Review of Pro-Q 3 (VST/AU/AAX) Equaliser plugin by FabFilter

Review of Pro-Q 3 (VST/AU/AAX) Equaliser plugin by FabFilter

Introduction

FabFilter is proud to announce the availability of FabFilter Pro-Q 3, a major update to the acclaimed Pro-Q equalizer plug-in.

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is now available for EUR 149, USD 179 or GBP 134, supporting both Windows and macOS in VST and VST 3, Audio Units, AAX, and AudioSuite plug-in formats. Bundles with FabFilter Pro-Q 3 and other FabFilter plug-ins are also available from the FabFilter website

Existing FabFilter customers can purchase or upgrade to FabFilter Pro-Q 3 with very attractive discounts by logging into their online user account.

System requirements are either Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, or XP, and a VST 2/3 host or Pro Tools, or Mac OS X 10.8 or higher with Intel processor, and an Audio Units host, VST 2/3 host, or Pro Tools. Both 64-bit and 32-bit hosts are supported.

Background

Pro-Q 3 improves on its predecessor in every area, introducing dynamic EQ, surround support, per-band mid/side processing, and much more, while maintaining the pristine sound quality and exceptional ease of use for which Pro-Q has always been known.

Integrated dynamic EQ

Pro-Q 3 adds the ability to switch any of its 24 bands to Dynamic EQ mode, with a simple, elegant workflow: just raise or lower the Dynamic Range ring around the Gain knob to apply smooth compression or expansion to that band. An intelligent algorithm automatically chooses program-dependent attack, release, and knee settings, while the Threshold can be set automatically, according to the input signal level, or manually. And, of course, dynamic EQ bands continue to operate with perfect analog matching and support Linear Phase mode.

Surround support

Pro-Q 3 works with all major surround formats, up to Dolby Atmos 7.1.2. The plug-in automatically configures itself to the multichannel format of the hosting surround track, and an intuitive selection panel enables EQ adjustment of multiple channels together.

Mid/side processing

Pro-Q has long been able to work its equalization magic on the mid or side channels in a stereo signal, as well as left and right, and this functionality becomes even more flexible with Pro-Q 3. Each individual band can now be set to process only the Mid, Side, Left, Right, or Stereo channels, so users can get truly surgical with their stereo frequency-shaping on a band-by-band basis.

New filter types

Pro-Q 3 adds to Pro-Q 2’s multitude of filter types with the all-new Flat Tilt shape, applying a flat tilting correction curve to the entire audible spectrum. And for those occasions when even the super-steep 96dB/octave roll-off slope isn’t precise enough, the Low and High Cut filter types can now be set to Brickwall mode for the ultimate in top/bottom attenuation.
Improved spectrum analyzer and Spectrum Grab

Pro-Q 3’s spectrum analyzer makes it easier than ever to find and correct problem frequencies in the mix. Activate the new collision detection to view clashes between the source signal and the spectrum of any other Pro-Q 3 instance in the session, and get an instant handle on the most important peaks in Spectrum Grab mode with frequency/note labels.

Key features:

∙ Professional mastering-grade EQ plug-in with exceptional sound quality

∙ Up to 24 bands with a huge range of filter types

∙ Dynamic EQ option for every band

∙ 6-96dB/octave slopes for all filter types

∙ Additional Brickwall slope for the High Cut and Low Cut filters

∙ Per-band Stereo, Left, Right, Mid, or Side mode

∙ Zero Latency, Natural Phase, and Linear Phase processing modes

∙ Extremely efficient processing and low memory usage

∙ Surround support, including Dolby Atmos 7.0.2 and 7.1.2 formats with flexible surround channel linking

∙ Adapts automatically to stereo, mono, and surround channel layouts

∙ Intelligent multiband selection and editing

∙ Intelligent band solo mode

∙ Powerful real-time spectrum analyzer

∙ External spectrum visualization from any other Pro-Q 3 instance in the session, including collision detection

∙ Spectrum Grab: grab and adjust a peak directly in the spectrum analyzer

∙ EQ Match for imposing the tonal characteristics of one signal on another

∙ Piano Display switches the frequency scale to musical note values

∙ Separate mastering (3/6dB) and mixing (12/30dB) display ranges

∙ Undo/redo and A/B comparison

∙ Beautiful, responsive, resizable GPU-accelerated graphical interface with full-screen mode

∙ MIDI Learn with option to control the currently active band

∙ Retina support on macOS and High DPI support on Windows

∙ Supports common Pro Tools hardware control surfaces

In Use

Pro-Q2 is widely acknowledged as one of the best EQs available and Pro-Q3 brings a whole host of updates to further extend functionality.

I have to admit that I haven’t previously used Pro-Q2 but I’ve found that Pro-Q3 is incredibly intuitive and easy to use, you can pretty much open it and get a handle on how it works without reading the manual.

The first point to note is that Pro-Q3 has 3 processing modes, selectable from the bottom of the display. Zero latency matches the magnitude response of analog EQs as closely as possible without introducing latency. It’s the most efficient processing mode. Natural phase performs better, closely matching the analog phase response giving the most accurate frequency response and best sound quality. Linear phase is a problem solving tool to avoid phase cancellation issues.

Upon opening, the default screen is blank. To add a band you either drag the yellow line up or down or you can double-click anywhere in the display and floating controls appear underneath. You can either click and drag the dot or adjust the settings from the floating controls, you can set the filter shape, frequency, Q and channel. By default, stereo is selected but you can also choose left, right, mid or side for each band. One thing to note is that the display auto scales to any adjustments you make which allows for really subtle adjustments.


The vast number of bands and options that you can use gives you scope to do everything from simple EQ tasks such as low cut, high cut or using a shelf to more complex tasks such as per-band left / right / mid / side processing to precision EQ adjustment.

Dynamic EQ is an excellent feature and there are a number of ways to make the EQ dynamic, one is to adjust the dynamic range ring around the gain knob for positive or negative values. You can then set auto or manual threshold controls.

With multiple instances loaded, Pro-Q3 becomes very powerful. As well as loading the sidechain input, you can pick any other instance of Pro-Q3 to compare against the signal you are EQing. These are named after the track the instance is loaded on but can be renamed. This means that problem areas such as overlap between kick and bass can easily be viewed and corrected. You can view the spectrum of the bass whilst applying EQ to the kick and shading shows frequencies common to both parts allowing you to easily make adjustments. You can also match the EQ of one track to another.

As an example, I’ve loaded a drum loop and a bass loop with no other processing or effects and loaded Pro-Q3 on each channel. The subtle red shading shows the problem areas allowing you to make adjustments as necessary. With more tracks loaded you can make further adjustments as required and the spectrum grab tool is very handy to identify problem peaks.

Conclusions

I’m very impressed with Pro-Q3, it’s an incredibly powerful and easy to use EQ. It sounds amazing too. I’ve been getting to grips with EQ and what I love about this software is that despite it’s complexities, it doesn’t feel overwhelming. It’s easy to start using it intuitively and there are often several ways of doing a task meaning it will suit different workflows. It also offers scope to fine tune or learn new techniques to improve your sound.