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Focusrite FAST Series plugins review

Focusrite meets Sonible for these new ‘smart’ mixing tools...

  • £5.99+

Our Verdict

An impressively user-friendly trio of smart plugins with broad appeal, but FAST Reveal is the highlight of the range so far.

Pros

  • Smartly designed, approachable interfaces.
  • Accessible rent-to-own pricing.
  • FAST Reveal is particularly unique and effective.

Cons

  • Currently no bundle deals for owners of more than one plugin.

What is it?

UK interface dons Focusrite first announced its partnership with Austrian plugin developer Sonible back in 2019, and last summer released a co-branded freebie in the form of auto-EQ plugin Balancer

We’re now seeing the true fruits of the collaboration with the launch of Focusrite’s new software hub, The Collective, and a trio of Sonible-powered FAST plugins. The three plugins inaugurating the range are FAST Equaliser, FAST Compressor and FAST Reveal. 

As with Balancer last year, at the heart of each is Sonible’s impressive intelligent analysis technology, which can listen to the incoming audio and create a mixing preset tailored to fit the current track.

There are nice touches to the design throughout. The EQ, for example, offers bespoke labelling of frequency bands depending on the selected profile, with tags such as ‘Knock’ and ‘Punch’ for drums or ‘Body’ and ‘Picking’ for guitar

FAST Equaliser and FAST Compressor are intentionally straightforward in design. Hit ‘Learn’ in either and the plugin listens to the input for a few seconds before creating an EQ or compression treatment to improve what it’s hearing. 

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Focusrite FAST plugins

(Image credit: Focusrite)
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Focusrite FAST plugins

(Image credit: Focusrite)
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Focusrite FAST plugins

(Image credit: Focusrite)

Each offers a selection of profiles to help the plugin work out the intended application – eg drums, acoustic guitar, vocal low, vocal high – plus hard, soft and neutral ‘flavours’.

By default the plugins open on a FAST interface, which displays just the bare-bones controls and largely jargon-free labelling, making them nicely approachable for those new to recording technology.

The plugins also have a Detailed view though, opening up access to the standard parameters you’d expect for each effect type, such as each EQ band’s frequency and Q, or attack, decay and ratio controls for the compressor.

Performance and verdict

There are nice touches to the design throughout. The EQ, for example, offers bespoke labelling of frequency bands depending on the selected profile, with tags such as ‘Knock’ and ‘Punch’ for drums or ‘Body’ and ‘Picking’ for guitar.

You can solo and monitor each EQ band too. The compressor, meanwhile, uses an interactive waveform that makes fine-tuning threshold and ratio settings very intuitive.

FAST Reveal is the most interesting of the trio. This is essentially a spectral ducking tool that can analyse two audio signals and apply precise reductions aimed specifically at where frequency clashes happen. Simply add it to a track, select the element you want to avoid as a sidechain and hit ‘Learn’. Again, there are profiles for different forms of sidechain style, as well as Light, Heavy and Balanced flavours.

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While the effect of FAST Reveal can be achieved with existing plugins, we’ve not seen this kind of precise ducking made quite so intuitive before. The results are impressive too – mostly subtle enough that you won’t instantly hear the effect, but the extra mix clarity is certainly noticeable.

In our tests, the ‘intelligent’ features of all three plugins worked better on traditional ‘band’ or pop applications than more overtly electronic or unusual sources. That’s expected to an extent, and suits the target market here – FAST Equaliser and FAST Compressor will likely appeal most to recording guitarists or musicians dabbling in first recordings.

FAST Reveal is worth checking out whoever you are though, and could become a mixdown secret weapon. It’s a solid start for The Collective, and the rent-to-own model makes these a very tempting trio of tools for any musicians who value ease-of-use and simplicity.

MusicRadar verdict: An impressively user-friendly trio of smart plugins with broad appeal, but FAST Reveal is the highlight of the range so far.

The web says

“As a foray into AI processing, the Focusrite FAST plug-ins are an impressive first step. The dynamics and frequency analysis in the compressor and equaliser is excellent. Moreover, the ability to fine-tune manually makes them both practical for production and excellent learning tools. Reveal, the ducking plug-in, also works well but is a little too subtle in its effect for it to be equal to its siblings.“
MusicTech

Hands-on demos

Production Expert

Red Means Recording

Specifications

  • KEY FEATURES: Plugins – FAST Equaliser, FAST Compressor, FAST Reveal. PRICING: Each plugin is available individually on a rent-to-own model. £5.99 per month for 15 months
  • CONTACT: Focusrite