FabFilter Saturn2 Review
Did FabFilter beated the classic Saturn with this new version? Let’s find out together if the restyling was worth the wait.
8 years after Saturn 1.0 FabFilter returns with the brand new version 2. The original Saturn was along with Trash 1 and Ohmicide one of the very few virtual multiband saturation units.
The guys at FabFilter take major updates as a serious matter, and they don’t release casual updates just to cash in. So they took the time to work and perfect this beauty of a plugin.
User Interface and UX
The first thing that sticks out is the redesign and the overall restyling of the user interface. The first version of Saturn was starting to show the signs of time. With a resizable window and a more precise frequency spectrum we now have the ability to split the bands in a more precise way and with a smoother user experience.
Talking about user experience the workflow was improved with some fine tuning. Now different distortion algorithms are well categorized and are just the right amount if compared with similar plugins like Trash 2.
We have 5 categories to choose from: Tube, Tape, Amp, Saturation, Transformer and FX.
But the most radical improvement has been made is in the modulation section. Saturn 1 had the modulation section but the workflow wasn’t the best. Now with drag and drop modulation (in the style of Serum’s FX) you can easily make parameters dynamically move. A killer addition especially for sound design or super precise duties.
What can you do with Saturn2?
If i would have to describe Saturn2 my answer will be: killer excitement.
I found the saturation algorithms amazing to give color in the most versityle way. You can tame high end with tape saturation by splitting the spectrum with a band and still preserve the rest of the frequency content intact. Or use a tube just on the high mids to make a bass cut through small speakers. And the delivery is super transparent, especially with the added oversampling modes. You can reach up to 32x of oversampling which is super important in distortion plugins. Another killer feature is the new slope selector. We can choose how steppy is the frequency splitting between 6, 12, 24 and 48 dB/oct. The slope selection changes the tone we’re getting from the frequency splitting, from the more subtle to the more noticable.
But that’s not the end. Saturn2 features a very powerful mid/side mode. In combination with linear phase mode you can go surgical on the master (or in a specific track) and for example choose to saturate just the mid (center) or the sides. This has made me throw away the famous BX_Saturator v2 by brainworx.
After some months of testing I came to the conclusion that to me Saturn2 is the best solution for hi-quality saturation for mixing.
The cons: You have to know what you are doing.
It seems obvious, but in an era of one-knob plugins, if you don’t know the principles of saturation, distortion and frequency splitting, i will say don’t buy it. If you are a producer who wants to work fast and get “nasty” results very quickly go for other solutions. The plugin is packed with presets, but you are going to use the 10% of this plugin, and on top of that multiband processing is a great tool in the right hands but if you are not willing to learn you can do a lot of damage to your mixes.
“But i can use it as a 1 band exciter”
Sure. But using Saturn as a 1 band exciter it doesn’t make too much sense to me. Saturn2 is great because it’s one of the few cases where digital beats hardware. It does something that in the real analog world it wouldn’t be possible (imagine frequency splitting a signal, then sending it to a tape machine and the mids to tube) and does it really really well.
So who is it for?
Saturn2 is the go to if you want:
-Pristine and surgical saturation
-Mastering an bus excitement
-1 solution to collect different saturation/distortion algorithms
-Dynamic distortion to process transient or enhance elements according to the shape and tempo of your song
-Producers with a great understanding of distortion and its process or that are at least willing to learn.
Saturn 2 is available through the FabFilter website.