Ok, so I've just been messing around with the FF Pro-C and thought you should be subjected to a whole lot of my ideas and opinions.
*It's got a graph!!! Yep that's right a graph that shows gain reduction over time as well as the input and output waveforms. I believe the Pro-C was the first ever compressor to do something like this. If you're a total compressor noob you can use this to get your head around concepts like attack and release. However the implementation is not great. The GR is pale pink, the input is pale white and the output is pale yellow. It's a horrible choice of colours. To make matters worse, when you click "expert", the graph slides away to the left and becomes mostly obscured. Not exactly a clever design. Compare this to the huge, very legible graphs you get on the Pro-L and Pro-G. (These were produced subseqently to the Pro-C so I guess they learned from their mistakes).
*FF make a big deal about this being "program dependent". What does that mean? Well it means that rather than responding to a fixed value, the attack and release times vary somewhat depending on other variables such as frequency and duration. Maybe I'm not nerdy enough to care about any of this. I switched back and forth between the clean, feedback and opto modes to examine the differences (using drum loops). At normal GR (ie -5db) they all sounded the same to me. You also have the option of using an "automatic" release, but again I don't really see the point.
*The wet/dry option is implemented as two separate volume knobs. This makes it slow and clumsy to do parallel compression. You can however pan the dry signal to the left, right, mid, sides, etc. I tried it out and it does sound interesting in some situations.
*The sidechain option suffers from a similar problem. Instead of having a single pan and gain you get two pans and two gains. I really can't imagine ever needing this, and if I did I could employ it directly in the daw.
*The attack starts at 0.5ms and the release at 50ms. This makes the Pro-C slow compared to other compressors and totally inadequate for some applications. It might be well suited to long accoustic tracks where the volume wanders considerably.
*I think the Pro-C bears more than a small resemblance to the native ableton compressor. They both aim for transparency and do opto and feedback emulations. And from Ableton 9 they both have graphs. Is Ableton copying Fab Filter?
*It would be nice to have a clean bypass button on the gui.
Conclusion: This one could be a good choice for vocals or accoustic recordings with a meandering volume. Maybe try it on jazz or classical. There's nothing special here for EDM producers.
I'm quite surprised there aren't more reviews of this yet; I'm a little honoured to be the first, as I feel this is arguably one of the best software compressors available right now.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when FabFilter announced they had released a compressor. Now at this point I already had my fair share of compressors, but I was curious to see what a company with a reputation for ultra-high quality plug-ins would put out, so I downloaded the demo and got to it.
First, the GUI is striking both in its beauty and simplicity (much like their other offerings!): the colour choices complement each other and provide plenty of contrast, and the over-sized dials beckon to be tweaked. But what is really interesting here is the variety of ways the user can witness realtime feedback of the compression transfer curve, peak reduction and sidechaining. While we've all seen the transfer curve before, and I can think of one or two older plugins that attempt to show the effect on the peaks via a waveform display, I had never seen a display that shows the compressor "dipping down" over the peaks, showing you when and how it's compressing; you will see little dips on the top flatline when gain reduction occurs, and if you increase the attack, you can see how the GR happens more slowly, i.e. the dip indents to the right. This makes it valuable both for experienced tweakers and beginners, who may benefit from the extra visual representation (compression is often one of the hardest concepts to learn!).
Next I noticed an "Expert" button; click this, and amazingly the whole waveform display animates and slides "underneath" the transfer curve, revealing sidechaining options and sliders for the pass filter. Again: clear and clever graphical representation, with plenty of options, which we'll get back to.
The larger knobs above are all familiar paramaters: Attack; Release; Threshold; Ration, etc; plus a soft/hard knee switch, three types of compression characteristics and even a dry/wet knob, which I love. With all these options, I couldn't wait to hear it, so let's go!
Even with the default setting, I notice a pleasing response on my drum loop; the transients are punching through, the decay has been extended a bit and the peaks are under control. The more I experiment with more dramatic ratios and settings, the more I like it; this unit reaks of quality, and I know I'm getting hooked by the second! I try the different characteristics, and I can hear differences between them ("Classic" seems to have a softer attack, for instance), but I can't decide which I like best! Everyone wins!
And with the Dry/Wet knob, you can smash the hell out of the signal, but use the mix knob to dial the dry signal back in, New York-style! I found driving the input wasn't that great for this, relying on the threshold and ratio gave better crushed results. ;)
(Another great note about the interface: when you pause over any element, a rather adorable little word ballon will appear and explain the object in question; again, extremely useful, especially for beginners and people looking for further explanation of the Pro-C ethos.)
I then poked around with the presets, of which there are many - categorized by style (nice!) - and I even noticed "bM" after most of the presets; I wondered: is that our "bManic"!?! Sure enough, it was. He was a beta-tester and preset-maker, and could explain why this plugin felt like it was made for the KVR crowd; I really felt like someone was listening to me (like that time you were at the AC/DC show, and you felt like they were playing for YOU..yeah, you KNOW what I'm talkin' about!), and that's reflected in Pro-C; it's made by a discerning small company for the discerning few (although I think everyone should have one, of course!). My point is: the presets are excellent starting points, and very useful for slobs like me who don't spend a lot of time with things like M/S processing; and the presets help demonstrate the strengths of FabFilter's design.
The Help file is perfectly well-written and laid out, I'm glad they used a cfm-style Help, I prefer that to launching a page. Not that I've had to use the Help File much, if at all; the interface is all there, and having direct access to bManic and the developers makes it almost uncessary. But it's there for those who need it.
Support has been friendly and excellent. I submitted a request for A/B, and not only was it met with enthusiasm, it's there now in the 1.1 release, along with (!) Undo/Redo. Amazing.
Now, this compressor is not cheap. At $199, it's near the top of VST compressors, but I must be clear that it's near the top in terms of sound, quality, GUI & support. This is a full package, the "real deal"; and I did not hesitate to pull out my credit card for this. I would warn anyone who is serious about compressors to check this out immediately; one my proudest purchases. :D
I just came back here to check out my review of the Pro-C. Come on - only 3 out of 8 people found that useful?
I've recently been messing around with the Pro-C2. I have to say it is a BIG improvement on the predecessor. There is a peak hold, a range, a lookahead, oversampling, a wet/dry knob, a much improved sidechain section, and a much improved graph. There's also a little button that allows you to gate the audio below the threshold and allows you to only hear what is therefore triggering the compressor (I haven't seen a function like this anywhere before).
I'm still of the feeling that there are probably too many styles that potentially sound identical - ie the opto/ bus/punch/pump/clean modes all sound pretty darn similar when operating in a normal range.
Also I think the mid/side switch in the sidechain section is a vast improvement. If you push that little bar over to the mid (etc) button you will only compress the mid channel. Great but you can't boost the mid volume only without messing with some other knobs in a different area of the gui. Essentially there's three different knobby things in different areas of the gui that control the wet/dry/mid/side. Maybe this could all somehow be bundled up together into one easy knobby thing. Or maybe there's no easy way of doing it.