Technology

Field Test: iZotope Ozone 3 Plug-In

The polymaths at iZotope, the company that came up with the innovative Spectron and Trash plug-ins, have significantly redesigned the manufacturer's popular Ozone 2 analog-modeled mastering suite and 3/01/2004 7:00 AM Eastern

The polymaths at iZotope, the company that came up with theinnovative Spectron and Trash plug-ins, have significantly redesignedthe manufacturer's popular Ozone 2 analog-modeled mastering suite andchristened it Ozone 3. With more than 30 improvements, Ozone 3 is aDirectX-based stereo mastering plug-in that comprises six separateprocessors running within a common control panel interface. While it isan amazingly deep and comprehensive mastering “finishingtool,” with internal 64-bit precision and the ability to run upto 192kHz sample rates, Ozone 3 also makes an excellent individualstereo track processor. CPU load is not light, but in a 2.8GHz NuendoP4 PC, I was able to run a session with 60-plus tracks, many plugs-insand reverbs and still have enough steam left for four of six (possible)Ozone 3 processors on the stereo master fader. Even my pokey 800MHzCeleron PC running Cubase SX 2.0 did fine with up to five of themrunning on a finished stereo mix. Ozone 3 supports Cakewalk's SonarRecord Automation option; you can automate Ozone from within Sonar bymoving an Ozone control. Ozone 3 will be available for both VST and ProTools systems soon.

CALLING ALL PROCESSORS

The six processors in Ozone 3 are paragraphic equalizer, multibanddynamics, multiband harmonic exciter, multiband stereo imaging,loudness maximizer and mastering reverb. The sequence of theseprocesses can be shuffled in any order and it's easy to bypass any ofthem with a mouse click. Master control panel features affecting allsix processors include ganged (or not) stereo input and output faderswith peak reading meters; global bypass (bypassing any individualprocessor relinquishes CPU power); and a drop-down menu of handyfactory presets and your own stored concoctions.

Like Ozone 2, most work begins around the paragraphic equalizerwhere, besides switching between a modeled analog or digital phaselinear EQ, you have up to eight different overlapping frequency pointsor nodes to affect. Being a sonic surgeon, I love this tool because itallows me to have this much control over frequency, level, Q and the“shape” of each node. Combining a high-shelf,high-pass-band, peaking, low-shelf and lowpass filter types produces aresultant EQ curve that is unique and usually unobtainable. To thisend, there is improved resolution of the graphical display with choicesof 1x, 2x, 3x or 6x magnifications. The colorful graphical displayinstantaneously shows both the spectral content of your music and thealgebraic sum of all the filters. You may take a spectrum“snapshot” of any moment of program, store it and use thatEQ curve again over any other music program or track.“Matching” allows you to further modify this rendered curvemanually by mouse-clicking and redrawing it.

Ozone 3's loudness maximizer has a new gain reduction meter to showthe amount of limiting. Also, a new Intelligent mode is available,along with Ozone 2's stalwart analog-modeled soft or brickwall limitersettings. The intelligent maximizer is said to sound more neutral andtransparent, which I verified in my test on track mixes. However, theother limiter modes sound better on individual tracks.

WAIT, THERE'S MORE

All of the multiband processors now have both analog and digitallinear phase crossovers. Additionally, you can specify the Q orbandwidth for each of the crossovers. Multiband dynamics have both apeak compressor/limiter/expander and RMS compressor/limiter/expander. Ilike multiband dynamics for stereo pair processing like backing vocalsor huge keyboards that I needed to scale back dynamically. The veryserviceable mastering reverb now has a pre-delay parameter, and you canselect between Ozone 2's plate and a new modeled room reverb. Ozone 3also introduces the MBIT+ dither algorithm that reduces quantizationdistortion with minimal perceived noise for a very smooth, quiet andalmost analog sound. The multiband harmonic exciter now has threealgorithm choices — retro, tube and tape saturation —across all four bands.

WRAPPING IT UP

Everyone from mastering engineers to master recordists will findOzone 3 to be the engine that allows them to translate their wildestprocessing dreams into reality. I found the learning curve andinterface easy to use and the results superb. iZotope Ozone 3 sells for$199 as a download or $229 for the CD-ROM; you can upgrade from Ozone 2for $49 via download or $79 with a disc.

iZotope, www.izotope.com.


Barry Rudolph (www.barryrudolph.com) is an L.A.-based recordingengineer.