10 Best FabFilter Plugins

Best FabFilter PluginsFabFilter is ubiquitous in the audio engineering industry for making some of the top of the line plugins. Most producers will recommend FabFilter for anything, whether beginner or pro, for EQing to de-essing, and even synth. So in this list, we’re going to go over some of the best FabFilter plugins currently available.

Byline: Levi Masuli is a writer and artist working primarily with sound.


Brief Overview of Fabfilter Plugins

When Frederik Slijkerman and Floris Klinkert founded FabFilter in 2002, they set for themselves the task of producing great-sounding synths and effects. Their first product, FabFilter One, got them the attention that they deserve.  More than 15 years since, FabFilter now has a wide range of plugins in its repertoire, from multiband compressors to delays.

Recently the company has focused on producing bigger production plugins and suites. Among these are Saturn and the Pro series of plugins.

Below, we will be evaluating the plugins based on the effectiveness of the features for their intended uses. We also considered innovations and special features that make the plugin stand out from the rest of the pack.


Best Fabfilter Plugins

FabFilter Pro Q-3

Fabfilter Pro-Q 3

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Equalizers, in theory, are fairly straightforward machines. They are designed to simply cut or attenuate certain frequencies. But FabFilter has managed to come up with things that you wouldn’t think you would need from an equalizer. This is also the case with their latest update for the Pro Q, the Pro Q-3.

FabFilter’s Pro Q-3 is packed with features and goodies. There is an option for linear phase operation, per-band mid/side processing, a Zero Latency mode, a more precise Natural Phase mode, full surround support including up to Dolby Atmos 7.1.2, and an improved auto gain feature.

However, most of the improvements seem to have focused on dynamic equalization. While Pro Q-3 doesn’t give much control over the attack, release, ratio, and threshold levels, the automation is intelligent enough for a masterful touch.

They also introduced some improvements to the spectrum analyzer, including frequency collision indication. This allows you to see which signals ‘collide’ in the same frequency, thus helping you distribute the frequencies evenly across the mix. The Spectrum Grab feature also points to critical peaks that may need some fixing. The improved EQ match is also a delight to use when managing multiple instances of the plugin.

Reviewers also praised the new filter shapes, particularly the flat tilt shape. The shape rotates the frequency spectrum from an indicated fulcrum, allowing the user to boost or cut from that frequency incrementally. This allows for a laser-sharp and smooth filtering.

FabFilter’s Pro Q-3 has all the equalizing tools you would ever need and more. While it is on the pricier side, it is all worth it. Every feature is an indispensable tool to improve your workflow and your sound.

Demonstration


FabFilter Saturn Distortion Unit

FabFilter Saturn

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FabFilter’s distortion and saturation toolbox, Saturn, has all the basic distortion and saturation features. But what separates it from the others is the level of subtlety and control that it gives to the user. This makes Saturn more than just a distortion machine and is actually a powerful tool with lots of creative potentials.

Saturn boasts 16 different distortion styles which include saturation and bit crushing. Processing can be done multi-band, up to six bands. Each band has its own drive, mix, dynamics, feedback, level, and tone control levels. It also has an optional HQ mode which can oversample the signal up to eight times.

The plugin is easy to use, thanks to its intuitive user interface. It has a drag-and-drop modulation matrix with 50 slots. The interface has two modes, normal and wide, which can be easily accessed according to one’s needs.

Particularly interesting are the smudge and crush features that can be used to thoroughly mangle any sound you have.

The Modulation feature gives you a buffet of LFOs, XY controllers, envelope generators and other knick-knacks which can transform the Saturn practically into an instrument of its own.

Of course, the Saturn can also be used for general gluing and saturation purposes to add some ‘oomph’ to your mix. The plugin’s multi-band operation allows users to put crossover points (up to six) to process specific sections of the signal. FabFilter’s distinct coloring lends an interesting sizzle to the signal.

Easy and fun to use, we consider FabFilter’s Saturn distortion unit a good deal and a solid part of FabFilter’s oeuvre.

Demonstration


FabFilter Pro-C 2

FabFilter Pro-C

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In keeping with the Dutch company’s shining reputation in building high-end audio plugins, FabFilter’s update to their much-acclaimed compressor is a reliable gem of a plugin.

By way of features, the Pro-C 2 doesn’t have a lot. All of the fundamentals are there, but given how saturated the market has become when it comes to compressor plugins, FabFilter’s compressor might look unremarkable.

But the plugin’s charm lies in its sound and usability. For instance, FabFilter added a knee display and a fader that offers control from 0dB (hard knee) and +72dB (soft knee). The previous version only has two Knee settings. The added fader gives users more creative control to the signal, as Knee levels can be used to smoothen the sound as well as to add some saturation to it.

Another added feature is a lookahead control with its own fader from 0 and 20ms for transparency. It uses its own Audition button, an addition to the sidechain Audition button introduced in the previous version.

The Pro-C 2 also has eight, program-dependent compression styles.

The sidechain section has been revamped, adding a few mid-band slopes such as Bell, Tilt Shelf, Notch, Band Pass, apart from the standard lowpass/ highpass filter section.

The Pro-C’s optional 2x and 4x oversampling feature also allows for a high-quality signal. The Mix and Range faders change the overall level and range of the compression, respectively.

All of these give you total control of the sound. Pro-C 2 offers no extra bells and whistles, but it gets the job done, quite perfectly in fact, given its price.

Demonstration


FabFilter Pro-L 2

FabFilter Pro-L

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Limiting, like compression, is a pretty straight-forward process. But as the loudness wars subside and more artists and production houses start ditching sheer loudness for clarity, plugins such as FabFilter’s Pro-L 2 stand out for versatility.

For general purposes, Pro-L 2 does a good job. It has true peak level meters that make it easier to deal with inter-sample peaks. The loudness metering supports adherence to EBU R128, ITU-R BS.1770-4, and ATSC A/85 standards

But the Pro-L 2 is a limiting plugin that does not settle in making the mix louder. It also has a linear-phase oversampling feature, great dithering, and surround support up to Dolby Atmos 7.1.2.

As with most FabFilter plugins, the Pro-L 2’s user interface boasts an intelligent management of screen real estate, with most of the screen dedicated to the real-time operation in visual and metered format.

Two other features, Unity Gain and Audition Limiting, allows further control for monitoring the effect of limiting. Unity Gain keeps settings enabled while reducing output level as limiting is performed. This helps in monitoring the changes to the sound. Audition Limiting, on the other hand, takes away the original signal from the output, thus enabling users to listen to the processed signal.

While the plugin is easy to figure out, the accompanying manual provides a lot of useful information not only about the plugin but about the principles of mixing and mastering. This tells us that the Pro-L 2 was made with the serious mix engineer in mind.

Demonstration


FabFilter Volcano 2

FabFilter Volcano 2

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The second iteration of FabFilter’s well-loved filter has a new look. But it is also bursting with features along with the predecessor’s signature sound.

Don’t let Volcano 2’s quirky interface deceive you into thinking that it is not a serious tool. It has four multimode filters that can function as low-, band- or high-pass types. This is double the number of filters of the first Volcano. Top this off with the 12dB, 24dB or 48dB per octave roll-off for more control.

Each of the filters has 11 styles or characters, each serving a particular purpose and sound. Five of these are new. The styles go from Gentle to Extreme.

The central feature of the Volcano is its filter routing option. Like the Saturn, the Volcano has a drag-and-drop modulation interface. It can accommodate up to six envelope generators, four envelope followers and six LFOs. These LFOs, called bt FabFilter as XLFOS, have up to 16 steps. Each step can take on a Sine, Linear or one of the two Square curves.

It also has a MIDI Learning capabilities and a Smart Parameter Interpolation to properly coordinate parameters during transitions.

Some reviewers noted Volcano 2’s incredible presets, particularly the vocal filters, which can transform flat sounds into something out of this world.

Volcano 2 is a fun filter to use and is perfect for producers who want something powerful, approachable, and easy to play with.

Demonstration


FabFilter Micro

FabFilter Micro

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If you are ever wondering how FabFilter managed to gain the respect of the digital audio world, you have to check out FabFilter Micro. This little plugin packs a serious punch, encapsulating all of the things that made FabFilter one of the best plugin makers today.

Micro’s main feature is its unique saturating filter that has been created for the FabFilter One synth.

Incredibly lightweight, Micro only has one filter. But it can be easily tweaked using envelope follower controls in the interactive display. Moreover, aside from the high-pass and low-pass shape, the envelope follower can modulate the cut-off frequency for more interesting filtering shapes.

The saturation of the filter itself can be manipulated using individual Input Gain and Output Gain parameters. The possibilities range from subtle saturation to full-blown distortions.

The filter in itself has FabFilter’s signature sound which can give any signal distinct coloring effects that you would not find in DAW-native filters. Of course, this means that this is not the best filter if you are looking for something more neutral and does not introduce any character to the signal.

Like other FabFilter products, Micro has MIDI Learn and Smart Parameter Interpolation which further improves its versatility. The plugin also feels totally weightless in any machine, making it easy to plop in a signal chain without creating significant latency issues.

FabFilter Micro’s simplicity doesn’t feel like a restraint. In fact, this simplicity helps in exercising one’s creativity. As you would expect, the Micro is also light on the wallet. Definitely, a product that is well worth its price.

Demonstration


FabFilter Pro-R

FabFilter Pro-R

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FabFilter seems intent on making reverb easier to use for the hobbyists. Using words such as Brightness, Distance, and Character in lieu of the usual reverb terminologies, the Pro-R definitely has a user-friendly feel.

For instance, the Space control parameter consolidates usual parameters such as room size, diffusion, early reflection, and others into a single module. Space control then automates the decay time to make everything sound natural.

The Pro-R has six parameters, all of which may not sound familiar to those who are used to traditional audio parlance. One of them is Character which goes from Clean, Chorus, to Lively on the other hand. As with Space control, Character has elements of diffusion and early reflection.

Needless to say, those who want more control over individual elements of the reverb may be frustrated by Pro-R’s consolidation of these parameters into single controls.

Nonetheless, the algorithm-based technology behind the plugin makes it sure that any configuration of the reverb sounds good, even when auditioned in mono.

Moreover, the Pro-R provides some space for experimentation. For instance, the plugin has a continuously variable stereo width control. Pre-delay can also be set and synced to the project’s tempo. These little things can be tweaked according to one’s needs and whims.

Thus, Pro-R strives for a balance between usability and versatility. Although it is easy to use, it has more than a few features that will excite even advanced producers in terms of sonic possibilities.

Demonstration


FabFilter Timeless 2

FabFilter Timeless 2

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When FabFilter released Timeless in 2006, the company’s dual delay plugin made an interesting entrance. More than a decade later, Timeless 2 reminded us that there is space for more innovations.

Essentially a tape delay emulation plugin, Timeless 2 features six LFOs with 16 steps each and six envelopes. There are also four X/Y pads that can further shape the sound.

Timeless 2 has a distinct architecture. It uses two signal paths that flow in parallel, both of which can be controlled with their own multimode filters. The signals are then sent back to the delays through feedback and cross-feedback, each with its own control knob. This complex modulation system is ripe for some tasty and exotic delay patterns.

Timeless 2’s phase inversion also sets the stage for the creation of phasing and flanging effects. Using FabFilter’s signature drag-and-drop system, phase modulation can be crafted from a wide variety of EGS, XLFOs, envelope controllers, and MIDI.

One of Timeless 2’s most interesting features is Freeze Buffer. The feature can be used to capture a snippet of audio that can be played back as the user manipulates it. This is particularly fun to play with during live sessions, say, in a dub set or long techno session.

The plugin is also equipped with a time stretching mode that prevents pitch-bending when playing with the delay time. Since time stretching mangles the signal to compensate against pitch-bending, it can lead to some wild distortions, thus pushing the plugin beyond mere delay purposes.

All of these make Timeless 2 an interesting addition to any producer’s toolkit and any list of the best Fabfilter plugins.

Demonstration


FabFilter Pro-MB

FabFilter Pro-MB

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FabFilter’s multiband dynamics plugin does not only offer a pristine sound. It also has an innovative architecture that allows users to fix common and uncommon audio issues without leaving users scrambling for the manual and scratching their heads.

Pro-MB’s most unique feature is that it allows users to create their own bands across the specific frequencies that they are working on. This contrasts with the conventional usage of crossovers in multiband compressors. This enables the Pro-MB to double as a multiband compressor and as a dynamic equalizer.

Another nifty feature is that Pro-MB gives users the ability to unlink side-chain crossovers from the directly processed signal. This means that you can reduce the gain in a specific frequency band using the peaks in another band as triggers. This is some next-level sidechaining technique that is only possible with the Pro-MB.

The plugin also boasts a Dynamic Phase processing mode which claims to reduce pre-ringing and latency when multiband processing. This becomes particularly useful when working with multiple signals that have the risk of phase-cancellation. Linear Phase mode is also available for dealing with phase cancellation issues. Also available is the Minimal Phase mode which is the more conventional option.

Multiband processing is usually a problem-solving task, so it is great that the Pro-MB is intuitive enough for a quick diagnosis and treatment. For producers who have to deal with bad audio or those involved in restoration, FabFilter’s Pro-MB can be a potent tool.

Demonstration


FabFilter Simplon

FabFilter Simplon

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The Simplon is at its core a pared-down version of the Volcano 2. Thus, it utilizes the same self-oscillating digital filters and the workflow. Like the Volcano 2, it has two signal paths which can be used either in parallel or series. Each path/filter has three different filter types (low-pass, high-pass, and band-pass with 12/24/48 dB/octave slopes).

If you are looking for a cheaper and more lightweight solution to your filtering needs, the Simplon can be a good alternative to Volcano 2. Considering how small it is and how powerful its features can be, we believe it deserves a spot in our list of the best FabFilter plugins.

Demonstration

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