In March 2012 Fabfilter released Saturn its highly appraised multiband distortion and saturation plug-in. Saturn offers a great variety of distortion styles ranging from subtle, clean and warm tube, tape simulation to full-on multi-band guitar amp mayhem. Combined with its virtually endless modulation options Saturn is as powerful as it is flexible while sounding great in the mix.
Interface , Analyser & Frequency Bands: Saturn’s main interface display is modelled on Fabfilter’s WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) concept and is divided into 3 dedicated sections:
1. An inter-active multiband display set in a single band state by default.
2. The Band Controls for Saturn’s; Drive Level, Dynamics, Tone, Feedback and Level knobs.
3. Fabfilter’s unique and highly flexible Modulation Section for linking modulation sources and modulation targets in Saturn.
When an audio signal is fed into Saturn its inter-active display becomes a frequency analyser reflecting the audio’s sonic activity. Using the frequency analyser as a visual reference you can split the audio into multiple frequency bands, to a maximum of six bands, by clicking the ‘+’ button that appears when the mouse moves toward the top of Saturn’s main display. Frequency crossovers with a fixed 24d/Octave are defined with a vertical line which can be dragged left and right to form the desired frequency ranges. The volume of each frequency band is set by raising or lowering the horizontal handle that appears when clicking inside a frequency band range and each band is available with Solo and Mute options. Once a frequency band is selected in Saturn the main controls become available for editing on a per-band basis.
Sculpting: The real fun begins by mangling the audio and treating each of the frequency bands separately with the vast array of distortion, saturation, panning and modulation features made available in Fabfilter’s Saturn. As a starting point Saturn offers a batch of 150 quality Factory Presets which clearly demonstrate Saturn’s potential and use. Whether you use them is a matter of choice, but the ability to drive, shape, twist and transform an audio source in Saturn appears to be endless regardless.
As a multiband distortion and saturation unit Saturn features 16 types of distortion, saturation and clipping algorithms which provide a wide and variable palette ranging from subtle warming, soft clipping, sample-rate bit reduction to all out sonic destruction. The level of input hitting the saturation or distortion algorithm is controlled by the Drive Level knob and, as the level of Drive increases, so too, does the intensity of the background colour in the frequency band display.
The Drive Level knob also features a Panning dial used for positioning the signal when creating stereo effects. Saturn can also be switched into Mid/Side mode using the Drive Level and Pan dial to control and balance the audio’s Mid/Side signals while parallel processing is achieved by adjusting the plug-in’s Mix knob to the left of the Band Control panel. The Dynamics, Freq and Feedback knobs, as well as the four Tone sliders, function superbly well as additional sound sculpting tools in Saturn providing the plug-in with a compressor/expander, a feedback emulator and EQ.
Modulation: The Modulation section in Fabfilter’s Saturn is of the exact superior quality and design found in Fabfilter’s excellent Volcano2 and Timeless2 plug-ins. It is housed in in an efficient scrolling strip which appears when the large Modulation Button is clicked. The interface can be extended considerably by choosing the Wide option from menu behind the Double Arrows icon at the very bottom right of Saturn’s main interface. Saturn’s modulation sources are organized into 5 different types: The XLFO (LFO with a 16 step sequencer), an Envelope Generator that can be triggered by audio or MIDI, an Envelope Follower, a MIDI Source module which transforms any incoming MIDI data into a modulation signal, and the XY Controller. The design concept for creating parameter modulation in Fabfilter’s Saturn is simple: There are Modulation Sources (XLFOs, Envelope Followers e.t.c.) and Modulation Destinations (Filter Frequency, Peaks, Panning e.t.c) and you connect the two by dragging out a link from a source to a parameter destination and adjust the amount of modulation using the amount slider.
In performance, Saturn provides the option for 8x Oversampling and despite its inherent waveshaping capability it is extremely forgiving on CPU. It is extremely reliable and can be used as an insert plugin or across a group bus either as a single band or multiband plug-in. Overall, the sound of Fabfilter’s Saturn has a sonic clarity which is stunning. It is possessed with the same high-end calibre as its predecessors Volcano2 and Timeless2 but with a lot more attitude and bite. Saturn’s irresistible aggression is capable of breathing new life and and sheer digital vibrancy into otherwise banal drums loops. Through its intricate web of modulation sources that can be controlled through the plug-in’s Interactive MIDI Learn Saturn is relentless in creating and pumping out new rhythmic accents and harmonic movements. These new born gestures become submissive and sacrificial musical elements, to be driven as hard as you can mash them inside Saturn’s eternal rings of fire!
Available in AU, VST, VST 3, AAX and RTAS formats for Mac OS X and Windows