time. Having a small buffer means low latency, but higher CPU processor load. Having a larger buffer means higher latency but a lower CPU processor load.

You can calculate the amount of latency by the following calculation:

Samples / Sample Rate * 1000 = ms of latency

A 512 sample buffer at 48000kHz sample rate would equate to 10.67ms of latency on top of the time that it takes for your audio console to do its A/D or D/A conversions between analog and digital.

Native is the easiest way to get going with Waves Plugins and if you are only running a few plugin chains, it really is perfect for it. The only downside is the extra added latency.

SoundGrid Processing

To overcome extra latency on plugins, Waves created SoundGrid technology…

To overcome extra latency on plugins, Waves created SoundGrid technology which at the core is an audio over ethernet protocol. Here is an excerpt from Waves explaining the protocol:

SoundGrid is a proprietary ‘Ethernet Layer 2 Protocol and EtherType’ Audio-over-Ethernet networking and processing technology developed by Waves. Audio is transported and routed between networked I/O devices and is processed on plugin servers connected to the same 1 Gbps Ethernet network. The I/O device converts SoundGrid packets to standard and proprietary audio protocol schemes.

SoundGrid runs on standard CPUs under custom-optimized Linux OS, resulting in predictability, stability and low latency that were previously exclusive to dedicated DSP-based systems. Consequently, SoundGrid can run hundreds of compatible Waves and third-party plugins in real time, as well as extremely CPU-intensive plugins that are beyond the capabilities of DSP-based systems.

Audio is interfaced with SoundGrid by integrating a SoundGrid-programmed FPGA (Xilinx Spartan 3) into a mixing console’s I/O ports. The FPGA receives I2S or other audio signal formats and converts them to the SoundGrid format. The FPGA is also used to transfer control messages between control nodes external to the SoundGrid network and the SoundGrid control application.

For the Behringer X32 and Midas M32, SoundGrid allows us to use a controlling computer to run the SuperRack SoundGrid program on, and then have all of the processing on a SoundGrid Server. The benefit of this is we can run the SuperRack SoundGrid program on a slower or cheaper computer, for instance a laptop. Then all of our plugin processing is done via the Server.

Waves SoundGrid Latency

When I tested the latency of Waves SoundGrid I did so using the Behringer X32 running at 48kHz sample rate and using the Waves X-WSG card.

Waves X-WSG Card - Waves X-WSG Latency

Using the X-WSG with all 32 channels routed from the Inputs of the X32, then routed to the channels, the latency measured at 0.83ms!

You do need to factor in the latency of plugins when considering latency as well, which I made a list of some of my favorite plugins below:

  • Waves API 2500 Compressor: 0 samples
  • Waves C6 Multiband Compressor: 67 samples (1.40 ms @ 48 kHz)
  • Waves CLA-2A Compressor/Limiter: 0 samples
  • Waves CLA-3A Compressor/Limiter: 0 samples
  • Waves CLA-76 Compressor/Limiter: 0 samples
  • Waves SSL E-Channel: 1 samples (0.02 ms @ 48 kHz)

If you want to read more about latency of SoundGrid vs. Native processing and the testing that I did, check out my article on Waves X-WSG Latency.

DIY Waves SoundGrid Server

Up to this point I have been explaining the benefits of SoundGrid, but now its time to build one! There are a few requirements that you do need to meet.

  • The CPU Processor needs to be Intel
  • The NIC Network interface needs to be Intel

There is a possibility that in your specific hardware might work if you have something other than an Intel CPU or Network interface, but most of the Official Waves Servers on the market have an Intel CPU and an Intel network interface chip.

CPU’s & Motherboards (August 2022)

  • SoundGrid Mobile Server: Intel® Skylake Core™ i5-6200u (CPU)
  • One-C SoundGrid Server: Intel® i3-10300 (CPU) & Gigabyte GA-IMB410N (Motherboard)
  • Extreme-C SoundGrid Server: Intel® i7-10700 (CPU) & Gigabyte GA-IMB410N (Motherboard)
  • Titan SoundGrid Server: Intel® Core i9-10900K (CPU) & Gigabyte W480M (Motherboard)

For the most part, Waves has used Gigabyte motherboards in most of their servers out on the market so if you are planning on purchasing new parts for this, it would be best to stick with Gigabyte motherboard, additionally, those motherboards come with Intel network chips.

Computer I used for this example:

I ended up grabbing an older computer that has an Intel i7-4820K with a Gigabyte motherboard that I had laying around. There is no need for a large video card, as no data is used with the GPU other than the boot screen, so using onboard graphics is fine. As for power supply, a standard 300-500 watt power supply will work great. Extra bonus points if you get one of the redundant power supplies!

As for RAM, you can go with a minimum of 4GB, I had 8GB in my current example. The Waves Titan SoundGrid servers come with 16GB so that is completely up to you, but SoundGrid will not use a lot of RAM, it will use CPU the most.

Installing the software

STEP 1: Install a SoundGrid Application

You can download Waves SoundGrid Studio for free at this link.

STEP 2: Find the .wfi file and copy to your Desktop

On Windows, open your File Explorer and navigate to:

C:\ProgramData\Waves Audio\SoundGrid Firmware\SGS

Quick tip is to type in %ProgramData% into the File Explorer bar as the ProgramData is a hidden folder.

The .wfi file is going to come with any SoundGrid application. This file is also specific to the version of Waves you are running. If you are on V13, you will need the corresponding file for V13, if you are running V10, you will need the V10 .wfi file.

As of August 2022 the V13 .wfi file was named “SGS_13.7.wfi”, the V10 .wfi file that I needed for the Avid S6L was named “SGS_10.1.wfi”.

Once you find the file, please copy and paste this file to your Desktop.

STEP 3: Download & Install Rufus

Navigate to https://rufus.ie/ and download Rufus and install to your computer.

STEP 4: Download & Install 7-Zip

Navigate to https://www.7-zip.org/ and download 7-Zip and install to your computer.

STEP 5: Insert an Empty USB Drive into your computer

Insert an empty USB drive into your computer. The file size is very small so you really don’t need anything larger than 4GB, but I used a 64GB stick that I had laying around for this example.

STEP 6: Open Rufus & install Syslinux 6.04 to USB Drive

Follow these steps:

  • Open Rufus and select your Empty USB Drive under Device.
  • Click the arrow for “Show advanced drive properties”. This will enable hidden options under the Boot selection dropdown to show.
  • Click the Boot selection dropdown and select “Syslinux 6.04”
  • Type your Volume label you would like to name your new USB drive, I used WAVESDIY
  • Select File System to be FAT32 or Large FAT32
  • Press START
  • Some warning dialogs will appear including one to download the system files for Syslinux, please confirm and allow Rufus to download those files.

STEP 7: Extract .wfi file to USB Stick with 7-Zip

Follow these steps:

  • Navigate to your Desktop.
  • Right Click the .wfi file, go to the 7-Zip option, then press Open Archive.
  • Press Extract in the upper left corner in 7-Zip.
  • Press the … box on the right side of the Copy window.
  • Navigate to the root folder of the USB Drive you just made.
  • Press OK.

STEP 8: Put USB Drive into DIY SoundGrid Server Computer

Remove the USB Drive from your windows computer and place into your DIY Waves SoundGrid Server Computer.

STEP 9: Connect DIY Waves SoundGrid Server to Waves SoundGrid Network

This is the step where you need to connect the DIY Server to your Waves SoundGrid Network. Waves has some specific network switches they support, so make sure you read up on these if you are unaware. The NETGEAR GS108 V4 8-Port Switch is one that is inexpensive and supported by Waves.

Connect your Waves SuperRack Host computer to the network and boot up first.

If you attempt to boot your server without being connected to the SoundGrid network, the server may go into a boot loop. If this is the case, please restart the DIY Server once connected to the network with a network line.

STEP 10: Boot Your DIY Waves SoundGrid Server

You will need to set the BIOS of the computer to boot off of the USB stick. Because of all of the varying types of motherboards out on the market, I will not be able to give specific instructions on how to do this. I would suggest Googling your Motherboard part number and searching USB Boot.

Time to boot it up!

After powering up my DIY Waves SoundGrid Server, I did need to press “Enter” on my keyboard to finish the boot cycle. You may need to do this as well.

You have done it! If all is working on your machine, you will find that you have a server listed on your SoundGrid inventory screen. When you find the server, and look up the information, it will list that it is in SAFE MODE. This is a way for Waves Support to know that you are on a DIY Waves Server and not an official server. SAFE MODE does not mean it will process less plugins, it is only for Waves Support. I was still able to call into Waves Support and get help with a few random things even with them knowing I was running a DIY Server at the time.

Watch the Video on YouTube of my build!

If you want, feel free to watch my video that is posted on YouTube. This shows how I got this build up and running with my Avid S6L and a Waves WSG-HD card.

10% Off Waves Plugins:

I honestly love Waves and using their plugins in a live environment. In the coming weeks I’ll make sure to post some articles of how I use my favorite plugins from Waves. But if you are considering purchasing some Waves Plugins, please click through this link below and it will give you 10% off of your order of new plugins & bundles at Waves.com:

http://www.waves.com/r/115bgm

10% off new Waves Plugins & Bundles

The link above helps support me so I can continue to create educational articles & videos for you!

Thank You!

I hope this article was helpful for you and that you now have a working DIY Waves SoundGrid Server. If something was particularly helpful, or if you have some more questions for me in a future blog post, drop a comment below! I’m always browsing the comments looking for my next helpful video or blog post. Thanks so much!

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