Rare is the musical piece or movie soundtrack that is made up of one track, requiring no mixing or mastering after recording. Hence, the mixing and mastering processes are not something that you can do as an aside. iZotope has a long history of developing mixing and mastering apps that allow a master of this art to achieve brilliantly sounding results. Their latest mixing/mastering bundle is O8N2 — short for Ozone 8 and Neutron 2.
All of O8N2’s features can obviously be used with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), but also with applications that recognise AU (Audio Unit) or VST (Virtual Studio Technology) plugins, such as Final Cut Pro X, Reason 9.5, etc.
In its latest software versions, iZotope has been pushing for machine learning and artificial intelligence, not so much to replace sound engineers but to help them achieve the results they want quicker. In Ozone 8, this has resulted in the Master Assistant. This clever help is launched with a button click and provides a starting place for a master using the Equalizer, Maximizer, Dynamics, and Dynamic EQ modules. I tried the Master Assistant with two music tracks and two interview tracks in Logic Pro X and it gave me a nicely balanced and professionally sounding result. If my game were to have a truly original sound, though, I would have had to tweak some of the settings a bit more.
As you’re using Ozone 8 most often on the Master track (although you can use it on individual tracks as well), you will need to have an ear for sound quality. If you’re not too sure about your abilities in that area, or you’re just looking to create a master that sounds like something else you’ve heard before, iZotope lets you have a go at its Track Referencing functionality. This is not a module by itself. It’s more of a way to compare your music to commercial tracks — or music you’ve mastered in the past — without having to leave the Ozone interface. There are up to 10 reference tracks to import and you can actually see the differences in musical characteristics with overlaid spectrum metering.
With Ozone 8’s Spectral Shaper, you can shape the timbre of any frequency range in a soundtrack. Spectral Shaper uses iZotope’s proprietary spectral shaping technology to deliver high-resolution attenuation of frequencies across the full spectrum. It has configurable time constants, timbre adjustment and a variable full spectrum action region. The module’s interface allows you to select a frequency band that you consider to be too harsh or too muffled.
Finally, there is a new module, called the Tonal Balance Control. This module is designed to sit at the very end of the processing chain. Tonal Balance is particularly useful when dealing with tonal balance issues that arise during mixing and mastering. It can help you find the issues with a mix or master that lacks low-end power or high-end brilliance.
As Neutron 2 is the mixing plugin, it does have some feature overlap with Ozone 8. For example, Tonal Balance Control is the same module in the two plugins. But there’s enough new functionality in Neutron 2 to make you drool.
Neutron 2 comes with its own machine learning driven helper, the Track Assistant. It delivers a good starting point for a mix.
The Visual Mixer is my personal favourite. It allows you to view the sonic activity of every track in a mix on a large grid-like canvas. By manipulating labelled nodes, you can control volume, pan and stereo width. This applies to any Neutron 2 module or plugin you have used. It’s a boon for creating a stereo image that is exactly how you envisaged it.
The Gate offers three bands of iZotope’s Gating DSP, complete with advanced side-chain capabilities, crossover learn, and the brand new Hysteresis and Hold DSP. The new Hysteresis feature functions as a second threshold for gating. It can be thought of as a “close” threshold in that signals that fall below this value will close the gate. However, signals that exceed the Hysteresis threshold will not open the gate until they exceed the Threshold value.
Each Neutron 2 Equalizer module comes with a Masking Meter. This module allows you to quickly and easily see where a track in your mix might be masking other sounds. Masking occurs when the clear perception of a sound source is rendered harder to discern by another sound source with overlapping temporal and/or spectral components. This is not always a bad thing, but, for example, when a talking head is competing with a music score, you don’t want to drown the speaker’s voice in some of the musical instruments’ sound.
Masking Meter allows you to see momentary indications of masking as vertical white lines over the current track’s spectrum and EQ curve. These lines indicate that there was some amount of loudness loss at that frequency at that moment: the brighter the line, the greater the masking amount. You can adjust the Equalizer settings to make the masking disappear.
Finally, Soft Saturation is a button that activates a non-linear harmonic saturation at the input of the Neutron Equalizer. It’s inspired by a British-style inductor EQ.
If you’re a sound engineer, O8N2 is not going to make your job obsolete, but if you’re not at the top of your profession, you will love the Assistants because of their balanced and professional results. If you are the top, O8N2 will make your life simpler and you’ll be able to reach your the full potential of a mix faster than without these amazing AI-driven plugins.
O8N2 costs $499.