Review – FabFilter Saturn

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Good saturation and distortion is much sought after. FabFilter Saturn claims to do it all. But does it pull that off? Find out the answer in this close-up look.

by Robert Halvarsson, Sept. 2013

Outer Space Distortion

Good saturation and distortion is much sought after, from the early virtual effects imposing hard clipping to the sublime effects found today that promise everything from gentle tape saturation to full on destruction – FabFilter Saturn claims to do it all. But does it pull that off?

Saturn comes in most commonly used virtual plugin formats available today, in both 32 and 64-bit formats – to comply to different DAWs and setups. It comes with FabFilter’s world-renowned, polished graphical user interface, to my mind brought up a notch, compared to its virtual family.

 From the get-go you will recognize the GUI, its useful help section and all the other standard, but excellent, interface solutions which FabFilter has perfected through the years. For experienced users it will feel right at home.  For new ones, it’s easy to set up and get going – creating something new.

 The name Saturn implies something not terrestrial, and perhaps good multiband distortion could be something out of this world.  But in order to create this form of illusion, it has to sound good. And it does, actually I am tempted say it comes out as top of its class.

 Many of the effects I’ve tried and used in the past have provided an easier way to acheive a digital, clinical and edgy sound. But sometimes this is not you are after, you want warmth and well-rounded expression, and it is in the analogue world the inspiration comes from in this case.


Tap That Tape

 And those characteristics are not only there by name, (there is modes aiming to emulate or pronounce the specific characteristic of sound usually associated with tape and tube saturation here), they are present in a way that achieves some of the best coloration that I’ve heard in a plugin. All in all, there are 16 distortion and saturation types found here – quality stuff.

 There are certainly things here for those looking for guitar amp fuzziness, but there’s also so much more to it!  Maybe slap it onto that drum bus of yours, to gently overdrive the signal? That are many, many possibilities here for that, of course, but it could be a starting point.

 Also worth noting is that this is a multi-band unit. You can apply different internal effects on the bass, mid and high spectrum, which are freely assignable by choosing your crossover frequencies. This is not unheard of, not too long ago we saw something similar done in the effects Kombinat Dva, by virtual effect and instrument company Audio Damage.  But these are two different beasts, and in the end: Saturn comes out as the more versatile effect of the two.

 It can actually be interesting to even include this effect by FabFilter in the mastering process, just a tiny bit of vintage tape saturation can glue together the sound in a really nice way.  But due to the flexible nature of this effect, and the quality of the sound – this can pretty much be used on anything. It won’t make bad music good, as with everything it requires a sense of moderation and technique, but aside from that – this is presently a stellar starting point for every distortion and saturation need I can come to think of.


Price and Availability

 FabFilter Saturn is available for EUR 149, USD 189 or GBP 124, 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. See




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