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.
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?
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.