FabFilter Volcano 3 review

Synthesizing recorded audio can lead to surprisingly creative results. FabFilter’s Volcano 3 is a plug-in that allows you to do exactly that.

With FabFilter Volcano 3 you can create effects on existing audio that comes close to using a synthesizer. I got intrigued by FabFilter’s demo video on their website. The demo is entirely done with noise, yet by using a whole range of filters the artist is capable of creating music and even percussion.

If you can do that with a plug-in that basically acts as a filter, then surely you could do a lot of things that are interesting from a point of view of someone who’s creating the Foley sounds for a movie. Heck, you could probably even create totally new sounds for projects that need them — horror movies, Sci-fi, experimental, etc. To see how far you can take that, I tested Volcano 3 with a music track and a recorded audio track of my own voice (speech, no singing — I don’t want to scare the living things around me).

Interface-wise, Volcano 3 is unmistakably FabFilter design. If you have one of their other plug-ins, you’re halfway knowing how to control Volcano 3 as manipulating knobs and other controls work the same. You get four different classic, non-linear, self-oscillating filters, each of them located on a frequency band of which the shape, slope and peak you can set to fixed positions but also by modulating them. Available shapes include bell, notch, low/high pass, low/high shelf, band pass and all pass.

If you use more than two filter, you can route them in different ways. You can also have them work in stereo, mid/side and left/right mode, which all give a different result. The filters come in a number of styles, ranging from Classic and Smooth to Raw, Hollow and Extreme — to name only a few of the 11 you can choose from.

Obviously, filters on their own will not do much to make your sound really interesting, so almost every setting — Drive, Frequency, Peak, Delay and Level on the Filter level — can be modulated by one or more modulators. Many modulation parameters can be modulated by other modulators, as well as some controls that are outside of the filter-effect chain altogether, such as Input/Output gain.

Modulators include an XLFO (a Low Frequency Modulator that does double duty as an arpeggiator), envelope generator and follower, XY and slider controls for computer mouse control, and a MIDI source.

Making sounds

The demo video I spoke about earlier was created using quite a few modulators, but even with four or more of them, you can still oversee how it will work out in the end. That’s due to the simplicity of the interface that lets you work the way you want to and gives enough visual clues as to what you’re doing without overwhelming you.

Despite the helpful interface, creating unique effects with Volcano 3 is not exactly easy. Sure, you’ll be creating your first repeating pattern of some simple frequency-related effect in no time, but before you get something out of it that’s really worthwhile with a good degree of randomness, you’ll need to experiment quite a bit or have a 100% understanding of how modulators that alter other modulaters work out sonically. I spent five afternoons trying things before I figured out how to create a unique pattern that doesn’t make the sound repeat itself too apparently. That’s in spite of the random capabilities of the XLFO which was the modulator I used the most.

Still, the audible results were exactly as I wanted, although in my case the sound bursts of the effect was as unpredictable as its repetition pattern. For anything related to motion pictures that may or may not what you are after. The most important is that you can have your cake and eat it, whatever your cake may be — repeat patterns, strange sounds, delicate, harsh, you name it. As noise can even be used to create percussive sounds, I wouldn’t hesitate to say you can use it for Foley sounds like footsteps or a car engine. Just keep in mind that it won’t save you time.

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