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FabFilter Pro-Q 3 [Plugin Review]

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FabFilter Pro-Q 3 [Plugin Review]
FabFilter Pro-Q 3 [Plugin Review] - youtube Video
Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here —, We’re going to be doing a review of the brand new FabFilter Pro-Q 3. We’ve got a little song here and vocal actually, provided by Ryan Stockbridge, so thank you for letting me use this.

Now, let’s get into this and check it out. Let’s listen to the vocal without any EQ.


Now let’s throw on the Q 3 and see what it does.

[mix, vocals EQ’d]

Million times better. Alright, so to get under the hood here, I’m going to jump over to another vocal section, we’re going to give it a listen, and we’re going to fix up some problems, maybe bring it to life a little bit.


Alright, let’s do this. Let’s grab our Q 3, and we’ve got a couple of things going on right away, first thing that I always look at here is this tab, which says zero latency. This is going to refer to the mode in which the EQ is handling the phase distortion. So zero latency is like it says, a version that provides no latency. It is a little bit CPU lighter. It’s really designed for tracking more than anything else.

I tend to switch it over to natural phase. That uses a little bit more CPU and incurs a little bit of delay, but it handles the phase distortion in a slightly smoother way, sounds a little bit better to my ear, and of course, there’s always the option for linear phase mode.

Linear phase mode is still a version that has phase distortion, but the difference is the amount of group time delay is going to be the same no matter what frequencies we’re messing around with.

Now, that might be a little jargon-y, I don’t want to get into what all of that means in this particular video, but I have other videos like Mixing with EQ that explains all of that stuff.

Okay, then also here we have an analyzer. Now, the analyzer can be very useful. Now, I’m a big proponent of not using analyzers, but using our ears, because that’s how the end listener is going to hear it, no analyzer in sight, but having an analyzer that’s really good and reliable can be really good for speeding up the process and giving us some visual insight into what we’re hearing.

Of course, we have a pre, a post, and a sidechain monitor. I’m going to take out the sidechain, because we’ve got nothing feeding it now, so we’ve just got our pre and our post. Okay, let’s take a listen and a look at what’s going on.


Alright, so fair to say we’ve got a pretty good amount of mid-range buildup. Most of what I’m hearing is actually somewhere around the 500 to 700Hz area that’s sort of room tone-y, muddy type stuff, so I’m going to be focusing mainly on that first.

So what I’m going to be doing is click right in the middle twice, and it defaults to bell mode with a one octave Q right here, and I’m just going to move this around like this to see if I can find that muddy zone.

[vocals, filtered]

Right, so there’s my muddy zone right there. So what I can do is I can adjust the Q here, make it narrower or wider, depending on what I need to really do. It sounds like that mud is pretty wide, so I’m going to keep the Q fairly wide, and of course, I also have the option to change the slope angle. Now, this is a little bit weird, but the visual representation is actually very helpful. This is going to define our gradient going above and below the corner frequency.

So if I change it to 36 dB per octave, it’s like we get a little square here. So we’re not really doing too much outside of this band, but then we have a sudden sharp phase change that occurs, and we do a sort of a plateaued EQ above it. That can be useful for targeting very specific frequencies. It’s not very smooth sounding, but it does really help get at exactly what you’re trying to affect.

[vocals, adjusting EQ]

Okay. So that — four and a half dB cut right off the bat sounds real good to me. Gets rid of that room tone.

Let’s adjust the Q, see if we can make that a little bit tighter.

Actually, I feel like keeping it pretty wide is about right. This annoying little resonance, it’s kind of subtle, but it’s right up around here.


So I’m going to switch this into notch mode.

[notch filtered voice]

Get rid of that little tiny bit of annoying resonance. Now, we also have a sort of annoying thing that happens where every now and then, the mid-range becomes just a little too mid-rangey. I like the mid-range quality, but sometimes, it just gets a little bit unruly.


Alright, I sort of like that texture, but I think we need it to calm down a little. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to switch this into dynamic mode, right here, if I click this little arrow, I get to make it dynamic. Then I get this little guy.

So this is a dynamic EQ, meaning when a threshold is exceeded of amplitude, that’s when the EQ kicks in, and it’s going to kick in proportionate to how much that threshold is being exceeded. Kind of like a compressor.

[vocals with dynamic EQ]

What’s nice about this is I can do a pretty sizeable cut here. I mean, we’re going down what, about minus 7dB, but it doesn’t really sound like we’ve cut that much, because it’s working dynamically. It’s not affecting it all the time, it’s only affecting it when it gets excessive.

Now, right above here, there’s a little word that says “Auto.” Auto means it’s going to track the overall level of the vocal, basically give us an RMS reading, and then it’s going to adjust the threshold from there as it goes. I find this is really great for super dynamic melodic elements like vocals. It can also be good for things where you have very bold harmonics like brass or something like that.

However, if you want to go into a fixed threshold, you can do that just by clicking auto here, it gives us the option to set the threshold manually, and it’ll just stay there.

I’m going to keep it in auto now.



Now, I do think that we could use a little bit of shine in the top end. So I’m going to use a shelf. I’m going to switch it right over here. Not a tilt shelf. Whoopsies. Although it’s kind of cool to have that available. I’m just going to use a regular old shelf.

[vocal with shelf]

Nice. And let’s make it a little bit more gradual, a little bit more subtle.

[vocal, adjusting slope of shelf]

Now, it’s not a big deal, but there is a little bit of stuff here that’s like, down around 50Hz. Now, this does not need a high pass at all. I’m just doing this to show you that it can be done, but if we click over here very close to the edge, we get our high or low pass filters. In this case, over here in the low end, we get a high pass filter, which makes sense. What I’m going to do is I’m going to change the slope here to something a little more aggressive.


There we go. Now we’ve really chopped that all down. Sounds pretty good.

Now, there’s a bunch of stuff here on this mono source that I don’t really need, but on any of these bands, I have the option of switching into a mid/side configuration. Not in the mono mode, but I’m going to jump over after we play this.


Give ourselves a little makeup gain too since we cut a bunch of mid-range.


Nice. Alright, it’s not perfect, but I mean, definitely much, much further along.

So let’s go over here to the chorus where I can show you some of the stuff that I was doing with the Pro-Q 3, and show you some of the mid/side capabilities.


Let’s take our Pro-Q 3 off.

[mix, no Pro-Q 3]

Basically, the idea was to get all of these synth layers to all work together, and all act like one basic idea.

So within here, we can do a whole bunch of stuff. For example, in this chorus synth…

[chorus synth]

It sounded like this.

[chorus synth, no EQ]

I made it sound like this.

[chorus synth with EQ]

So it’s a subtle difference, but it really works in the end. What’s going on here is I’m taking out a low shelf from the side information, because I felt like the low end was spreading out too much, and instead I’m pumping up the mid of the same low end information, so I’m giving it more of a feeling of a bass than a big ambient synth.

[chorus synth, with and without EQ]

Then I’m cutting a whole bunch of mid-range here to make room for some of the other elements that are involved. It’s pretty cool to be able to give every individual band mid/side capability at just the click of a button. We can do a whole bunch of stuff real fast.

Now, I want to point out one cool feature of the FabFilter before jumping off here, but this is good for allowing for those insights again if you’re working out the relationship between two elements. For example, I’ve got an 808 and a kick in the hook.

[kick and 808]

And I’m monitoring my 808. Now maybe I want to make that 808 more present, but I want to make sure that it stays out of the way of the kick. Well, what I can do here is go to the analyzer, and it gives me a whole bunch of options right here. So I can fly on down here to where it says hook kick, I can select that, and now…

[kick and 808]

I get a picture of exactly what the kick is looking like. So I can take a narrow band here…

[kick and 808]

I can get it right out of the way of the kick if I so choose. Now, I don’t think it personally needs that in this particular case, I think the 808 and the kick are getting along just fine and dandy, so instead, I might do something like bring out some of the overtones by pumping out some of the mid-range.

[kick and 808]

Cool, so basically, if you’ve seen my tutorials, you know that I use FabFilter stuff all the time, I’ve been on this train for like, my gosh, I don’t even know how long. Eight years, nine years, something like that. Pro-Q 2 made it to pretty much every mix that I was doing, and now Pro-Q 3 is going to be making it to every mix I’m doing from here on out, because just adding those added bits of features really makes this thing work for anything that you’re doing. It really is super useful, you can dial in your sound just in one plugin, almost immediately, and go from there.

Alright guys, until next time.


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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