Focusrite FAST Limiter review: FAST times for limiting highs
Nothing dries up the creative juices like diving into the technicalities of configuring effects and processors. If only there were an assistant who could do it for you.
⊕ Easy-to-tweak AI-derived settings
⊕ Analyse and apply characteristics of another track
⊕ Detailed and intuitive visualisation
⊖ Cannot define or import loudness profiles
⊖ Detailed mode is easy enough, making FAST mode redundant
Focusrite’s FAST plug-ins are a shining example of how AI can be harnessed to streamline music production. The latest, FAST Limiter, is designed to operate as a full mix processor. Sure, it’ll work on stems and individual parts, too, but to limit the Limiter to such tasks is to miss the point.
The clever AI that underpins FAST Limiter has been trained using different styles of music, and therefore knows the typical dynamic, transient and loudness characteristics of said styles. The plug-in is able to apply these characteristics to your mix.
It features 13 profiles – rock, electronic, latin, etc – along with a universal style intended for more generic use. None of these suit your needs? Not to worry. The plug-in can also analyse reference tracks and apply their characteristics to your mix. Though this is impressive, don’t expect Limiter to transform mediocre mixes into dancefloor anthems with the touch of a button.
Each of these 13 profiles also comes in three flavours: Modern, Neutral and Aggressive. These essentially alter the knee of the limiter but the difference between them is quite subtle.
Alongside its limiting functions, FAST Limiter’s four Style Modules allow you to add a bass boost, tame and control resonances, add subtle saturation, and enhance transients. Each module has its own on/off button and strength slider, and when you roll your mouse over each module, you’re shown a pop-up visualisation of what it’s currently doing. These work well and add a professional sheen to your mix.
The bulk of the plug-in window is taken up with a large visualisation that shows input and output level and gain reduction in the form of a rolling graph. This makes it clear when and by how much your mix’s peaks are being limited. All three metrics have conventional bar-style meters too.
FAST Limiter constantly measures the loudness, loudness range and peak level of your mix, and displays a Quality Indicator icon – a tick or exclamation mark – to show whether your current mix and settings conform to your pre-selected publishing standard. As helpful as this is, there are only four standards to choose from, with no ability to add definitions for other standards and uses.
The plug-in has two operating modes. In FAST mode, simply select a profile, analyse a representative portion of your mix and you’re ready to go. You can tweak the limiting amount by adjusting the input level, choose from three response-time settings, and adjust the strength of the Style Modules, but that’s about all there is to distract yourself with.
Detailed mode adds more options. Here, you can also modify the limiter’s threshold and play with an extra parameter in each of the Style Modules. Plus, the Quality Indicators now show the measured numeric values. Detailed mode isn’t much more complicated to use than FAST mode but provides that little bit more control, and the additional visual feedback is invaluable. In fact, FAST mode might even be redundant.
FAST Limiter makes exceptionally light work of potentially painstaking mixing tasks, while still allowing you to tune the character of the processing to suit your project. Like the best studio assistant, it delivers stellar results and lets you stay focused on being creative.
- Dynamic limiter plug-in for VST, AU and AAX hosts
- AI-driven set-up matches settings to any music and style
- 14 style profiles, or use a reference track
- Detailed, high-resolution visualisation and metering
- Control over the colour and character of effects
- Loudness, loudness range and peak measurement
- $89.85 (One-off payment or rent-to-own over 15 instalments)
- Contact Focusrite
- Buy: Focusrite
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