iZotope Ozone 5 ReviewSeptember 6, 2013
Product: iZotope Ozone 5
Price: $249 (Standard), $999 (Advanced Version, reviewed)
iZotope‘s Ozone is an all-in-one, start-to-finish audio mastering suite that has garnered massive amounts of praise throughout the years. Every iteration of the software has improved things considerably, and Ozone 5 is tweaked to near-perfection. Every one of its mastering processors could easily fetch a large sum on their own, and its Loudness Maximizer is second to none. Ozone 5 is all you need to give your audio a punchy, polished, professional sound, but all of that power comes at the cost of ease of use. If you’re new to the realm of mastering, this software will seem quite daunting at first as there are just so many options available. However, if you take the time to study the manual and read through iZotope’s Ozone Mastering Guide, you’ll be able to take your tracks to the next level with the comprehensive Ozone 5.
The first module in Ozone 5 (there are six altogether) is the Equalizer. There are technically two equalizers as there is a secondary Post-EQ module that can be utilized as well. Both of these EQs have all the warmth and character of analog EQs with the benefit of linear phase precision, and Ozone’s Match EQ ability returns, allowing users to emulate the EQ curve of reference tracks (many people love to use this to try and match their favorite guitar tones). Inside the EQ module, users can toggle between the Analog and Digital modes for either a very classic-sounding EQ or a more modern sound.
The Reverb module is one of the modules that I spent the least amount of time with, if only because it’s one of those things best left to the pros. Used properly, it can add a nice space and depth to a mix that’s lacking in these qualities. You can choose between various room modes, and the plate reverb is emulating the classic EMT 140. As with many of the modules in Ozone 5, the mid/ side controls can be utilized to separately process different parts of the soundstage. However, even the slightest bit can wreak havoc on your mix if you don’t really know what you’re doing, and the same goes for the Stereo Widening module. In my own personal opinion, for most users, these are band-aid modules that should be reserved for patching up mixes that can’t be recalled. Reverb and width are definitely two things that should be taken into consideration during the mixing stage, but mastering reverb can add a bit of glue to an uneven mix. Also, the Stereo Widening module can help focus the low end towards the center while spreading out higher frequencies. Once again, both of these should be used judiciously.
The Harmonic Exciter module is another instance where a little bit goes a long way, but it can add some nice harmonic distortion to the low and top ends of a mix to give it a nice presence. Just don’t overdo it! Ozone 5 gives you complete control over exactly what frequencies are affected by the exciter, and how subtle or drastic the effect is. Used properly, the Harmonic Exciter can add a nice sparkle and sheen to the overall mix. There are four Exciter modes in the standard version, and six in Ozone 5 Advanced. These include Retro, Tape, Tube, and Warm, while the Advanced version gets two extra modes called Triode and Dual Triode. These are accurately modeled after a tube circuit to create a pleasing analog warmth in your mix.
The Dynamics module features a fully adjustable multiband compressor, and the limiter, compressor and gate each have their own sliders for maximum customization. Once again, this module features mid/ side processing, which is awesome for applying different amounts of analog-style compression to the center and edges of your mix. It also features Automatic Gain Compensation, which is a stellar feature for A/ B-ing your mix with and without processing. If you’re ever confused about what a function does in Ozone 5, you can just let your mouse hover over it and a dialog box will pop up to inform you. The Maximizer is a limiter that comes with several IRC (Intelligent Release Control) modes, the algorithms of which have all been improved for Ozone 5. IRC III is the newest addition to this mastering suite, and it sounds fantastic, allowing the mix to be pushed a bit harder while still maintaining the attack of the transients.
One of the coolest upgrades in Ozone 5 (exclusive to the Advanced version) is the Meter Bridge, which shows a real-time 3D spectrogram with Freeze, Zoom, and 2D options. One of the coolest aspects of this mode is Meter Tap, which can monitor multiple audio signal spectrograms. By adding the Meter Tap plugin to whatever bus or track you want to monitor, you can then view them in the Meter Bridge – each track will show as a different color so you can see exactly what’s going on with each part of your mix. Of course it’s important to use your ears, but sometimes they can fool you, especially during long mixing sessions.
Overall, Ozone 5 is an incredibly deep, comprehensive mastering tool that will absolutely give your tracks a professional, full sound if you take the time to learn what you’re doing. Experienced mixers will want to purchase the Advanced version for its awesome Meter Bridge and individual plugin instantiation.