Compression is one of the staples of production, but although there are plenty of fine-sounding compressors around, they rarely give you much in the way of helpful visual feedback.
The FabFilter team claims that the animated graphical display of its new compressor will show you just what effect it's having on your signals, making it a breeze to set up. Pro compression for everyone? Could be.
Pro-C is a truly modern and innovative VST/AU/RTAS compressor that's program-dependent. This means that the effect of the compression adapts to suit the audio input, for maximum dynamic manipulation with minimal unwanted side effects.
There are three individual compression styles onboard, and the first of these is Clean. This yields exactly what you'd hope: clinical accuracy, with a somewhat transparent sound. This style works well on most types of material and is suitable for even the most subtle of applications.
The next style is Classic, where FabFilter brings authentic analogue characteristics to the digital realm. If the Holy Grail of software compression is that obscure thickness and warmth that we all crave, then we'd better get on the phone to Indiana Jones, because Pro-C pretty much delivers it.
The Classic style is inspiring on vocals, cosy on guitar, and very useful for taking the brittle edge off a lead synth to comfortably pull it into the mix.
Last but not least is the Opto style, which shares its attributes with a vintage optical compressor, having a very soft knee and a somewhat slower response. This seems to be the least program-sensitive of the three styles, and it easily handles heavier-handed compression techniques.
All three styles will find their place in your mix, and you can tweak things further by selecting between a hard or soft knee, which determines whether the compression kicks in immediately at the threshold, or is introduced gradually. It's also worth mentioning that Pro-C is latency-free.
If this all seems overwhelming, then fear not, as the user manual doubles up as a nifty compression tutorial. It explains all the basics as well as the more advanced techniques, such as parallel compression, which Pro-C handles gracefully. FabFilter's pop-up tooltips are also on hand to guide you.
The smart level display is another big plus point of Pro-C - it makes a mockery of the average compressor's simple VU meters, making using compression easier than ever. You can watch the peaks and troughs of the audio signal rush by while tweaking the MIDI-learnable controls, quickly reaching the desired compression effect, almost as if by magic.
As well as the output waveform, the display also shows the input waveform and gain reduction level, and all of these have adjustable opacity.
There's precious little to find fault with here, so it's fair to say that whether you're a compression freshman or a professor of pump, you'll surely give Pro-C full marks, just as we have right here.