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iZotope Ozone 6.1

iZotope Ozone 9 Standard

4.75 4.75 out of 5, based on 1 Review

iZotope brings us the new incarnation of Ozone and we'll show and tell you how it fares!


23rd June 2015

iZotope Ozone 9 Standard by Diogo C

iZotope Ozone 6.1

  • Software: Ozone 6 Mastering Suite
  • Developer: Izotope
  • Formats: AU/VST/AAX and Standalone, Win/Mac
  • Price: $249 Standard Version, $999 Advanced Version
  • DRM: Ilok (does not require USB dongle)
  • Demo: 14-days fully functional
  • Website: https://www.izotope.com/en/products/...stering/ozone/


Reinventing Ozone

Ozone 6 marks a shift for this decade-old product. It’s a big departure from previous versions approach and a fresh start for Izotope, which has clearly decided to do a big chance and offer its audience a more streamlined yet immensely effective mastering workhorse. Even though there’s definitely a change in orientation, the same can not be said about the core essence of this product. It’s still a mastering solution that covers basically all the tasks required, or at least the most common and frequently-used ones. Ozone does equalisation, dynamic manipulation, distortion, stereo image management and last but not least, limiting. And dithering of course! Add to that the new standalone app feature for version 6 and you have a set of tools capable of handling most mastering jobs.

Ozone has become more accessible and easier for the newcomers but it still is a very deep product, so I really recommend everybody to watch my show and tell video, which complements this review with some Ozone live action and audio samples. Make sure you set YouTube to HD for maximum quality. I’ll tackle each module first (divide to conquer!) and then wrap everything up in the end with my personal verdict.

Disclaimer: I’m a newcomer to Ozone but I’ve done my fair share of research to know that Izotope got mixed reactions about Ozone’s change of direction and some justified complaints about its new orientation. I can definitely empathise with some of the things that I’ve read across the boards, but I’m looking at it with fresh eyes and therefore my thoughts about it will definitely differ in many occasions from those who are using Ozone for a long time. With that in mind, I hope this review helps everybody to make their minds and make an informed and well-thought decision.


The Ozone Modules

Equalizer

This is a workhorse EQ that leaves very little (if any) to be desired. Very easy and intuitive to use but with a well-rounded feature set and quite some depth to it. Capable of doing both linear and minimum phase, Ozone’s EQ feels like two different equalizers and the “precise” mode adds a spin-off for the linear phase, so it’s almost like having 3 equalizers. In fact its four equalizers, if you account for the matching EQ. This is definitely the star of the show in my opinion, I could write a big review about this EQ alone because it’s so well packed. Before I jump to the goods and bads, I should say that this is awesome mixing EQ and the advanced version owners can take advantage of that since they get separate plugin components.

The Good:
  • Minimum phase = zero latency and it sounds awesome. Linear phase sounds like expected. Despite of the mode used, this EQ is very transparent overall.
  • Tons of curves, with baxandall shelves, flat tops, all kinds of filter slopes and yada yada
  • Mid/Side, Dual-Mono or Stereo Linked operation
  • Cool analyser with some rare displays such as phase response
  • Great implementation of matching-eq that is very easy to use

The Bad:
  • Bands only goes up to 20 kHz. Even on sample rates higher than 44.1, and it could at least go to 24k for airy boosts or gentle and cautious filtering
  • Matching has a huge (over 5k) latency and is quite taxing on the CPU
  • No auto-gain, which is aggravated by the lack of input/output trims on the modules
  • Not available in the standard version as a separate plugin - that applies to all the Ozone modules, so you can add this line to all of them

Dynamics

Good sounding multi-band compressor with linear, minimum or hybrid options for the crossover points. Very transparent, at least as far multiband compression goes. It can have up to four bands by default, but also can be used as a wide-band compressor, and it's a very clean and smooth one. No “mojo” whatsoever, Stereo image and bottom end are very well preserved, and there’s a internal sidechain filter (HP/LP/BP) which helps to further our controls on how this compressor responds.

The Good:
  • Very transparent
  • Sounds great on wideband and smooth enough on multiband
  • Stereo or mid-side operation
  • Very flexible with its three modes (peak, rms, envelope) and a well-featured internal sidechain with low/high/bandpass options

The Bad:
  • Perhaps way too transparent and a bit tasteless on wideband
  • No external sidechain
  • No dual-mono


Exciter

This Exciter is actually exciting. Tape mode sounds very good, not authentic tape even though it’s not an actual emulation, but it evokes the style/character of tape’s low end bump and subtle compression quite nicely. The tube modes are also good to thicken up the midrange. The multi-banding makes a lot of sense once you’ve explored it, as it allows you to tame the distortion very accurately on the frequency regions you want (or don’t want) to touch and there’s also the choice for stereo or mid-side operation, which adds to the flexibility. Nonetheless, proceed with some good caution as it’s easy to oversaturate this module, and it requires some good monitoring to make a really good use of it.

The Good:
  • Fun to use
  • Actually exciting (!) and good sounding

The Bad:
  • Easy to overdo
  • Breaks up easily

Imager

A Stereo Imager is not something one has to use everyday and a multi-band imager might be even more rare - at least not under normal weather conditions or at least that’s the case with most of the recording that I come across. Nonetheless, it’s good to have a tool like this one around and makes you feel safe that you have this stereo-manipulation area covered in your mastering setup. Like the umbrella you leave on the office for the rainy days.

The Good:
  • Easy and good sounding enough to use on both fixing and enhancing tasks
  • Does a nice vinyl cutting trick i.e. narrow things below 300 Hz

The Bad:
  • Easy enough to carry you away and mess everything up

Maximizer

Ozone’s Maximizer/Limiter has always had a reputation as one of the industry’s loudest bangers, and it’s not any different this time around. Well, actually it can be different if you want to and Izotope has given us the options: with the inclusion of a vintage tube limiter and all the possible tweaks you can do it can go from very subtle to very loud, from transparent to very obvious and anything in between. Most important, it gets any possible job done. Period.

The Good:
  • Flexible enough to strive at any task
  • Easy to set up
  • Grabs intersample peaks
The Bad:
  • Well, there’s nothing actually bad about this one. Perhaps too much limiting in itself is a bad thing, and since this one takes heavy abuse better than most others it can easily lead to squared-looking waves, which can never be ption.

Dynamic EQ (Available on the Advanced Version)

Izotope has developed a great dynamic equalizer, which is easy to use and great sounding. It’s quite an elegant tool in all regards, both in use with its streamlined workflow and uncluttered interface, and also sound-wise with a transparent and stealthy sonic character. Capable of doing a good amount of different curves and equipped with baxandall shelfs, the Dynamic EQ has great versatility and can serve a good number of situations - and makes for a superb de-esser, amazing to tame that nasty upper mids/high frequency harshness you usually get from less-than-awesome recordings.

The Good:
  • Super smooth sounding
  • Elegant design that makes it a breeze to use
  • Mid/Side, Dual-Mono or Stereo Linked operation

The Bad:
  • Strangely limited to just four bands
  • Only comes with the Advanced version, at a high price

Insight Metering Suite (Available on the Advanced Version)

A treat to the advanced version owners, Insight is a decently-featured metering plugin. It can display real time frequency analysis, LUFS loudness measurement, sound field/vectorscope and a spectrogram. Insight complements Ozone very well, but at the moment it feels a bit like rehashed dinner because it already existed in Izotope’s roster: good enough to satisfy your elementary metering hunger, but not good enough for a date or candlelights. It’s also some people either don’t use/need much or already have it covered. In case you need/want a metering then this one will probably cut it.

The Good:
  • Covers all the basics
  • Easy to use
The Bad:
  • No fullscreen
  • Not as feature-rich as some of its competitors

Standalone App

The Ozone standalone app is a very welcome addition which perfectly suits the internet-age contemporary producer/engineer. Even though it lacks some depth since it does not feature any edit functions beyond length trimming and in/out fades, I feel like this is a great app to have around because it enables fast-paced and unobstructed workflow, which is great in our present day’s work conditions i.e. digital file delivering for the web. Each song you load into it gets its own processing chain and it’s easy to swap and reorder processors, even though there are no routing options other than serial mode - there’s no parallel processing or auxiliary buses. After that it’s basically export the file and you’re done - in that regard, there’s a nice feature for exporting multiple songs and naming them accordingly, making the CD or playlist assembling tasks a bit easier. This app can be basically resumed as “import a file, process the file, export the file, done”, which is a very good thing in 2015. It gets the job done if the job doesn’t require anything other than the sonics and basic length chopping - look elsewhere if you need anything more than that.

The Good:
  • Good sample rate conversion and great sound quality all around
  • Great bypass function that matches the level of the processing chain (that applies to Ozone 6 plugin as well)
  • Hosts AU/VST plugins
  • Very streamlined and extremely easy to use
  • Allows for a very quick turn-around time

The Bad:
  • No automation
  • No MP3 or CD export tools
  • No preview when importing audio
  • No effects on the master section (or no master section at all)
  • Desperately needs to support control surfaces. MIDI, Eucon and/or HUI, at least one of them - MIDI being the most basic and ubiquitous.



Standalone app offers a convenient and quick way to master your files.



Overall performance, support and documentation

Ozone is incredibly well optimised for a processor with such a wide scope and range of capabilities. If you’re a standard version owner you’ll be restricted to the one plugin that has all the modules, which has been the case on all previous Ozone version. Since it does the whole processing chain and can get quite heavy depending on the settings - some limiter modes are more cpu-intensive and if you use linear phase for the EQ or multi-band crossovers you’ll end with latency and a heavier load, even though it was far from draining my computer’s resources (my specs are listed below) and I could run a fair amount of Ozone instances on my 10-track mastering project simulation/benchmark.

If you’re an owner of the advanced then life is better because you get the separate plugins for each of the six modules thus only you only have the modules you want and therefore save up some resources. I’ll leave to each one to decide whether they prefer the individual instances or the one-window to rule them all approach, but what is undoubtedly great and I think everyone will agree is that having a plugin for each the modules opens up the possibility of using Ozone’s tools all across a mixing or production project, and they do very well in such scenarios.

Support and patch-delivering is alright - not a lot of patches so far but there has been a sufficient amount of development and fixing so far and Izotope seems very committed to keep it up. It's also worth saying the Izotope incorporated some feedback from the community and update 6.1 brought some new features such as adaptive release, a new tube limiting mode and per-module presets.

Documentation is stellar. Besides a good manual Izotope also offers guides to mastering which are great reads. Everything is very well written, with clear language. Overall the Ozone package is extremely professional, well-thought and most importantly, very well-executed. A very polished product in all regards.


Closing thoughts

I must admit that I totally overlooked this product and took my findings from an older version as unchangeable truths and never really bothered to try Ozone again. It seems like I’ve came back to it in a very good day because what I see (and hear) is a spectacular plugin that delivers a ton of bang on those 249 bucks. You’re getting an excelent equalizer, a very well featured and clean compressor, a handy stereo width processor, an exciter that is actually exciting to use and a really good sounding limiter. That’s five top-shelf processors for basically 50 dollars each, which is awesome bang for a fair amount of bucks. Regardless if you want a one-stop solution or something to complement what you already have, this is definitely a very good choice that delivers on all fronts and gives you the sonic processing and basic file adjustments you need to do a fine-sounding digital mastering job.

Unfortunately the same can not be said about the Advanced Version. For whopping one thousand dollars you just don’t get anywhere near the bang-per-buck ratio of the basic version since it doesn’t add that much. It’s not saying it isn’t an amazing product, because it is an amazing product: the Dynamic EQ is extremely good, having separate components is really nice since it enables Ozone as an effective mixing tool and the analyzer suite is useful, even though that’s just the icing on the cake. The problem is that there the big price gap just doesn’t make a lot of sense when you look at the added features and the added bucks required. Advanced is a very nice product, there’s no question about that, but it’s just hard to justify it given the price - for that money the feature set had to be way better than it currently is. My personal wish list for a worthy advanced version would be something like this: Input/Output trim and Dry/Wet on each module, flexible signal routing for parallel processing, automation, some editing and proper tools for mp3 and CD on the standalone app (at least).

I’d also love to see an affordable upgrade path to the Dynamic EQ, perhaps sold as a lower cost add-on. Maybe a pay-per-module is something that could help to bridge that huge price gap between the two versions. With that in mind, I’m giving “bang for buck” a four out of five stars because I’m rating the standard version as a 5/5, while the advanced version gets two of those stars taken away and we get to the average - 4/5. Besides that, Ozone easily gets a five out of five: very good sonic range and superb sound quality, very straightforward and intuitive to use and comes with tons of features - regardless of which version you choose.

The verdict

Ozone leaves very little to be desired in every aspect. It sounds great, its very intuitive to use, well optimized and Izotope offers good support and documentation. This is a great choice for both experienced users looking for a near end-game digital mastering solution or for those who just need some quick hassle-free mastering. The standard version is a definitely one of the best deals out there and offers an outstanding set of tools that many people can afford, but the Advanced version leaves something to be desired at the moment and might not fulfill everyone’s expectations.

Quote:
Test system: Intel i5-2500k, 16GB DDR3 RAM, Sata2 HDDs, Steinberg UR28M

Monitoring: Dynaudio DBM50 monitors and Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro headphones on a TC Electronics BMC-2. Fairly treated room.

Test sessions done on Pro Tools 12, Cubase Pro 8 and Ozone Standalone App running at 48kHz/24-bit.

 

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