FabFilter has a reputation for taking common effects plug-ins, such as compression and EQ, then elevating them to new, mind-blowing levels of utility and complexity. I’m used to thinking, “I didn’t know I needed that!” when watching their overview videos. With Timeless 3, FabFilter has done it again, pushing the boundaries of what’s both possible and expected in a delay plug-in.

Timeless 3 features a totally redesigned GUI, bringing it in line with FabFilter’s other plug-ins – simple, sleek, and easy to navigate. Most noticeably, the upper left corner of the GUI displays a graphic representation of the delay you’re hearing, and allows you to click on any part of the tail and change the length and gain… it’s a really innovative and fun way to allow the user to dig in and start getting their hands virtually dirty. Billed as an analog tape-style delay plug-in, Timeless 3 also touts improved sound quality, reminding me of the Master Tape setting in Soundtoys’ EchoBoy [Tape Op #62]. Like other newer FabFilter releases, Timeless 3 also offers various interface sizes and full-screen mode, which is impressive on larger monitors.

Beyond the streamlined new look is the most intricate and powerful set of parameters I’ve ever seen in a delay plug-in. Timeless 3 doesn’t have to be complicated per se (if you’re not looking to spend a lot of time crafting the delay of your dreams), but the ceiling for cooking up something spectacular is sky high. Timeless 3 also offers improvements to the modulation engine and filters, in ways similar to their distortion and saturation plug-in Saturn 2 [Tape Op #139]. You can modulate and effect nearly any parameter on the GUI with LFOs, envelope generators and followers, XY controllers, MIDI sources, and more. You can get extremely deep with this plug-in – a sound designer’s dream for sure – and it’s easy to see that FabFilter has spent a lot of time making it as intuitive as possible. I strongly suggest watching the Timeless 3 overview video on FabFilter’s website, as it’s beyond the scope of this review to capture the full gamut.

My favorite new additions to Timeless 3 are the tonal shaping options, as you can now adjust parameters such as Drive, Lo-Fi, Diffuse, Dynamics, and Pitch of your delay tail in really obvious and exciting ways. For me, these features proved to be the most useful and effective, as I could easily create simple and unique delays for vocal slaps, drum echoes, guitar space, etc. For example, I was mixing a Rhodes piano that was sent to me as a mono DI, so, of course, I’m looking to make it a little more interesting to listen to. Instead of using a handful of plug-ins to dress it up, I was able to make a dreamy and dirty delay with Timeless 3 alone, that perfectly fit the bill. The Diffusion parameter, which I’m generally used to using in reverb plug-ins, is a really nice addition that I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with. I also tried using my standard go-to delays set to a single slap and then instantiating Timeless 3 (set to 50% wet, or to taste) afterward to create a longer and more complex tail, which made for interesting results.

Whether or not Timeless 3 is right for you is largely based upon the work you do. If you’re using delays creatively for any reason, whether it’s mixing pop vocals or crafting crazy spacey synth sounds, Timeless 3 is a must-have. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense emulation of an analog tape delay, other plug-ins may be better suited for you. Regardless, FabFilter’s innovation seemingly knows no bounds, and Timeless 3 is another example of that ingenuity.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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