FabFilter Volcano 2
Exciting filter plug-ins don't come along that often, but Volcano 2 is one of the most inspirational effects we've used in a long time.
On a purely aesthetic level, it looks far nicer than the garish blue and orange of the original version, but the differences are more than just skin deep.
Volcano 2 is a much more flexible beast than its predecessor. At its core are four multimode filters that can work as low-, band- or high-pass types, with a 12dB, 24dB or 48dB per octave roll-off. Ideally, we'd have liked notch and vowel filter types, too.
Each filter has its own Characteristics setting, which offers 11 sonic styles, ranging from Gentle to Extreme. The filters self-oscillate too, though this can be automatically muted.
Three routing modes are available: Stereo, where the signal is run through the four filters in series; Left/Right, where the left and right channels pass through independently configured filters, and Mid/Side, where the signal is split into mid and side components, each of which are filtered separately.
The last of these modes is pretty unusual for a filter plug-in, providing great potential for stereo image manipulation.
The filters can be linked so that adjusting or modulating the cutoff frequency or resonance of one affects any others it's linked to – useful when creating stereo effects.
The host-syncable modulation system is superficially similar to that of FabFilter's Twin synth. However, rather than being given a fixed number of modulators, you can add or remove them as you see fit.
Volcano 2 displays the modulators on a scrolling panel, and it's possible to have up to six envelope generators, four envelope followers and six LFOs - or as Volcano 2 calls them, XLFOs. XLFOs can have up to 16 steps, with global and per-step glide settings, and each step can use a Sine, Linear or one of two Square curves.
All this offers much more control than the original's LFOs, which couldn't manage a sine LFO. Each modulator can be routed to one or more parameters by dragging and dropping, and each connection has its own slot in which you can manage the source, destination and polarity of the modulation.
By applying a little know-how (or using the supplied presets), you can also go far beyond the usual resonant filter sweeps. For example, every filter has a Delay setting ranging from 0-50ms – by modulating this, chorus and flanging can be achieved.
Similarly, overdriving the filters can create distortion, and the envelope follower can be used to achieve compression.
Overall, Volcano's interface works beautifully, making it a snap to create anything from simple roll-offs to complex rhythmic effects and textures. Thankfully, with FabFilter's famously tasty filter algorithms under the hood, the sound is as slick as the graphics, and the broad range of options only sweetens the deal.
With a stonking sound and incredible flexibility, Volcano 2 is a must for anyone seeking a characterful all-in-one filter solution.
Listen to what happens when Volcano 2 erupts:
Sounds gorgeous. Attractive, clear interface. Useful sidechain capabilities. 11 different filter characteristics. Sophisticated modulation routing. VST3-compatible.
No notch or vowel filters.
Aside from the lack of more exotic filter types, Volcano 2 is hard to fault.