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Review: iZotope Ozone 6 Advanced Mastering Suite

One of the most exciting software releases over the past year has been iZotope’s release of Ozone 6 Advanced, the latest manifestation of its popular mastering suite.

One of the most exciting software releases over the past year has been iZotope’s release of Ozone 6 Advanced, the latest manifestation of its popular mastering suite. The software combines several mastering tools, including Equalizer, Exciter, Imager, Dynamics, Dynamic EQ, Post Equalizer and Maximizer. These can be used as independent plug-ins or they can be simultaneously accessed as modules in the Ozone 6 Advanced plug-in, where up to six of the modules can be utilized in any desired sequence. Also included is the Insight metering suite. Ozone 6 comes in two variations—the full-blown Ozone 6 Advanced ($599) and the slightly scaled down Ozone 6 ($199), which lacks the Dynamic EQ module, the Insight metering suite and the component plug-ins.

The Equalizer and Post Equalizer modules are identical in performance but having two Equalizer modules allows their comprehensive eight-band frequency shaping to be used at two different points in the processing chain. The Equalizer modules emulate both analog and linear-phase filters and provide numerous digital and analog filter shapes. New to Ozone 6 are the Baxandall and Resonant Shelves, and the API-inspired Proportional Q and Band Shelf Bells. A spectrum analyzer in the EQ window makes it easy to locate problem frequencies as well as view the result of the equalization on the signal. It features eight adjustable filter bands that emulate both analog and linear-phase filters with several filter shape options.

Ozone’s Exciter module splits the audio signal into four user-adjustable frequency bands that can be independently processed with one of several types of musical distortion, including the circuit-modeled Triode and Dual Triode modes or the updated Retro, Tape, Warm or Tube modes. Additionally, multiband and M/S modes provide a large range of sonic possibilities across the frequency spectrum and stereo field.

The Imager module provides the ability to employ stereo image enhancement (either widening or narrowing) of up to four frequency bands, providing independent control over stereo width by frequency. The Dynamics module provides one to four bands of analog-modeled compression, limiting and/or expansion. The module includes variable-knee compression, a 0 to 10 ms look-ahead feature and Auto Gain, which automatically compensates for the drop in level caused by the dynamics processing. This makes it easy to accurately compare the processed signal to the original signal. The interactive Threshold control allows threshold points for the Limiter and Compressor stages to be set without taking my eyes off of the gain reduction meter.

The all-new Dynamic Equalizer module is the highlight of the update, and this module alone makes Ozone 6 well worth its price. It includes four bands of volume-sensitive EQ with five filter shapes (Baxandall Bass, Band Shelf, Peak Bell, Proportional Q and Baxandall Treble). When the threshold is exceeded, gain reduction is applied to the corresponding filter. The Inverse Mode will alternatively apply a gain boost. Each band is independently set to apply either a boost or cut, so the module offers significant flexibility. Attack and release times can be manually set, or alternatively, they can be set automatically using the Auto Scale function. I’ve had the best results using the auto function, but it’s nice to know there is a manual option.

The Maximizer module is a single-band limiter designed to create a louder master without changing the actual sound of the mix. It provides four modes of processing (IRC I, IRC II, IRC III, Tube) to allow the processing to be tailored to the source material. I love the sound of the Tube Limiting mode, which is loosely modeled after the Fairchild 670. It combines a warmer, analogsounding final stage limiting with the accuracy and simplicity of digital maximizing.

Ozone 6 Advanced includes the independent Insight metering plugin that can also be purchased separately for $499. It provides amazingly powerful metering options, accurately displaying any variation of Surround Scope, Spectrogram, Spectrum Analyzer, Vectorscope and Loudness Metering windows. If multiple meters are being utilized, they are independently sizable within the Insight window. The Surround Scope displays up to five channels of surround data in Film, SMPTE/ITU, and DTS channel configurations; it allows the user to visualize how a surround mix can be spatially perceived during playback. It also notifies the user of any potential technical problems with the audio’s alignment. The Spectrogram provides 2D and 3D viewing options that accurately visualize frequency information with regards to amplitude and time by effectively creating a detailed topographical audio map. Variable Meter Tap routing allows an audio stream from anywhere within a session to be routed to the spectrogram. The Spectrum Analyzer provides spectrum display for Stereo Average (Mid), Stereo Difference (Side), Average/Diff (Mid/Side), Left/Right, Stereo Maximum or Hybrid Stereo Width.

Before now, Ozone was only available in the form of a plug-in, but Ozone 6 introduces a standalone version that provides the ability to create a project master without a DAW. The application is compatible with WAV, AIFF and MP3 formats and it loads the files into the tabbed workspace along the top of the window, where they can be trimmed then faded in and out. It provides the option to load external VST/AU plug-ins into any of the six Module slots for more processing options. The project configuration that incorporates the imported audio, exported audio and settings is saved in a single folder as an Ozone Project. When the project is completed, a single track or the entire project can be exported at 16-bit, 24-bit or 32-bit at a sample rate ranging from 11,025 Hz to 192 kHz. The application is simple and straightforward.

The Ozone 6 GUI has been completely rebuilt and as someone who was a daily Ozone 5 user, I didn’t like it at first. After a few days, my opinion changed and now I can’t imagine going back. The new layout positions the key features in the forefront often in larger text sizes while removing some of the less-commonly used features. Visual icons next to parameter sliders provide an intuitive sense of how the audio signal is being affected by control adjustments. Ozone 5’s adjustable but limited signal flow has been replaced by a modular setup that allows up to six modules to be easily added, removed or repositioned.

Ozone remains the only full-function mastering plug-in suite on the market today that includes everything needed to transform a final mix into a final master within a single plug-in. The Ozone 6 interface is focused on creativity, which makes it an absolute joy to use. Now I can’t imagine mixing without it.

Price Box:
► Ozone 6: $249
► Ozone 6 upgrade from Ozone 1-5: $99
► Ozone 6 Advanced: $999
► Ozone 6 Advanced upgrade from Ozone 5 Advanced: $299
► Ozone 6 Advanced upgrade from Ozone 1-6: $749

Russ Long lives and works in Nashville, engineering and producing a wide variety of music and film projects.