Slate Digital — FG-X
APT have previously analysed and reviewed most of the limiters on the market, with Fab Filters Pro-L and PSP’s Xenon coming out on top. However, there is a newer contender to the already cluttered brick wall limiter market, so does Slate Digital’s FG-X prove there is more to gain? (Sorry, even I am embarrassed by that pun).
I wanted to beat around the bush for a little bit with some poetic filler information, but quite frankly some of the beauty of this plug-in is in its simplicity. There are no transient modes or attack and release values for the inexperienced engineer to have to worry about, you can just raise the gain and smile at the results. For the intermediately adventurous amongst us, there are low punch and detail knobs to add that little extra depth and clarity. But for the most advanced mastering engineers there is the Dynamic Perception knob and ITP slider.
The Dynamic Perception knob operates as a way of manipulating our perception of loudness with careful dynamic processing that takes into account spectral content and also presumably the Fletcher-Munson effect on the program material.
The ITP (Intelligent Transient Preservation) slide controls the amount and type of the algorithm that is applied to the signal, using an advanced form of look-ahead detection. It works by changing the way that it processes the signal, based on the type of transients coming up. This is like being able to switch between different types and amounts of mastering techniques, like clipping and limiting automatically, dependent on the program material.
All of these attributes (low punch and detail) should be used with care and attention, as the plug-in seems to really be designed to do the job you need, just by adding the gain you wish to the signal. In fact, I can seldom remember a time I’ve used it and even pushed any of the knobs much over ¼ of the way up.
This plug-in is not just a limiter, but also includes a “normal” compression stage, dithering and a hefty amount of metering including RMS.
FG-X is clearly designed to strip out a lot of the endless tweaking and “skill” out of the mastering process, and such “automatic” processes have always been a massive red flag to me. However, FG-X really does what it should and once again Fabrice Gabriel’s algorithms are second to none. When “loud is proud” is your main objective, there is nothing that even comes close to the power you possess with FG-X.
When running FG-X, I also tend to have to use less processing before I hit the limiter. Usually just an EQ and compressor suffice!
Using FG-X is not all sunshine and rainbows though (how’s that for poetic filler speak?), FG-X is extremely processor reliant, and the first iteration that Slate brought out meant that you would have to have a pretty top of the line computer to handle any more than one instance. Luckily, Slate Digital has recently released an update that alleviates this somewhat, but it still has a mighty appetite for DSP.
Also, because of this and possibly the “automatic” nature of the processing, it is more prone to clicking, popping and other distortion artefacts than other limiters. So, when using it, you’ll need to be vigilant and potentially need to automate the plug-in to avoid callbacks and re-bounces.
I also find that the lack of attenuation (gain reduction) meters means that if you are not an accomplished engineer, then you could be pushing too far. This is probably a limitation due to the processing involved within the plug-in, but it makes using your ears properly and referencing even more important than ever. The constant gain button is also worth pressing in order to check the degradation of the signal, compared to the unprocessed mix.
Overall, I couldn’t recommend FG-X enough. It continues Slate Digital’s reputation, that they simply can’t produce a bad plug-in. However, for sources such as Jazz and classical pieces, FabFilter’s Pro-L still tends to get the nod.
Their next foray into the plug-in market is also into a well-populated market with Tape Emulation, so I look forward to reviewing hopefully yet another stroke of genius.
Steven Slate FG-X is avilable here:
PRICE = $249