Review – FabFilter Pro MB
Our reviewer is a big fan of FabFilter effect plug-ins, and their multi-band compressor, Pro MB is no exception. Find out why here.
by Robert Halvarsson, Nov. 2014
We’re on the Band(s)
My love affair with FabFilter is well known, at to those who have read my reviews on Fabfilter Saturn and Pro DS in SoundBytes Magazine.
Compression is considered staple goods of the digital audio workstation, and a decent compressor is often included in pretty much all the biggest names of the industry. Be It Ableton, Cubase, Sonar or Synapse Orion, you are treated to a compressor as part of their respective bundle.
Yet, Fabfilter’s own compressor, Pro C, as with many of their other offerings, has won a following among people wanting something more out of their mixing, mastering and songwriting. I personally count their compressor among one of the best that I’ve tried, being both transparent and versatile, and I use its side-chaining capabilities, and other particulars, to mix my own tracks.
It can be said that there is something of a comfort working within the same plugin paradigm. It is almost a given, that if you understand and work with other effects of FabFilter, you will feel right at home here. But as a consequence of both coherent layout and a dash of interactive help hints, the newbie should soon be able to grasp its basic functionalities.
Multi-band compression is an effect type in which you apply compression to different parts of the frequency bands. The purpose of it is to use the widely observed effects of compressing audio, but by different means. Instead of influencing the entire instrument/track as one band, you split the area being affected by the creation of several potential bands across the frequency spectrum.
A common characteristic of a multi-band compressor is to have three fixed bands, one for bass, one for mid frequencies, and one for high frequencies. This is logical enough, and it fits well within a stereo enthusiast and DJ paradigm. With Pro MB you can freely assign up to six bands, not being limited by preselected areas of frequencies.
In this way, Pro MB reminds me of MDynamicEq by Meldaproductions, which also is capable of doing similar things through a number of freely assignable bands across the spectrum. Understanding Pro MB as solely a multiband compressor is to do it a disservice, it can take over some equalizer jobs, as well as introduce more interesting effects, such as parallel expansion and compression. The bands can affect a very limited spectrum, or be very broad. In the previous instance, you can easily correct a problematic frequency through compression instead of traditional equalizing, getting surgical and precise results during peaks more easily.
Both Downwards and Up
As easy as flipping a switch, you can do expansion. It remains a less-known form of dynamics processing that can be used to widen the dynamic range. To be precise, you can do upwards compression, as well as downwards and upwards expansion equally well. Being familiar with only the traditional form of compression, in which you reduce an audio signal above a certain threshold, a new amount of freedom due to this can be both fun and confusing at the same time.
The sound of the audio I put through it, mostly being singer and songwriter instrumentation as of late, the effect could best be described as transparent and round, I know these are vague terms, but the results were much to my liking.
The visual aspect has always been one of FabFilter’s key selling points. It is also something which this writer has commended throughout a string of reviews. And it only gets better, even though there is a more-crowded scene that acknowledges the importance of visual design these days.
If I had to choose one aspect which I found especially intelligent, it would have to be the inclusion of an analyzer freeze function. A tool which temporarily makes the maximum measurements visible over a period of time. It gives the user a tool which allows a clearer look into potential problem frequencies throughout parts, or of the whole mix, and can equally well lend you a hand seeing how things are balanced.
This makes it a good analyzer plugin as well, and can give worthwhile clues as how to work within Pro MB, or other tools chosen for the task.
Soon a Total Catalogue of Sonic Tools?
Are there any issues at all with this product? As far as I can hear, I’ve not come across any, as it relates to its sound or its visual engine. For some time, I wondered why FabFilter wouldn’t allow me to move the horizontal and vertical axis at the same time with my mouse. Minor as it may seem, it appeared quite strange as to why it would work this way – and come to think of it, it is also something which I’ve experienced in FabFilter Saturn as well.
But alas. It was possible, through a simple ALT-press. It goes to show that it takes some time to get to know a plugin.
All in all I consider this a worthy asset to the FabFilter catalogue of plugins. If in the future they would include a reverb and a chorus/flanger unit in their plugin suite, it would pretty much be possible to work exclusively in house with only FabFilter plugins.
I probably would choose not to, but I can see a great many of reasons why this would be desirable to many users with deep enough pockets.
Price and availability:
FabFilter MB is available for EUR 169 supporting both Windows and Mac OS X in VST and VST 3, Audio Units, AAX, RTAS and AudioSuite plug-in formats. Bundles with FabFilter Pro-DS and other FabFilter plug-ins are also available.