Saturday, January 3, 2015

Review and tutorial: Fabfilter PRO L

Hello and welcome to this week's article! 
Today we're reviewing a different kind of limiter, the Fabfilter pro L.

When we have extensively talked about limitersheadroom and gain staging and mastering, the plugin always taken as our typical limiter was the Waves L2, an industry standard, but actually in the market there are many more limiters which have the same function, but radically different interfaces and mechanics.
The Fabfilter Pro L is one of those.
The first thing that captures the attention is the rich wave analyzer that takes most of the ui: to the right there are 2 metering tools: the brightest one is the input level, the darkest one is the output level once we have raised the gain, and the red part is the amount of limiting applied.

In the main window we can see the actual wave, with in red the parts that are being limited in real time, and it is possible to choose the range to show in the window, from the full dynamic range to only the peaks that gets reduced.
The gain fader is on the left: just scroll it upwards to add more gain, using all the available headroom, and stop when the moment is right: when only the peaks exceeding the average level are limited, and never more than 3 or 4 db of gain reduction, to avoid losing transients.
The output knob in the bottom right lets us set the ceiling, according to the main use we want to do with our song: -0.1db if we will hear it mainly on a cd, -1.0db if the main use will be internet streaming, and so on.

The typical use of this plugin is the same as the Waves L2 explained in the "How to use a Limiter" section of this article, which is linking the gain knob to the output one and raising them accordingly until the gain reduction is the right one for your material (sure there are many good presets too, but especially when limiting, presets are almost useless, since they cannot know exactly the loudness of your song, and they will often distort the material): luckily you can browse through the presets also using a function that will not affect gain and output level, just to see how the different settings sounds.

If you want to manually tweak the settings, as in the other Fabfilter products there is an "Advanced Tab" which lets us manually tweak attack, release, lookahead and other parameters as the "limiting algorithm": transparent, punchy (good for single tracks), dynamic (good for preserving transients), allround.

All in all, another very good and complete product from the Fabfilter team, which also integrates a complete monitoring system that will make our mastering chain thinner.

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