Regarding equalizer VSTs, there’s no plug-in as popular as Fabfilter Pro-Q 3. But there might be a few reasons you are looking for Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternatives. Perhaps you are looking for a cheap, maybe even free alternative? Or is there something annoying in its workflow or its user interface? Let’s take a look.
Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 – The most popular EQ
Hardly any other VST plug-in has developed such dominance as Fabfilter Pro-Q 3. Since its release in 2018, the equalizer has taken the mixing and production world by storm—crystal-clear sound, advanced workflow, and features that hardly any EQ could match five years ago.
Other than EQs with more analog warmth or those targeted explicitly at mastering, Pro-Q 3 has been at the top of the year-end lists almost every year since then. But apart from the price (169 euros if there is no sale), there are also a few other criteria when looking for Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternatives. But to get started, we recommend downloading the full 30-day trial version from Fabfilter.
And if you don’t want to think about Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternatives after that, you can get the original at Plugin Boutique (affiliate).
What do Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternatives have to offer?
Up to 24 EQ bands are possible per plug-in instance, and each band can work dynamically and in mid/side instead of stereo if desired. For each band, you can choose between Bell, Notch, High/Low Shelf, High/Low Cut, Band Pass, Tilt Shelf, and Flat Tilt. In addition, filter slopes of up to 96 decibels per octave are possible.
There is also a global AutoGain function that automatically adjusts the output signal level when Pro-Q 3 increases the overall level. Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 can also be used in surround setups (up to 7.1.2). Its EQ Match feature is also extremely handy. Here, the VST takes the frequency response of another signal via side-chain and applies it to the track it’s loaded on.
As it can sound “phase-y” when heavily EQ-ing the mix, the VST also offers a linear phase mode. Anyone using Pro-Q 3 in a live or recording situation will be delighted with the Zero Latency mode. Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternatives must offer all of this and much more!
Three-body Technology Kirchhoff EQ – the most similar one of the Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternatives
If you look around a little in forums and other magazines, one plug-in, in particular, is mentioned more than any other VST as the most similar one of the Fabfilter Pro-Q3 alternatives: Three-Body Tech Kirchhoff EQ. But the plug-in offers even more in some respects: more bands (32 instead of 24), more filter types (15 instead of 9), plus 32 emulations of various vintage EQs (including Neve and SSL).
And at a very competitive price (149 euros when there is no sale) that undercuts the Pro-Q 3. In addition, each dynamic band can compress downwards but also expand upwards. In comparison, Kirchhoff EQ can only do 2x oversampling, whereas Pro-Q3 offers five quality levels in linear phase mode.
SSL Native X-EQ 2 – SSL sound and Pro-Q 3 workflow
When SSL announced Native X-EQ 2 a couple of years back, many compared it to Pro-Q 3. In comparison, the VST can handle just as many bands (24), but it offers more band types (17 instead of 9), and it is less CPU-intensive. However, it should also be mentioned that the VST does not yet offer any dynamic EQ.
The price of 299 euros is also relatively high. However, if you’re still tricked after the 30-day demo and can’t afford it, you should keep your eyes open for frequent SSL sales. Here, you may get the plugin at a significantly lower price.
Sonnox Claro – The most versatile of the Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternatives
Like the EQ from SSL, Sonnox Claro is not a dynamic EQ – but the VST offers some very innovative features that Pro-Q 3 doesn’t even come close to. This makes it one of the most versatile Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternatives. The VST offers not one but three workflows – one for quick adjustments, one for details, and one for the final mixdown.
In the smallest iteration, the Producer workflow, you only get a small window with three knobs – Low, Mid, and High. This lets you make quick corrections and adjustments without getting lost in the details. In tweak mode, you can further go into detail with 26 bands, emulations of Neve and SSL EQs, mid/side and much more.
In the mixing workflow, Claro recognizes all instances loaded in a DAW project. That makes it super easy to detect and adjust frequency overlaps via attenuations in the respective cases. What’s more, the VST is currently (November 2023) still heavily reduced – 76 percent!
Tonebooster’s EQ 4 – 29 euros for an excellent dynamic EQ!
Much of EQ 4 is reminiscent of Pro-Q 3 – the colorful curves, surround support (up to 16 channels), and AutoGain. In addition, up to 16 bands per instance are possible (24 with Pro-Q 3) with 30 different filter types. And all this for just 29 euros!
Like Fabfilter, Toneboosters also offers its EQ for iOS. Then, there is also an AI-supported assistant similar to iZotope Neutron 4 (see below). It analyzes the input signal and makes suggestions. There is also a demo version for testing purposes without any time limitations! However, you can’t save any setting in EQ 4 in the demo – it’s still one of the best and cheapest Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternatives!
TDR Nova (and GE) – Free Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternative
Without TDR Nova and its big brother, TDR Nova GE, no list of the best Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternatives would be complete. The former is entirely free – for a dynamic EQ with four bands and a workflow that’s not far removed from the original, that’s awesome!
The paid GE version offera six instead of four bands, upward and downward compression and expansion per band, and “Smart Operation”. This tool helps to automatically detect resonances (similar to Soothe 2) and other problematic frequency ranges.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg of Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternatives. If you’ve read this far and no alternative suited you, you might also want to check out Infinity EQ from Slate. It offers a similar look and similar workflow, with presets from mixing greats like Mike Dean (Drake, Kanye West).
There is also a dynamic EQ from iZotope hidden in the Neutron 4 mixing bundle. Here, you get various other mixing tools and a sophisticated AI assistant that makes suggestions for EQ and compressor settings.
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- Today's EQ plug-ins have achieved the perfect balance of function and usability: Fabfilter
- pb: Plugin Boutique
- Sonnox Claro widget: Sonnox
- TDR Nova - one of the free Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 alternatives: Tokyo Dawn Records