IZotope has been at the forefront of ‘in-the-box’ mastering tools since 2002 with their plug-in suite Ozone, responding to demand from a growing scene of bedroom producers, amateur musicians and budding engineers for a more financially friendly way to experiment with the somewhat mystified process of audio mastering. In 2015, now at version 7, Ozone is no longer just an incredibly popular, excellent sounding and user-friendly mastering suite, but a full range of plug-ins for various applications, as well as a standalone mastering app.
NEW OLD FACES
Version 7 brings 4 new faces to the fold of modules inside Ozone inspired directly by classic vintage hardware: Vintage EQ, Vintage Limiter, Vintage Tape and Vintage Compressor. For myself, coming from using Ozone 5 for a few years, their sound is a welcome change - iZotope have really nailed that looser, more natural character of classic analogue gear on these. Just dropping in the vintage tape module, cranking the input gain, and low emphasis gets me grinning - it’s like running my audio through my old beat up reel to reel tape machine without any of the hassle. Great fun, I can absolutely see myself using the standalone plug-in of that module.
Back on the modern tip, Ozone 7 also introduces a new algorithm into their Maximiser module - IRC IV, using a newly developed technology they’re calling spectral shaping. Essentially, this module attenuates frequencies that are smacking the limiter (what it perceives as) too hard, creating a smoother more balanced mix, allowing a smidge more headroom. The most immediately obvious use in my eyes was to bring a wild kick drum under control a little, so I quickly set up a 909 beat with an overbearing kick in Ableton Live and ran it through the IRC IV Maximiser. What can I say? It does everything it claims to - the results are pretty goddamn impressive and certainly add a high end character when combined with the vintage modules.
STANDALONE OR PLUG-IN
It’s no surprise that a plug-in aimed at shaping sound into the highest quality possible is CPU intensive. To combat that, iZotope include a standalone Ozone app in the package. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was in response to complaints of high CPU usage in DAWs. You can do all your mixing in your DAW, bounce the audio out, open the audio in the Ozone app and concentrate on mastering as a separate process to mixing (as it generally should be). Having said that, I found running Ozone 7 as a plug-in somewhat lighter on the CPU comparatively to version 5 that I was running previously, running a 12-track Ableton Live project with 9 synth plug-ins, a drum rack, a handful of effects and some audio clips, there were zero artefacts.
I think one of the greatest values of Ozone as a tool for amateurs, is the visual feedback. Concepts like multi-band compression are difficult to grasp without being able to see and hear results for yourself. In Ozone, even you’re just throwing faders around willy nilly, the visuals show you how you’re affecting the sound and guide your ears to the changes that are happening. Alongside the extensive and well put together manual, Ozone serves as an extensive and valuable education tool for amateurs and professionals alike.
Overall, at $599, Ozone 7 Advanced gives the user a great bang for buck - that’s the mastering plug-in itself, the 10 modules as seperate plug-ins, the Insight metering plug-in and the standalone app. I’d absolutely recommend you download the fully functioning demo and give this product a shot if you want to take your production and knowledge to the next step.
Hits and Misses
The new vintage modules sound delicious and are a welcome addition to an already well thought out and excellent sounding package.
Standalone app included