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Review of Pro-Q 3 (VST/AU/AAX) Equaliser plugin by FabFilter — April 30, 2019

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.

Analogue Solutions ships compact true stereo analogue monosynth/sonic realiser as perfectly-packaged desktop device — April 28, 2019

Analogue Solutions ships compact true stereo analogue monosynth/sonic realiser as perfectly-packaged desktop device

British boutique electronic instruments innovator Analogue Solutions is proud to announce availability of Impulse Command — creatively crafting a true stereo, semi-modular analogue monosynth/sonic realiser, replete with fanciful features like DUAL DYNAMIC ANALOGUE OSCILLATORS; DUAL ANALOGUE FILTERS; stereo digital EFFECTS; 16-step MIDI LOOP SEQUENCER and STEP SEQ (with radical REORDER! function); and more, meaning it can conceivably sound like several simultaneously-playing synthesizers as a perfectly-packaged desktop device

As is, indeed, the case with all Analogue Solutions’ innovative instruments, Impulse Command is a ‘real’ analogue affair… as in its audio signal path — post effects apart — and all modulation routings really are analogue through and through. The chosen company name gives the genuine game away. After all, Analogue Solutions’ circuitry capitalises on superlative-sounding designs dating back to the Seventies, so no quantisation for CPU (Central Processing Unit) reading required. The VCOs (Voltage Controlled Oscillators), VCFs (Voltage Controlled Filters), EGs (Envelope Generators), and LFOs (Low Frequency Oscillators) are all truly analogue in the Seventies sense of the word, with transistors, op-amps, and resistors. Reality dictates, therefore, that — apart from the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) conversion, sequencer control, and digital delay/reverb essential elements — Impulse Command is really analogue. As such, sound benefits become apparent as soon as anyone feasts their ears on the remarkable result. Is it any wonder, then, that there is so much favourable commentary about how good Analogue Solutions’ synthesizers sound!

So potential purchasers can clearly take it as ‘red’ — pun intended, given its eye-catching colour scheme! — that Impulse Command sounds as good as analogue gets. Given that Impulse Command is designed by Analogue Solutions founder Tom Carpenter, this surely shouldn’t come as as surprise. As a fervent fan of electronic music and also an active electronic musician himself, he naturally knows a thing or two about programming synthesizers. So his current creation clearly wasn’t the result of engineering design decisions driven by a steering committee of men (or women) in suits, compulsorily constrained to maximise profit for faceless shareholders. Far from it, in fact. Fortunately for all, the fanciful features available and resultant range of tones they can capably produce have all been carefully thought through to impart Impulse Command with what’s required to speedily bring about a wide range of sounds that true analogue admirers could conceivably call for — from huge basses, synth leads, percussion, and effects through to modular system-like stylings.

So what makes this superlative-sounding, Seventies-inspired innovative instrument truly tick? The subtractive synthesis signal path in Impulse Command creatively gets going with two VCOs, producing the raw audio sound source for later processing. Providing a wealth of features and modulation choices in and of themselves, VCO1 boasts a white noise generator alongside sawtooth and triangle waveforms, while VCO2 DETUNE does just that — detuning VCO2 to thicken up the resulting synth sound. Thereafter, things start to take a turn towards the fanciful with AMOUNT applying the amount of MIDI VEL (velocity) or EG2 signal that will be applied to modulate VCO2’s volume, selected via a toggle switch, while I.L. manually sets the initial level of VCO2 volume, and allows that level to be dynamically controlled when set to zero; speaking of oscillators, the VELOCITY control sets the amount of MIDI velocity that will be applied to the square wave-equipped SUB (sub-oscillator) volume, while I.L. manually sets the initial level of SUB volume, so also allows that level to be dynamically controlled when set to zero — hence the DUAL DYNAMIC ANALOGUE OSCILLATORS wording boldly blazoned across Impulse Command’s easy-to-follow front panel!

Pitch modulation, meanwhile, such as vibrato or a pitch sweep, can be obtained by patching with cables using the mini-jack sockets sited along the top of the front panel. Put it this way: while Impulse Command is mostly pre-patched, it has such a wide range of modulation routing possibilities that it is almost as versatile as a full modular system and is capable of producing the same types of sounds — albeit without the mess and confusion of cables. It does, however, have a sizeable selection of patch sockets that allow adventurous users to re-patch it or connect it to an external modular system.

So what about that DUAL ANALOGUE FILTERING wording? Well, as implied, Impulse Command comes complete with two CEM chip-style filters — the same type as those used in classic synths such as the Elka Synthex, Fairlight CMI, Oberheim OB8, and Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, to name but a notable few. Despite sharing the same core circuitry as those vintage classics, Impulse Command is imbued with its own sonic character, rather than simply sounding like them. Many of the controls are duplicated for each of those 24dB/octave filters. The upper VCF is called VCF-L (left) and the signal — following its own dedicated VCA — is routed to the left output jack. It stands to reason, then, that the lower VCF is called VCF-R (right) and the signal — following its own dedicated VCA — is routed to the right output jack. Commonly, CUTOFF sets the master frequency cutoff for both filters, while PEAK sets the resonance/feedback level of both filters. Further left field, perhaps, VCF-R DETUNE offsets the second filter’s frequency cutoff, while VELOCITY sets the amount of MIDI velocity that will modulate the cutoff of both filters, and AGGRO adds cross modulation from VCO2 to the filter CUTOFF, creating a more edgy sound — increasing PEAK to higher levels emphasises this effect. Elsewhere, there are no fewer than four modulation sources — namely, EG1, EG2, LFO1, and LFO2, while LEVEL sets the level of modulation applied to the filter CUTOFF. Creatively, MOD INVERT inverts the modulation for VCF-L, which, as an example, enables pseudo-auto-pan effects. External sound sources, such as vocals, guitars, mixer sends, and samplers, etc, can be sent through the filters for further treatment by simply plugging the sound source into the rearside IN (input) socket. All in all, a flexible filtering section that belies this relatively diminutive desktop device’s space-saving (322 x 270mm) footprint.

Following on from filtering, Impulse Command’s signal path arrives at two separate analogue ADSR envelopes. EG2 is hardwired to control the VCAs that follow the VCFs, but both EGs are available for modulation of various circuits and have trigger and signal output jacks for further patching.

Processing plays a part in Impulse Command’s musical makeup. Primarily designed as a powerful analogue synthesizer, some essential effects — bit crush, delay, flanger, and reverb — have been included to give the resulting sound some ambience. The latter three effects can even be modulated to a degree by the STEP SEQ (sequencer), so they can be dynamically controlled! Control-wise, turning EFFECT selects the eight presets, while ASPECT1 and ASPECT2 are used to make some adjustments to the sound space preset selected. Sequencing is where the sounding-like-several-synthesizers-simultaneously-playing-Impulse Command can come into its own like no other, though. There are two sequencers — an analogue STEP SEQ (that produces voltages) and a MIDI LOOP SEQUENCER (that produces MIDI note loops). Both are clocked from the same signal source, selected using the SEQUENCER SYNCHRO switch, though the MIDI LOOP SEQUENCER can be independently stopped and started. As implied by name, the MIDI LOOP SEQUENCER is used to record melodic loops and will always run in time with the analogue STEP SEQ, which is primarily used for modulation. But both benefit from the radical REORDER! function that affects the sequencer stepping order — forwards, backwards, and all sorts of strange yet wonderful variations! It’s a lot like life, even.

Ending on a high note, Tom Carpenter concludes — somewhat thoughtfully — thus: “This synth is a journey of discovery. You’ll take the occasional wrong turn, but you’ll also make many exhilarating turns, and each destination will be nirvana-like. Life is all about the journey. So experience and play.”

Impulse Command is now available for purchase — priced at an RRP of £849.00 GBP (ex. VAT)/€1,179.00 EUR (inc. tax)/$1,199.00 USD (inc. tax) — through Analogue Solutions’ growing global network of authorised dealers or order online directly from Analogue Solutions via the dedicated Impulse Command webpage which also includes more in-depth information.

About Analogue Solutions (www.analoguesolutions.com)
Analogue Solutions is a UK-based boutique electronic instruments innovator that specialises in true analogue synthesizers, sequencers, and Eurorack modules. More than 25 years experience in the industry means that they were right there at the start of the Eurorack revolution — the third company to start producing modules, in fact. Furthermore, Analogue Solutions products are all hand built in England — many being tested by founder Tom Carpenter himself, who has hands-on involvement in all aspects of the company. Characterful to boot, Analogue Solutions innovative instruments are applauded for proudly possessing a truly vintage sound — synthesizers featuring fully-analogue audio paths with analogue LFOs (Low Frequency Oscillators) and EGs (Envelope Generators) are the order of the day here. Having no memories means that nothing is being made to sound sterile by CPU (Central Processing Unit) control; conversely, turning a knob directly changes the voltage or current in an actual synth circuit to audible affect. Analogue Solutions founder Tom Carpenter consistently constitutes proof of a genuine passion for analogue synths, drawing upon his years of owning and using vintage analogue synths and drum machines that he still uses in his own music productions — alongside Analogue Solutions products, predictably!

© 2019 Analogue Solutions (UK) Ltd