If you've read some of our previous reviews of FabFilter plugins, you already know that we're a big fan. When we had a chance to dig into FabFilter's Pro-C 2 compressor, we were thrilled. After spending several hours with Pro-C 2, we're asking ourselves how we ever mixed without it! Let's get into the details so you can see what's so special about this excellent compressor.
When you launch Pro-C 2, you're greeted with the familiar FabFilter style of plugin. The layout and color-scheme of Pro-C 2 will be familiar to anyone who's used any of FabFilter's other great plugins. You also get FabFilter's amazing context-sensitive help bubbles. Hover over any control and a detailed description of that control pops up. (Once you get familiar with everything, you can turn this feature off if you want to.)
These help tips aren't the only help available in Pro-C 2. FabFilter has written some of the best documentation I've ever seen, and it's available by simply clicking on Help. When you do, you'll be treated to clearly written documentation that covers just about everything you can think of. For example, I was looking for the documentation on how to set up side-chain compression. Not only did the documentation do a great job of explaining Pro-C 2's approach and how you can configure side-chain, but it also provided links to other information that clarified some of the concepts even better. I also discovered a link to the external side-chaining section where FabFilter had done a great job of explaining how to configure external side-chaining in Cubase, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, and Pro Tools. The documentation system in Pro-C 2 is simply outstanding and anyone using this plugin should definitely spend some time learning from this excellent resource.
It's quite easy to get great results from Pro-C 2. The interface is clean and responsive, something we've come to expect from FabFilter. One thing that Pro-C 2 adds is the ability to run full-screen. If you use a large monitor or a high-resolution display, this is a wonderful feature. On our MacBook Pro, Pro-C 2 looks beautiful when viewed full-screen. You can also choose between a small (740x550), medium (840x620) and a large (1,000x760) interface.
Another great feature in FabFilter plug-ins is MIDI Learn. It's never been easier to program your favorite control surface to control a plug-in. Of course, controls in Pro-C 2 are buttery smooth with a mouse or trackpad as well, so if you aren't one of those folks who uses an external control surface, there's still plenty to love here.
"The new side-chain EQ section provides an incredible amount of power and flexibility without over-complicating things."
By default, the majority of the Pro-C 2 interface is taken up by the level display that scrolls as your audio plays and the knee display. You can collapse the knee display if you'd like or you can collapse both the knee display and the level display. In both cases, level meters make it easy to see when compression is kicking in.
Configuring side-chain compression is made easy by expanding the side-chain display. Here you can control all of your side-chain compression settings easily, and configuring complex side-chain compression settings is intuitive and fast. The new side-chain EQ section (shown in the screenshot below) provides an incredible amount of power and flexibility without over-complicating things.
"Audition Triggering is indispensable for users who want to gain more insight into what is triggering compression and it will definitely help you to get just the results you are looking for."
Pro-C 2 improves on the original Pro-C in many ways, and while Pro-C was a great compressor in its own right, Pro-C 2 really ups the ante. Instead of two fixed knee positions, you can configure the new Knee slider from 0dB all the way to 72dB and everything in between. The Hold slider is also new in Pro-C 2, making it possible to adjust the time period that peaks in gain reduction are held. The thought here is that you can increase the transparency of gain reduction by bumping up the hold time, and it seems to work quite well.
Also new in Pro-C 2 are five new compression styles; Vocal, Mastering, Bus, Punch, and Pumping. These new styles can either be used as-is or as a starting point for your compression needs. It's a great way for new users to get started and for seasoned engineers to get to a starting point quickly.
There are too many new features for us to cover them all, but we have to mention the Audition Triggering feature because it's a seriously cool way to understand how compression is being applied. Clicking the Audition button turns the feature on and it allows you to hear the filtered and stereo-linked signals that are triggering compression. (You can also click and hold on the button to temporarily enable it.) Audition Triggering is indispensable for users who want to gain more insight into what is triggering compression, and it will definitely help you to get just the results you are looking for.
It's clear that FabFilter set out to make some serious improvements to an already excellent compressor when they created Pro-C 2. The long list of new features are indicative of just how successful they were. Pro-C 2 is an award-winning, professional-quality compressor at a price point that makes it a no-brainer to add as an essential part of your audio arsenal.