|Ozone 5, also available as Advanced|
It’s long been held that iZotope Ozone is a tool of the mastering engineer, a person steeped in arcane audio lore who exercises some kind of voodoo over final mixes in order to take them from passable to ear-gasmic. In doing so, obscure outboard (kit you could never afford) and in-box esoterica is brought to bear, its function beyond the ken of mere mortal project studio pilots. Mastering is, after all, the domain of an elite breed of engineer, scientist and audio wizard who, in another life, was a bat. What use, therefore, is a suite of mastering tools in the creative pursuits of tracking and mixing? The answer, in the way iZotope has engineered things, is: Lots.
Ozone 5 Advanced breaks down into six processing components, each of which is as legitimately employed in the composition, arrangement, recording and mixing stages of music production as in the final meltdown prior to publishing. At launch, announced last October 2011, iZotope’s Nick Dika spoke of Ozone 5 Advanced as offering: “…mixing and mastering engineers an even higher level of flexibility, precision and control.” Nick did not, however, mention we muzos who are never happier than when appropriating whatever comes to hand and slapping it capriciously onto the audio canvas, our muses to indulge. Before a blow-by-blow account of each item in Ozone 5, let’s settle back for video overviews of the standard and Advanced products…
Looking good, then. The UK print press seems to think so, speaking of it “keeping apace of today’s best mixing and mastering software” (Computer Music); offering “a dazzling array of options for making your mixes sound great” (Future Music); and toting “a feature set and performance that makes it a truly professional product” (Music Tech). OK, I’m going to keep the technical briefing brief on this page by pointing you towards iZotope’s product page, where you can find all the data you need to assess this upgrade to Ozone 4 (along with 10-day demo downloads), and direct existing v4 owners in the UK to distributor Time+Space for details of upgrade deals in £Sterling.
Talking about money, hmmm… You could by a 64GB iPad with Wi-Fi and 3G for the price of Ozone 5 Advanced, so it may come as some relief that a ‘lite’ version is available offering a cut-down feature set at a more recession-friendly £169 (a feature comparison chart can be had on iZotope’s website). A quick tour of Advanced’s key features reveals analog-modelled processing (the means to imbue audio with warmth and bite) all adding to a mix’s punch and notional space, a revamped reverb, mid/side processing so you can tweak the centre and edges of a stereo panorama in isolation, and loads of visual feedback.
You’ll have gathered by now that I’m something of an Ozone fan. Well, I have been using the product since v3 and it’s splattered all over everything I’ve produced in the past few years. My main concern with v5 was that iZotope may have broken too many eggs into the pudding and stodged it (some developers have been known to bloat their wares into near unusability, my Word). To my ears, and preferred methods of workflow, such is not the case with Ozone 5 Advanced.
This latest Ozone is a substantial improvement on what has long been a substantial processing package. Its modular presentation means you can instantiate just the elements needed on any particular channel or bus and become a lot more adventurous in sound sculpting - note that some of the screenshots in this post are just of individual modules; others the whole suite. The question for most will hang over the price. At £669, it ain’t cheap. Then again, you can get the altogether more svelte Ozone 5 at £169, which does pack a powerful punch. However, you’ll miss one of the best bits - the Meter Bridge. It’s a collection of audio analysis tools that gives educative insight into what is wobbling your tympanic membranes. To see what I mean, cop for this vid...
Neat, huh? A real-time 2D or 3D spectrogram of your sound that uses the graphics card efficiently so as not to disturb the computer’s CPU. And get those meter taps for yet more insight into how the audio is behaving. It has to be worth budgeting for Advanced just for that lot, perhaps starting out with the cut-down version and taking advantage of an upgrade deal when budget allows. It’ll also give you chance to smarten up your processing chops, such is the flexibility and sheer wealth of advanced options available. There are numerous presets already on board to get you started, and much can be learned by delving into the editing options for each.
One thing is for sure: Ozone 5 Advanced is going to be a go-to processing suite for many, from tracking and mixing to drumming up rough masters. I’m of the view that mission-critical mastering should be a task given to a disinterested third party and not embarked upon by whoever mixed the material. That said, I personally would rest easy knowing that such a third party is using Ozone.