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FabFilter Saturn 2 review by Andrulian's Blog

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Introduction

FabFilter is proud to announce immediate availability of FabFilter Saturn 2, a major update to their award-winning multiband distortion and saturation plug-in. Saturn 2 sees a top-to-bottom redesign of the Saturn interface for even greater ease of use and visualization, as well as a host of new features and improvements, including 12 new distortion styles, a radically overhauled and expanded modulation system, enhanced envelopes, linear phase processing, and a pristine new ‘Superb’ High-Quality mode.

FabFilter Saturn 2 is now available for supporting both Windows and macOS in VST and VST 3, Audio Units, AAX, and AudioSuite plug-in formats. Bundles with FabFilter Saturn 2 and other FabFilter plug-ins are also available.

Existing FabFilter customers can purchase or upgrade to FabFilter Saturn 2 with very attractive discounts by logging into their online user account: www.fabfilter.com/myaccount

System requirements are either Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista or XP (32-bit and 64-bit) and a VST 2/3 host or Pro Tools, or Mac OS X 10.8 or higher (64-bit only) with Intel processor, and an Audio Units host, VST 2/3 host, or Pro Tools.

To make self-quarantine just a little bit easier during the COVID-19 pandemic, FabFilter offers free 30-day evaluation extensions for all their plug-ins, including Saturn 2.

Overview

Saturn 2 looks better and flows faster than ever. The darker colour scheme makes the plug-in easier to look at for extended sessions, and four interface size options and a stunning full-screen mode enable adaptation to any workspace. Modulation is now comprehensively visualized at both source and target, too, with colour-coded collars and tracks on knobs and sliders animating in response to modulation input, the source flow area giving an eye-catching overview of all mod signals, and indicators on controls and bands showing which parameters are being modulated at a glance.

More Distortion Types
Saturn 2 almost doubles the number of distortion styles on board from 16 to 28. ‘Subtle’ versions of the Tape, Tube, and Saturation styles provide low-intensity warming, while four new British (Rock, Pop) and American (Tweed, Plexi) Amp styles perfectly model well-known guitar amplifiers, three Transformer styles (Subtle, Gentle, Warm) open up abrasive new possibilities, and the Foldback and Breakdown FX styles reshape and mutate sounds beyond recognition, the latter combining down-pitching with heavy distortion.

Big Modulation Changes
With virtually no limit placed on the combination of 16-step XLFOs, Envelope Generators, Envelope Followers, XY Controllers, and MIDI sources that can be used in a preset, Saturn has always been serious about creative modulation, and Saturn 2 takes the whole system to the next level. Curve the Envelope Generator’s Attack, Decay, and Release stages for a smoother or more aggressive response, activate the Envelope Follower’s new Transient detection mode to tightly track drums and percussion, and route discrete band inputs to both Envelope sources as triggering signals — pulverize hi-hats to the rhythm of the kick drum, for example. The XY Controller’s new Slider mode, meanwhile, slims it down to vertical-only operation, and the XLFO benefits from legato MIDI triggering and targeting of the Frequency Offset and Balance parameters for modulation. And with custom naming of individual mod sources now possible, users can customize their Saturn 2 presets for effortless navigation.

Mastering Grade Saturation
The new ‘Subtle’ saturation types make Saturn 2 the mastering engineer’s secret weapon, bringing enlivening presence and fizz to final mixes. In order to meet the exacting demands of such mission-critical application, the band crossovers now offer a choice of 6, 12, 24, 36, and 48 dB/octave roll-off slopes, the new ‘Superb’ High-Quality mode switches the plug-in to 32x oversampling for almost total elimination of aliasing, and the Linear Phase option ensures maximum coherence for the crossovers and High-Quality modes.

Key Features:

  • 28 diverse distortion styles, from warming tube and tape saturation to screaming American and British guitar amps, Transformers, bit crushing, smearing, rectification, and more
  • Up to six separate processing bands, with variable crossover slopes: 6, 12, 24, 36, and 48 dB/octave
  • Independent Drive, Mix, Feedback, Dynamics, Tone, and Level controls for every band
  • Two High-Quality modes for 8x and 32x oversampling
  • Regular stereo and mid/side processing
  • Intuitive interactive multiband display
  • Powerful, flexible modulation system: drag and drop as many 16-step XLFOs, XY Controllers, Envelope Generators, Envelope Followers, Sliders, and MIDI Sources as required
  • Full visual feedback of modulation via parameter animation and ‘source flow’
  • Linear phase mode for mastering applications
  • Four interface size options and full-screen mode
  • Carefully curated factory preset library for amp modelling, colouration, lo-fi degradation, and FX
  • All the usual FabFilter features users have come to expect: perfectly fine-tuned knobs and controllers, interactive MIDI Learn, undo/redo and A/B switch, Smart Parameter Interpolation for smooth parameter transitions, an extensive help file with interactive help hints, sample accurate automation, SSE optimization, and more.

In-Use

Saturn 2 is incredibly easy to use. The interface is clean, very well laid out and fully resizable.

The opening screen shows the interface which has menu controls at the top; midi learn, linear phase, high quality mode and output options – including some very cool settings to switch into mid/side mode and enable unrestricted feedback so Saturn 2 can self-oscillate – at the bottom.

The presets are located in the menu at the top and include a wide range of sounds that are very usable in their own right and/or make excellent starting points that you can adjust to your particular sound.

The main part of the screen shows the floating control panel which has a number of controls – mix, feedback / feedback frequency, dynamics, drive, 4 band EQ, level and the 28 saturation / distortion types.

The other aspect of the display is that when you feed a signal into Saturn 2, it displays the frequency a bit like the interface of Pro-Q 2 and any adjustments you make to levels or EQ will be visible on screen.

Making Saturn 2 multiband is as easy as clicking on the ‘+’ at the top of the screen, you can have up to 6 bands and align these to different parts of the frequency spectrum by simply clicking and dragging left and right. You can also set the level, cross-over shape and saturation / distortion type for each band as well as solo/mute individual bands. The images above and below use the same input loop, it’s clear to see how Saturn 2 is changing the sound.

The multiband approach enables you to apply many different effect types, from subtle saturation and colouring for drums, add warmth to the bottom end, grit or sizzle to the top end. You can also create some interesting effects for vocals, the ‘breakdown’ effect is like an octaver that can create some unusual harmony type effects.

With all this, Saturn 2 is an excellent effect, but there’s even more processing power from modulation. There are a number of modulation options:

You add a modulation source by simply clicking the add source ‘+’ button towards the bottom of the screen. Each of these is colour coded and well featured, for example the XLFO allows you to add steps using shapes – linear, sine, sqr, sqrt with a glide function that determines the glide amount between steps. You can create complex shapes, have them free-running or beat sync’d and there are also trigger and legato modes.

The envelope generator is a typical ADSR shape but with an additional hold control.

Conclusions

This is an absolutely superb effect, despite it’s complexities it’s very easy to learn how to use it. The interface is clean and very well designed, hiding the complexities very well, allowing you to quickly create your own effects. Saturn 2 has a huge range of uses from simple saturation and distortion to more complex multiband effects with modulation.

I can see a wide range of uses on future projects from improving drum sounds, adding warmth, adding sizzle, creative effects for vocals as well as subtle or more pronounced saturation for mastering.

Original Source: Andrulian's Blog

Try before you buy

Download FabFilter Saturn 2 Upgrade from Saturn 1 trial version for free!

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