The Fabfilter Pro-Q has been a low key, Apex Predator in the tightly packed pool of EQ plugins for some considerable time. It’s node-based bands are nothing new and to be honest I had always disliked the way it looked. However I am so glad that I finally arrived to the party, however late.
EQ can be such a personal thing that sometimes it’s tough to break out of your comfort zone and take a good look around. The Fabfilter has never been an affair for vintage copyists and lo-fi hipsters – it’s built for two things mainly and that’s workflow and surgery.
“Pro-Q has been a low key, Apex Predator in the tightly packed pool of EQ plugins for some considerable time.”
What's New Then?
Simply put, even though Fabfilter Pro-Q3 looks exactly the same as it’s predecessor (yes, Pro-Q2…) it is a highly charged realization and extrapolation of all the brilliant features present in that celebrated plugin.
Moving forward myself I have come to understand and appreciate the fundamental ergonomy and brilliance of the Fabfilter design and it has been my go-to EQ for some time. I even went as far as making it the default in Pro Tools.
Above: New to Pro-Q3: Spectrum Grab
New features are abundant in Pro-Q3 from the independent stereo/mid side node placement to the SPECTRUM GRAB option (which shows you potentially resonating peaks on the analyzer and labels them with yellow tabs containing the frequency information, allowing you to adjust the offending bands). There is a new filter shape menu with a couple of new entries including a new high/low pass slope called BRICKWALL and a new INVERT GAIN feature which does exactly what you’d imagine. But wait – it gets way, way juicier!
“…a new INVERT GAIN feature does exactly what you’d imagine.”
There’s also a pretty radical TILT function which sounds very natural and an amazing function that allows you to litter Q3’s throughout your session and then compare and contrast their EQ curves in a
mini pop up menu that show them all at once. This is accomplished without side chaining. SHOW COLLISIONS allows you to see which of those frequencies are clashing but it gets much better…
“There’s also a pretty radical TILT function which sounds very natural.”
Pro-Q now features full Dolby Atmos support (up to 7.1.2) but for the time being it’s Pro Tools only. All of these things take Fabfilter’s flag ship plugin ever further toward the top of the pile. Perhaps though, the most compelling reason to look at this plugin is the ridiculously effective new DynamicEQ function. This essentially puts Fabfilter Pro-Q3 right back at the top of my must-have plugins list. I have traditionally used Pro-Q2 followed by the amazing Sonnox DynamicEQ but sometimes two plugins are just not time-practical in the heat of the moment.
Above: New Dynamic EQ Bands
“This essentially puts Fabfilter Pro-Q3 right back at the top of my must-have plugins list.”
One of the greatest new features has to be the very useful INSTANCE display which allows you to name, then compare and contrast every instance of Pro-Q3 that you have in your session.
See the spectrum PRE or POST EQ using the buttons in the top left of the module, FREEZE the spectrums using the Button (left bottom), grab the spectrum with the next button, SHOW COLLISIONS (See adjacent), look at info or use the excellent EQ match long button on the right. TIP: Rename the Q3’s as you instantiate them or things can get extremely confusing.
SHOW COLLISIONS is a hot new feature that works extremely well with the INSTANCE view. Essentially, when activated, you will see red colored ‘energy’ wherever Q3 believes there to
be potential frequency clashes. It’s great to see the deadly build up of bass frequencies. The solution, however, is entirely up to you. No automixing here!
“TIP: Rename the Q3’s as you instantiate them or things can get extremely confusing.”
Above: New Inverse Gain Function Works Perfcctly
INVERSE GAIN is an excellent addition to the Q3 workflow armoury. One way to use it is to sweep for offending frequencies and the simply… Invert. Nice.
The very smooth and eminently useable TILT SHELF from the Q2 is still present and correct but it’s now joined by the rather swanky FLAT TILT.
“Inverse Gain is an excellent addition to the Q3 workflow armoury.”
FLAT TILT is a supra natural sounding and feeling alternative to the TILT SHELF with a default value of 4.5dB per octave. This was an important function to get right because with a steeper value the bass or highs would sound overly hyped which, although impressive in the moment would most likely not serve the mix well in retrospect.
Left: Flat Tilt and new Brickwall filter
Another thing we’re enjoying very much is the new BRICKWALL filter. This can be used in either low or high pass mode (or Low Cut/High Cut as Fabfilter express them). As if the 96dB per octave filter slope wasn’t savage enough the new BRICKWALL addition is basically what is known as an Engineer’s Filter. A slope that literally can chop out anything below the level of human hearing if you use it as a high pass as say 20Hz. It’s a great way to clean up the bottom end of your mix and a welcome new comer to the game.
Above: New Brickwall Filter Slope
Finally we have the Piece de Resistance. The dynamic EQ functionality was a very welcome surprise and, in all honesty, most likely the single biggest reason that Q2 owners will throw their cash at this update. With a total of 24 nodes or Bands to play with you can pick which ones you would like to make dynamic and, by simply grabbing the ring surrounding the GAIN control (the big, middle knob in the floating Band Control module attached to each node)
The dynamic EQ functionality was a very welcome surprise when Q3 was announced and, in all honesty, most likely the single biggest reason that Q2 owners will throw their cash at this update. With a total of 24 nodes or Bands to play with you can pick which ones you would like to make dynamic and, by simply grabbing the ring surrounding the GAIN control (the big, middle knob in the floating Band Control module attached to each node) you can sculpt whichever frequency you want. Q3 is not about to replace Pro-MB though as it is largely (withstanding the THRESHOLD control), program dependent.
“The dynamic EQ functionality was a very welcome surprise when Q3 was announced.”
Pro-Q3 is a thoughtful, smart and market-aware update to a very well regarded and universally loved processor. There are so many logical additions and clever tweaks to things that many already thought
were on point that it will take even current Q2 owners a little while to level up and soak everything into their current Modus Operandi. The Q3 retains it’s spot as the ultimate, workflow-centric EQ.
“The Q3 retains it’s spot as the ultimate, workflow-centric EQ.”
Compatible on Mac OS 10.8 and above
VST 2, VST 3, AU and AAX Native
Compatible on Windows XP or Later
VST 2, VST 3 and AAX Native
32bit and 64bit
- Low CPU hit
- Simple DynamicEQ Implementation
- Fluid, modern Workflow
- EQ Matching Complicated in Ableton
- No Pro Options for DynamicEQ
- Isn't Session-Synonymous with Q2