Let’s get straight to it: Ozone has already established itself as a do-everything mastering tool. It’s a suite of interconnected modules handling frequency and dynamics, designed to work together in an integrated interface. It does so much, in fact, that it’s hard for an upgrade to do more, but Ozone 5 promises new sound and visual feedback that could further entrench this popular tool.

And that could explain how Ozone 5 stole the Audio Engineering Society trade show in New York. AES is a flurry of knobs, dials, and faders, but some of the major buzz we heard was just this single upgrade to the software. (CDM’s Marsha Vdovin was out on the floor, and the word “Ozone” kept cropping up.)

Ozone is eminently visual software, so a lot of what’s new you can glean just by looking through the screenshots. But there are sound improvements, as well, both in the standard Ozone and the spendier “Advanced” edition.

What’s new:

  • Updated modules. iZotope says they’ve “refined” their DSP algorithms. (Let’s see, carry the one…) The idea is, existing modules should sound better. There’s a detailed list on the iZotope site – aside from more subtle changes, you’ll find very specific adjustments to how parameters are controlled and how they impact the sound. To give one example, there’s a …
  • New Limiter. The latest version of iZotope’s “psychoacoustics-based” limiter in the Advanced edition has a new stereo link control for handling left and right separately or together, and new intelligent transient handling algorithms, among other improvements.
  • Enhanced EQ. Analog-matching EQ models analog shelf modes and frequency response, matching is easier than before, as with other modules, you can use left/right separately, and now zoom and display stereo info in your spectrum. There’s also new variable-phase functionality.
  • New Reverb. Yes, sometimes you use reverb when mastering. (A little light reverb can do wonders.) A new modeled reverb algorithm adds new models and spaces and gives you unique early reflection control, as well as “cross-mix” for stereo imaging.
  • New UI, workflow. I’ll let you just see what this looks like, but suffice to say parameters and labels are better-organized to be friendlier to advanced and beginning users alike. Past versions of Ozone were sometimes pretty-but-counterintuitive; this looks a bit clearer. Of course, you might not notice while dazzled by the…
  • Slick visual feedback. In the standard version, metering has been enhanced. In the Advanced version, you get slick 2D and 3D plots of your sound spectrum for the Meter Bridge and Meter Taps modules. They look awesome, yes, but I also think these kind of “alien world mountainscape” views can help you better visualize what’s happening in a sound, so there is a practical use, too.

And, of course, all of this means you can easily wow clients when mastering by showing them visualizations that look like Geordi LaForge is studying abnormal quasar activity from the deck of the Enterprise. Just try to avoid opening up a cosmic string-related time wrinkle while mastering.

(And yes, when you’re all alone and no one is looking over your shoulder, you can do something useful with it.)

Pricing: US$249 (€195); US$999 (€799) Advanced.

Why is Advanced so expensive? Well, each module is also an independent plug-in you can use in your host. With that in mind, this starts to look like a better deal – some terrific reverb, EQ, and dynamics you can use anywhere. You also get the Meter Bridge and Meter Tap for analysis, fancier 2D and 3D spectrographs, and more advanced loudness meters. On the other hand, the basic version will also work with your host and gives you the sound-processing functionality minus all those more sophisticated meters you might need.

This month, there’s also steeply discounted intro pricing: US$599 for Advanced, US$199 for the standard edition. Expires December 1.

Ozone 5 was announced last month, but is now shipping. An OpenGL 2-capable video card is required for the 3D visualizations, but nearly all machines now provide that (including most integrated chipsets, too).

Ozone 5 Product Page @iZotope

For a look at what this tool can do, here’s our friend and experienced mastering and mix engineer Danny Wyatt, talking about how he works with limiting. The new UI and meters are actually a lot clearer than what you see in the video, and offer some nice, new functionality. I can tell you, Danny is a fully-converted Ozone lover, having worked with him in the studio as he mastered my own album. He’s got a big toolset of other stuff, but Ozone is very often what the real work comes down to, and — I think I can say this, Danny — he’ll be happy to evangelize the tool if you talk to him.

This isn’t a review, mind – in fact, my only significant reservation is that Ozone is so slick, it could distract from the reality that good mastering probably doesn’t need it. A great mastering engineer can do wonders with a fairly simple tool and their ear – no wild visualizations required. (“Great mastering engineer,” also known as, “not me.”) But that same person may well appreciate the level of precision iZotope, working with algorithms they’ve developed entirely in-house, can provide.

We want your feedback, as always. Ozone users – what do you think?

Users of rival products – what’s your all-in-one mastering tool of choice, and why?

Images courtesy iZotope. Click for larger versions.
  • I gotta say….just when you think a plugin pretty much has it all, they show you new stuff you didn't know you need!   

    This looks like a massive and well thought out upgrade. Advanced looks awesome and the fact that you can break out the individual sections as stand alone plugins is brilliant. The visualizer is really nice too. 

    Advanced is what, $999? Upgrade price of $399? An additional $100 off before Dec. 1 too? Yep. I think it's a done deal.

  • I tried Ozone 4 and although I had the feeling of having "more control", I ended up A-B testing the different Tools and my Ableton-quick-and-dirty-Masters sounded ALWAYS better than 3 different Ozone-Masters which I thought would sound good. Somehow the sound becomes a bit washy – dunno. Maybe its a psychological thing? Or I just can't use it the right way?

    P.S.: IMHO the Ardaz Maximizer (free VST) sounds much better then every of the Ozone-Algorithms. Try it here: http://aradaz.blogspot.com/2010/10/aradaz-maximiz

  • P.P.S.: I always Master with Live's standard-multiband-compression, 8-EQ, etc.

    I tried a lot of things but it just sounds the best for me. But I'm still on the search and maybe I will give O5 a try.

  • In my opinion if you don't have clients to satisfy and you don't have to respect deadlines, I think that the best way to proceed on mastering is to take your time and to keep it simple:

    – use only few basic tools (multi-comp, eq, limiter)

    – if you find something that you don't like go back to the source and fix the mix!

  • Peter Kirn

    @cloddo: There's no reason you can't use Ozone like that, though – fancy graphics aside.

  • I'm no "Flat UI" nazi, but those POV-angled buttons in the lower third of the screen make me queasy.

    OTOH, the scopes look amazing.

  • yeah the redesign is kinda weird. looks like something out of metal gear solid, like otacon is gonna call you anytime on that thing.

  • J

    It's like the different GUI sections are fighting for attention. Using this software I would find it hard to focus and get in a mastering mindset of balance and control.

  • I like that they consolidated the interface on the multiband compressor. Constantly switching between threshold & time settings was the worst about previous versions of Ozone to the extent that I was reaching for the far more elegant Ableton Live multiband compressor instead. I'll have to check out the new one.

    I also like the fact that they were able to make a version 5 in general with a significant number of updates… new algorithms/modes for every module, significantly re-thought UI and all. I got the impression that Ozone was a mature product and thus abandoned by iZotope in lieu of their newer products (RX, Alloy, Stutter Edit, some iPad bullsh-t, etc.) … seems like I was wrong, so kudos to them.

    The downside is the Cool Edition of Ozone 5 costs as much as a DAW or Native Instruments Komplete, no matter how you slice it.

    I haven't tried Ozone 5 yet, but the thing I've always wanted in Ozone is a per-module gain knob, so I can sensibly A-B my settings for each module. The harmonic exciter module for example has the tendency to boost the volume.

  • @Peter of course you can.

    Mine was a general answer to your question about which tool do we use: it doesn't really matter the "brand" of the tool we use (personally I like the ones available in the Logic Studio package), but to better understand what we need to use. I'm not a big fan of exciters, spatializers, miracolizers ( 😛 ) and so on… if we can go back to the mix to add space or gain to missing frequencies, why should we work on a stereo bounce?

    (obviously this apply only when possible, as I said in my previous comment)

  •  I just gotta say . . . this is the kind of reportage that makes CDM the best blog covering electronic music and media – – kudos, Peter, keep up the good work!

  • I've used ozone for years. But i'm afraid to say I don't think i'll be upgrading to ver 5.

    I picked up Ozone as a substitute for my digital mastering limiter/EQ of choice, the TC system 6000. I'm still a advocate of my analog mastering tools for the most part, but at some point you will need to make a final bickwalled, filtered, & dithered master at the end of the day. When I was away from work or in my project studio. Ozone served me well. At the time it was the only plugin available with matching EQ, mutiband compression/harmonic/stereo processing, brickwall limiting, & dither. I still hold the intelligent 2 limiter & mbit dither in very high regard. But I will say I was always fighting with ozone to perform like the TC MD4 & Brickwall 2. Ozone is a great "squeaky clean" processor no doubt. But brickwall limiting of transient peaks simply just dosen't sound as good or as natural as the combination of soft clipping/brickwall limiting. TC held that touch over plugins for some time. Up until recently. The Meldaproduction mastering bundle took me by surprise & finally gave me the TC functionality I was missing. It is now my defualt mastering tools of choice. The limiter section of the slate FX-G deserves a mention as well. One of the very few other plugin tools that steps into the world of balancing limiting/soft-clipping.

  • Forgive the typos, long day.

  • Brian Tuley

    I guess if I were producing material for listeners other than myself, then I could justify spending $$$ on better math.  But until I get paid, I think I'll stick with my Live Multi-Band Compressor when mastering.  Does the trick.

  • ALTZ

    Ableton's Multiband compression is very nice. Could be smooth and punchy depend on your settings. =]

  • Oops. There is no "additional $100" off. The upgrade to advance is $399. My bad. Still worth it IMHO.

  • for me, T-Racks does the Job perfectly IMHO!