FabFilter – A Buyer’s Guide

Buyer's Guide FabFilterFabFilter have been making plugins since 2002, creating a unique and powerful range of products from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. When it comes to audio, FabFilter aren’t interested in creating vintage emulations, rather they look to give the modern studio the most powerful and flexible tools available.

With many of the most powerful plugins on the market today, there is a trend to put a thousand controls on the GUI. FabFilter buck this with easily accessible interfaces and serious oomph behind the scenes.

We’re yet to feel out of our depth when tuning one from scratch, although the presets are some of the best designed and instantly usable that we’ve ever come across – they’ve got one for every eventuality, including a generous wealth of mastering options. Here’s a brief run down of some of their most popular titles…

Pro-C 2

This is a compressor for every occasion. Capable of mastering, instrument compression, pumping bass lines and kick drums, and even the most demanding Mid-Side processing the Pro-C 2 has you covered. MusicTech Magazine awarded Pro-C 2 10/10 and said, “Pro-C 2 is set to become a staple of many professionals’ toolkits.” As well as the traditional compressor controls Pro-C 2 comes with Smooth Lookahead, external side-chain triggering (an absolute must in our opinion!), stereo linking, and the aforementioned Mid-Side processing. The compression display is potentially the most elegant solution to visualising the plugin in action… Accompanied with oversized controls and super accurate level meters (with info about EBU and ITU-R loudness standards), you couldn’t ask for a more informative and intuitive design.

– Eight different compression styles, of which five are new in version 2: Vocal, Mastering, Bus, Punch and Pumping

– Range setting, which limits the maximum applied gain change

– Smooth lookahead (up to 20 ms), which can be enabled/disabled to ensure zero latency processing

– Side-chain EQ section, with customizable HP and LP filters, plus an additional freely adjustable filter

– Audition Triggering option, which enables users to hear on which parts of the audio Pro-C 2 is triggering and how much compression is taking place

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Pro-Q 2

If you’ve heard of any FabFilter plugin before, chances are that it’s the Pro-Q 2. Sonically it is as clean as you could ask for, which means that even the trickiest EQ fixes are possible. Pro-Q 2 has received a deluge of awards from the industry press, “Absolutely brilliant” said Music Tech in their 10/10 review and, awarding it with equally top marks, Computer Music dubbed it “practically impossible to fault” and “possibly the best EQ on the market”. With it’s zero-latency processing and spectrum analyser you can sculpt whilst you track, or even employ it live when you’re front of house at your next gig! Clarity and power are equally as important, with stereo EQ bands and Mid-Side processing available you can sculpt your instruments and mixes until you find the perfect balance.

– Up to 24 EQ bands

– Mid/side mode where you can EQ the mid and side signals separately

– Different display ranges: 3 dB and 6 dB ranges for mastering, 12 dB and 30 dB for mixing

– Intelligent solo mode makes it easy to find problem frequencies and hear the effect of a band

– Highly improved CPU optimization: Pro-Q 2 uses less memory and is more than twice as efficient as its predecessor!

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Pro-MB

Multiband compression is simultaneously the one of the most powerful, and complex and infuriating, tools that you can use to mix. Enter FabFilter Pro-MB: making multiband dynamics processing intuitive yet powerful at the same time. Computer Music Magazine praises FabFilter, ‘Pro-MB is beautifully designed and sounds superb. Verdict: 9/10!’, as well as also taking the Future Music Platinum Award. Instead of traditionally having ‘crossover’ sections that split the entire spectrum up from lowest to highest frequency, Pro-MB allows you to create bands at whatever the frequency you want to work at. You can clearly see that the rest of the spectrum isn’t being affected as you compress that band to your hearts desire. FabFilter Pro-MB introduces a unique Dynamic Phase processing mode. It has virtually the same frequency response as traditional multiband processing, but doesn’t introduce latency or pre-ringing, and only introduces minor phase changes when the gain actually changes.

– Up to six processing bands, freely placed anywhere in the spectrum

– Handles any form of dynamics processing, from highly transparent compression, limiting and expansion to pumping upward -compression and punchy gating

– Global dry/wet mix from 0% to 200% to easily scale the total effect of the plug-in

– Accurate and smooth real-time frequency analyzer with pre- and post-processing options and ‘freeze’ feature

– Unique Dynamic Phase processing mode featuring zero latency, no static phase changes and no pre-ringing artifacts

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Pro-R

Reverb can add space, vibe, and character to your track, but they can also be complex, confusing, and muddy. Grammy Award-winning engineer Dave Pensado said ‘I believe FabFilter Pro-R is truly ground breaking!’, ProducerSpot claims ‘The results have to be heard to truly do it justice, as any text, in pixelated or printed form, does not.’ FabFilter Pro-R takes a musical approach to reverb, offering user-friendly, non-technical c.ntrols like Brightness, Character and Distance to achieve the reverb sound you are looking for. Pro-R is based on recreating the amazing ambiences of great sounding rooms, and it provides with abundance, with choices from small rooms to huge cathedrals, better yet – there is a 6 band EQ to properly sculpting the frequency spectrum of the reverberation.

– Beautifully designed room models, ranging from small ambiences and rooms to large concert halls and huge cathedrals.

– Distance control to adjust the proximity to the sound source in the selected space.

– The Character control changes the sound from a clean, transparent decay, to a lively reverb with pronounced reflections and echoes, all the way to an over-modulated chorus-like effect.

– Mix knob with a Lock Mix option, which prevents preset loading from overriding the current mix setting.

– Real-time spectrum analyzer that also visualizes the decay time at different frequencies.

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Saturn

Saturation and Distortion are surprising cornerstones of audio processing. From the horrific digital distortion of a hot DAW track, to the most beautiful tube or tape drive imaginable, they all have their times and places – Saturn aims to provide the latter in abundance. “No matter what type of distortion you go for with Saturn, it always maintains a creamy and ‘producer’ sound,” said MusicTech Magazine. FabFilter Saturn offers a range of different high quality distortion models, inspired by the vintage sound of tubes, tape and guitar amps – with its multiband design and per-band feedback, dynamics, drive, tone and modulation options, Saturn will bring a unique flavor to your music. Try the magic mastering preset on your mix buss to bring life and energy into your tracks.

– Sixteen different distortion styles, from subtle saturation to heavy guitar amps and bit crushing

– Interactive multiband display

– Per-band solo and mute options

– Per-band drive, mix, feedback, dynamics, tone and level controls

– Mid/side processing

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FabFilter has a huge amount to offer every musician and producer. Including their array of incredible mixing and mastering tools, they also provide amazing creative FX and synths. FabFilter Twin 2 is a tiny, yet powerful synthesiser with flexible drag and drop modulation. Timeless 2 is a beautifully modelled tape delay with high quality filters and loads of creative options. These are great examples of the breadth and depth of the FabFilter talent. If you’re keen to get your hands on several for discounted prices, then you’re in luck as they also have generous bundles ready for you to get started with!

Click here to view all FabFilter plug-ins

Posted by Garrick Wareham

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