Fab Filter Pro-Q2 – Fabtastic!
Welcome to our hands-on review of the amazing new Fabfilter Pro-Q2 equaliser. They have really knocked it out of the ballpark this time with Pro-Q2, I mean there’s almost nothing to review – it’s that good. Just buy it, the review is done!
She’s got it where it counts, baby
Ok, ok – let’s see what’s going on then, can a plugin be that good? Firstly, FabFilter has completely redesigned the internal filter engine from the ground up — not only improving the existing Zero Latency and Linear Phase processing modes but also introducing a unique Natural Phase mode. Besides perfectly matching the magnitude response of analogue EQ’ing, Natural Phase also closely matches the analogue phase response, without introducing noticeable pre-ring or a long latency. Not that the first Pro-Q was a slug, but FabFilter Pro-Q 2 is more than twice as CPU-efficient as its predecessor
Just so we’re all on the same page here, Pro-Q2 is best described as a track EQ, not a colouring EQ. You won’t get Pultec vintage, Neve glue, or Harrison smoothness here – it’s an editing workhorse. It’s the one you turn to fix tonal imbalances in your audio. To sort that weird 250k hump, or to bring the kick out a little in the mix. That’s not to say it can’t come close to sounding like a vintage unit, but it’s not its focus. Pro-Q2 is the best replacement option for your DAWs default EQ, it really does take the menial task of filtering to a whole new level.
The flexibility of Pro-Q2 is incredible. Some of the new features really make me wonder what the heck I ever did before it came along.
Let’s walk through some of the features that set Pro-Q2 apart from the rabble.
- 24 bands.
- Zero latency, Natural phase or linear phase mode. Zero latency can be thought of as ‘eco’ mode, though there’s nothing economical about the sound, its just natural and linear phase modes are a lot more demanding on CPU cycles.
- L&R or Mid Side mode
- Very steep filter slopes – up to 96 dB/octave, and, you can change the slope of any filter type — not just the usual Low/High Cut filters
- Spectrum Grab. lets you directly adjust peaks in the real-time spectrum analyzer display – Love, love, love this! You can freeze the spectrum in time and go through cutting or boosting peeks on the screen. Such a brilliant idea, you really need to try this.
- EQ match. If you side-chain in signal from another audio source, Pro Q2 will match the EQ curve to your track.
- Piano roll mode. Amazing, yet so simple. You can change the node to match notes on a piano scale. If, for instance, the F3 note is too prominent on the bass, use the piano roll to accurately find F3 and roll it off.
- Full-screen zoom. Nice for when you only want to focus on EQing your track – hit full-screen mode and all you get is the beautiful GUI.
- Auto gain. A great little feature that adjusts the output level depending on the amount of gain you cut of boost. Great if you have effects in the chain after Pro Q2 so you don’t overdrive them.
Apparently, since its overhaul, Pro-Q2 has highly improved CPU optimization, using less memory and is more than twice as efficient as the original Pro-Q, which was no slouch to start with. On our system (P7 920 12gig RAM Win7) we recorded around 0.3% CPU draw when idle, and about 0.5-0.8% when in use per instance (in zero latency mode) – remarkable considering all the bells and whistles you get here. In comparison, our Pultech EQ drew over 1.2% CPU in idle and 2.5% under strain.
Of course, Pro-Q 2 features everything that was great about the original Pro-Q — innovative interface with unsurpassed workflow — as well as all the trailblazing FabFilter bells and whistles that users have come to expect and love — perfectly fine-tuned knobs and controllers, GPU-powered graphics acceleration, interactive MIDI Learn, undo/redo and A/B switch, Smart Parameter Interpolation for smooth parameter transitions, an extensive help file with interactive help hints, sample-accurate automation, advanced optimization, and more.
Pro-Q2, like all of FabFilter plugins, is a lovely-looking piece of kit. You will definitely get some oohs and ahhs from your clients when you open this bad boy up in full-screen mode. Fortunately, Pro-Q2 is not just a pretty face in a party frock, she’s got some serious fire-power under the hood. If you were building a new DAW set-up from scratch, this should be the first plugin you purchase. There’s not much else I can add that is not covered in the excellent introduction video from FabFilter (see below). The only niggle, and I’m really stretching to find something negative to say about Pro-Q2, is I wish there were a few more interesting presets included.
Though the $240 NZD price tag is a little steep for some home recording guys, the flexibility and outright quality of this EQ make it essential to buy. You can put off that silly vintage box you’re eyeing up for another 6 months, it won’t give you half the bang for the buck as Pro-Q2 will – you can take that all the way to the bank.
All FabFilter plug-ins are available in VST, VST3, Audio Units, AAX Native and AudioSuite formats (all both 64-bit and 32-bit), as well as RTAS (32-bit only).