Review: FabFilter Pro-Q

If I were to ask which type of effect plug-in you find most exciting I doubt we’ll see much mention of equalizers. The filter, compressor, reverb, and — my personal favorite, delay are more likely candidates. I reckon a lot of people actually just use the equalizer that comes with their host of choice. I know I did… until FabFilter Pro-Q.

From the product page:

FabFilter Pro-Q is a top-quality precision EQ plug-in with both zero-latency and linear phase modes, up to 24 bands and a gorgeous interface for easy and precise editing. Featuring an integrated real-time frequency analyzer and flexible per-channel and mid/side modes, FabFilter Pro-Q is the perfect tool for any mixing or mastering job.

fabfilter_proq_screenFabFilter Pro-Q features a stunning graphical user interface

Pro-Q can have up to 24 bands with a frequency range between 5 Hz and 30 kHz and gain between -30 dB to +30 dB per band.

Creating and modifying equalization bands in Pro-Q’s interactive display is a breeze. Just click on the yellow curve — which shows the overall frequency response of the equalizer, and drag up or down or double click in the background to create a band. The position of your click automatically determines the curve (bell, low & high shelf, and low & high cut with 6, 12, 24, and 48 dB slopes), a handy shortcut to creating common EQ curves which improves workflow.

And that’s what is probably Pro-Q’s main appeal; a fantastic workflow. Pro-Q is very intuitive and most tasks can be accomplished with a mouse click or two.

It also includes plenty of features for advanced editing. Multiple band selection allows for modifying parameters in parallel (relative) mode, and the Gain and Q knobs can be used to set identical values for all selected bands. Nifty! Parameters can be fine-tuned and in text entry mode you can even put exact values for precise control.

The plug-in can operate in zero latency mode or in various linear phase modes (adjustable latency). Linear phase modes introduce latency and will increase CPU usage, but they can help fix phase problems. here’s what the Pro-Q manual says:

Linear-phase filters change the phase of the incoming signal in the same way for all frequencies. This ensures that no unwanted phase cancellation will take place, preserving transients and the transparency of your music.

Whether or not you use zero latency mode and a linear phase mode will depend on the audio you are working on and the desired result.

In Stereo mode Pro-Q can process the left and right channels of the input separately to create a more balanced stereo mix (or the opposite, if that’s what you are after). Switching to Mid/Side mode will convert the stereo signal to a Mid part (mono, the signal that is in the center of the stereo signal), and Side parts (the remaining signal, on the “sides” of the mix) which can also be processed separately; great for spicing up your high frequencies or cutting out some mud in the mix.

I personally like to use my ears when using an equalizer. Just select the band, close your eyes and move the mouse around to find the sweet spot you are after. However, having some kind of visual feedback of what is going on is useful. For this purpose Pro-Q features a built-in spectrum analyzer. It can show both the pre- and post-EQ signal so you can see what your EQ is doing to your audio.

So is Pro-Q all good? Well, at $199 USD it’s not exactly cheap. My EQ of choice used to be Image-Line’s Parametric EQ 2; easy to use and it sounds good to me. Pro-Q has a lot more to offer though; more bands, Mid/Side mode, Linear Phase processing modes, the standard FabFilter goodies like MIDI Learn, undo/redo, A/B comparison, etc.

Is it worth the investment? I reckon it is, but you might also be perfectly fine using the equalizer that comes with your host of choice. FabFilter offers a 30-day fully functional trial version of Pro-Q, so why not give it a try and see how you like it.

So what do I think?

Product: Pro-Q by FabFilter
Format: Effect plug-in for PC and Mac (VST/AU/RTAS)
Price: 139 EUR / $199 USD / £129 GBP (discounts available for current FabFilter users)

I think a good equalizer needs to have two things: good sound quality and ease of use. Pro-Q ticks both boxes, and more. It is exceptionally easy to use, yet it has plenty of advanced features without ever getting complicated. It sounds great to my ears and is very light on the CPU.

FabFilter always does a great job with its user interfaces and Pro-Q yet again raises the bar. Sure, an EQ isn’t the most exciting tool in the toolbox, but Pro-Q has such a superb workflow, it is so intuitive, and looks so pretty it is an absolute joy to work with.

Pro-Q has instantly become my go-to EQ plug-in.

More information: FabFilter / Pro-Q

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    This is a good EQ, very clean sound. However, I was very disappointed by the lack of presets, of which they only have about a dozen, and a poor selection even within those. The interface is complicated and the presets show next to none of its features (for examples of how to use). This is an important point because the interface is non-standard by any measure. I shouldn’t have to spend hours (or even minutes) figuring out how to use a simple product like an EQ, it should be instantly obvious. BTW, the “help” is helpless. Whoever wrote it has made an art out of being exceedingly verbose and not saying one thing of value. This is not easy to use and in fact the UI is hostile to users. Another good sounding product ruined by poor GUI design.

    And I want to stress the point of presets again: why go thru all the trouble of designing and coding an app and then castrating it by not developing decent presets? It makes your company look like it has nothing but contempt for its customers. Yet, there are many companies guilty of this. NomadFactory is even worse in this regard, for example. This is the kind of move that I would expect from a freebee plugin, yet ironically, they are often very good in this respect.

    FabFilter, you should MAN UP and release some decent presets.

    • djalexrrr

      shouldnt be using presets anyway!

  • Maybe it is because Image-Line’s Parametric EQ 2 has a similar approach but I disagree about the interface being complicated. To me it is the opposite, a completely intuitive interface.

    I didn’t give it that much though before but other FabFilter products come with tons of presets so it is indeed a little surprising the Pro-Q has so little of them.

    On the other hand, being an amateur musician I don’t miss these presets at all. I usually start with basic EQ settings and tweak according to my source material, which is rarely identical to previous projects. If I feel like I might want to use a particular setting in the future I will just save my own preset. Works for me…

    Anybody else have thoughts on the issue?

  • FabFilter plugins are always awesome. This one is no different. Great sound and great interface.

  • Steve Rob

    Completely disagree with Shrini’s comment. This is one of the most obvious and intuitive eq’s around, took me all of 2 seconds to work out mouse close to line click generates new point, then just drag, hold ctrl down to change Q or use mouse wheel.

    Real easy and fast.

  • Oscar

    This Eq is one of the best I’ve tried, dead easy to use, great sound quality, and the ability to switch between Non LP and LP modes makes it a my “go-to” eq.

    About the presets, well I think it’s pointless to have tons of presets. You need to EQ your material so it fits your mix, not assign presets that were made for a different one and pretend to fit yours.

    This is a great sounding EQ for me!

  • Kris

    In response to shrini, you clearly know nothing its simple to use and why on earth do you need loads of presets..? Your supposed to cut and boost depending on what the sound source need doing to it!!

  • Armin Van Buuren uses this plugin and Sean Tyas use FabFilter Volcano 2 .
    Just letting you know.

  • rick

    Presets are a nice option. Options are always good. It’s not about needing it, it’s about options. Presets have never been intended to replace custom settings. Most people know that.
    They are a great aid for having general “ballpark” settings for convenience to build on and also for those who are starting out.
    That’s why about 90% of vst plugins have them. I’m glad manufacturers recognize that.

  • Aof Dark

    I totally disagree with SHRINI. The plug-in is dead easy to use, it took me 5 seconds to understand how it works.
    Also, why in the world do you want presets? An EQ is used accordingly to the sound material do you have, what good is a preset that boosts 300hz by 3 db if you need to boost 3000hz? Click, select frequency, select gain, select Q, done, it will take you less than 10 seconds.
    Also, the help was very useful to understand what were some of the buttons supposed to be doing.
    I don’t know, but sounds like SHRINI has never used an EQ or doesn’t have the slightest idea for what it is used for.
    This is an excellent plug-in. Expensive, but if you want something a little better than your host plug-in, it is recommended hands down.

  • leSteve

    Okay, I saw this EQ being used by a friend of mine and immediately fell in love! It is my go-to EQ and I love the freedom and quality I get with it! As for Shrini.. He probably doesn’t know how to use and EQ therefore requires presets.. Noobsack…

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