FabFilter’s Saturn was one of 2012’s most celebrated plug-ins, offering multi-band distortion and saturation, along with a sleek GUI, plus a powerful modulation section that was embraced by sound designers and electronic musicians alike. If you weren’t in the know then, consider yourself in the know now: FabFilter has released Saturn 2, an update to the original that improves upon it in several key ways.
Before we talk about what’s been improved, let’s talk about what’s new. For starters, the GUI has a slicker redesign, as is tradition with all FabFilter product updates, and Saturn 2 offers four GUI sizes including a full-screen mode for more complex setups. There are now 6, 12, 24, and 48 dB/oct adjustable slopes for your multi-band crossover points, live modulation visualizations for better visual feedback, support for common Pro Tools control surfaces, and last but certainly not least, curve control for your envelope generators and followers. This last point is ultra-interesting as it allows you to tailor the distortion to fit the profile of the individual samples that you’re effecting, or to allow more or less of your transient to sneak through as the distortion is being applied. It’s as crazy as it reads, but essentially you can choose how the distortion is applied based on the dynamic envelope of the waveform and custom curves that you draw or manipulate from presets. FabFilter never ceases to amaze me as they consistently introduce features I never knew I needed.
They’ve also improved several previously existing features, such as new distortion and saturation types, linear phase processing between bands, 8x and 32x oversampling, several powerful improvements to the modulation section, and a slew of new presets that will make your head explode with their complexity. Of these improvements, my two favorites are the new transformer saturation profiles and the Subtle option included for most of the distortion styles. It’s now possible to apply the Saturn 2 to something like a drum bus, or master bus while utilizing the entire range of the Drive knob without incurring breakup right away. Saturn 2 now includes four new guitar amp emulations, like American Tweed, American Plexi, British Rock Amp, etc. I viewed these less as plausible guitar modeling profiles and closer to amp profiles to be used in creative ways with all the other features Saturn 2 has to offer. For effecting drum loops, vocal breakdowns, and other similarly fun instances, these models are perfect.
In addition to the amp emulation, Saturn 2 also offers up tape, transformer, and tube emulations. Primary controls include a Mix knob that provides for parallel processing control. A Feedback knob adjusts the amount of the processed sound that is fed back into Saturn 2’s input, and a Freq parameter sets the “ringing frequency of the feedback loop.” The built-in Dynamics processor controls compression or gating of the signal, and the Drive knob sets the amount of clipping at input while automatically adjusting the output level. Producers and sound designers will love the oversampling options to protect against aliasing – 32x can be a little taxing on some older CPU’s, but my advice would be to get the sound you want in 32x, then switch off oversampling, run your session as you normally would, and finally commit or freeze your sounds in 32x before you bounce, print, or export. No matter what the material you may be working on – music, post, podcasting, etc. – I would absolutely recommend grabbing the free demo and checking it out; Saturn 2 is much improved, super flexible, and very powerful.