Is Izotope Ozone the Best Mastering Plugin? – A Producer’s Take!

Author: Tomas Morton | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Every year, it seems like we’re blessed with 3 to 5 new mastering Plug-Ins from various companies, doesn’t it? You might’ve even seen this title and thought, “Really? Do we need to hear about yet another limiter?”

But hang in there with me because Ozone isn’t just another limiter or mastering plug-in. Actually, I’d go as far as to say it’s the best mastering plug-in and mix limiter I’ve ever had the pleasure of using!

If you’ve read any of my other articles, you might’ve noticed that I’m a big fan of analog hardware—maybe even more than Plug-Ins themselves!

Even mastering limiters that cost a whopping 10 times more than Ozone, haven’t been able to measure up when it comes to modern polish and control. Now, I don’t want to bore you with a bunch of specs and technical jargon about mastering thresholds.

Instead, let me share some practical usage tips that I’ve found to make an incredible difference in my music.

Here are a few things that Ozone does better than any other mastering plug-in out there.

6 Reasons Izotope Ozone is the Best Mastering Plugin – Some Tips for Mastering!

Ozone Advanced (A Suite of Plugins)

Now, Ozone isn’t just a standalone plugin. It’s actually a suite of plugins, especially if you’re using the advanced version. The regular version provides more simplicity, allowing you to select your modules and arrange them however you like, all in one neat little window.

I started with the regular version but soon discovered that the advanced version includes individual modules as separate plugins, each with its own unique user interface. I found this extremely useful and upgraded without a second thought.

One of the standout features of Ozone is its sophisticated AI learning function for automatic frequency detection. I’ll delve into the details of this later on, but in a nutshell, it’s a gem for musicians and producers who might not have an engineering background but possess a keen ear.

If you know what you need to fix in your track, you can go ahead and fix it. This is precisely where Ozone’s learning function comes into play.

What it does is scan parts of your music and pinpoint where those pesky problem frequencies are hiding. Your next step is simply to spend some quality time understanding the different frequencies and addressing the issues.

What impressed me is that Ozone doesn’t just limit this feature to EQ. It extends it to the imager and exciter as well, both of which are nothing short of amazing.

Using it is as easy as pie: just select a section of your track, hit ‘learn’, and watch as the crossover frequencies adjust themselves until they’re just right.

Match EQ

Let me tell you about one of my all-time favorite tools – the Match EQ module. As producers, you know how we often get reference tracks, right?

Sometimes, it can feel a little overwhelming. Clients can dream big – like comparing their track to a masterpiece like Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer” and hoping for a mirror image in return.

Well, that’s where the Match EQ tool steps in to save the day! First things first, you’ll need to grab a snippet of the reference track, whether from Spotify or your iTunes store and bring it into your session.

The process is a piece of cake. We take a little part of the reference track, ideally a chorus or the part that’s loudest, most compressed, and bursting with harmonic richness.

The tool then gets to work, analyzing the frequencies and crafting a curve. Next, it needs your target track – the mix you’re currently shaping. Feed it a snippet, and then decide how much of that original curve you want to sprinkle onto your track.

The results? They’re often jaw-dropping, with your mix starting to mirror the exceptional mix you referenced.

This tool is a lifesaver, especially if you’re dealing with clients who like to have a say in the final output. A big chunk of my time goes into sending ideas, demos, songs, and even full tracks to ad agencies, music supervisors, film directors, and so on.

If you’re aware that your clients are after a specific sound for a movie, for instance, you can take the track they’re in love with, use it as a reference, and tweak your mix to sound more like it. It’s a genius move that works wonders because your track will sound more like the one they adored, giving you a leg up in the race for the job or placement.

I’ve even had approvals simply by matching the EQ and sending it back as a revised mix. I didn’t alter anything about the mix itself, just the overall EQ and they believed it was an entirely new mix. How awesome is that?

Low-end Focus (A Game Changer!)

If you’re into producing R&B, hip-hop, or dance music, you’re probably no stranger to the tricky task of managing the low end during mixing and mastering. It’s like walking a tightrope, isn’t it? Too much or too little, and the results can be less than ideal.

Even with a perfectly tuned room, a quality subwoofer, and a good balance, your monitors might just not be telling you the whole story about the low end. Kind of frustrating, right?

And then comes the dreaded test. You know, the one where your track suddenly sounds like a muddy mess and threatens to blow out your speakers with those rogue subfrequencies. Ouch!

This is exactly why the clever folks at Izotope created Low-End Focus. It’s like a secret weapon for your track’s low end.

Say your track is swimming in too much sub – there’s a preset that can tighten it up while keeping it intact. Or maybe your track is on the lean side? There’s a preset to beef up that low base.

You might be thinking, “But there are tons of plugins that can do that!” And you’re right! But what sets Low-End Focus apart is how it gets under the hood of the low end.

It lets you pick and choose the character of the low end you’re adding or subtracting. Take it for a spin and you’ll see what I mean.

Dial in a massive, booming bass for a hip-hop 808, or a precise, tight base for a dance track. It’s a world of difference from just slapping on some low-end EQ to a specific frequency.

AI Assistant

Hey, it might feel like you’re cutting corners to the purist mixers and mastering engineers out there, but trust me, the AI assistant is your best friend when you’re in a pinch and need to send multiple tracks to multiple clients in a jiffy.

What does the AI assistant do, you ask? It takes your overall track, gives it a good listen, and smoothly applies the right settings for all modules.

This includes everything from frequency splits and crossovers to compression and maximizer settings for peak and loudness. And all of this in one quick swoop!

Think of it as your kickoff point, but a seriously solid one. If I were to throw out a number, I’d say it gets your track about 70% ready in just 10 to 12 seconds.

And why is this so great? Let me tell you.

First off, it’s ace for getting a close approximation to the volume level you want for mastering or mixing. This is super important because if your mix is too quiet when you’re checking it on systems, Bluetooth speakers, or in your car, you’re just amplifying noise.

But if it’s too loud, you’re looking at clipping and distortion, which makes it a no-go.

So, even if you decide to skip everything else but stick with the maximizer setting suggested by the AI assistant, it’s still totally worth it.

Maximizer Features

The heart and soul of any mastering plug-in are the EQ and the maximizer. When it comes to the maximizer, there’s nothing that can hold a candle to Ozone’s features.

It’s my trusty sidekick, always there as the last plug-in in my Mixbus chain before the big bounce.

Though a maximizer is basically a limiter, Ozone really shines with a little something special unique to iZotope’s tech: the intelligent release curves (IRC). IRC is like your friendly guide, automatically figuring out the perfect rhythm for the compressor to boogie with your track.

It’s a game-changer because it usually takes a lot of time and practice to get this right with compression.

So, instead of spending hours tweaking attack and release settings, Ozone steps up with some extra options like upward compression, soft clip, and transient emphasis. They might sound a bit technical, but they’re really just a creative way to sprinkle a bit of harmonic sparkle for more or less attack.

For example, if you use transient emphasis, you’ll get a smidge more attack, which is super helpful for electronic music that leans heavily on attack-type sounds like Kick Drums.

And Soft clip? It’s like a warm hug, replicating the delightful saturation on peaks that good old tape compression gave when mastering down to quarter-inch tape. It’s like a time machine, taking you back to the joy of listening to music mastered in this classic way.

Spectral Enhancement

So, starting from version 11 of Ozone, there’s this amazing add-on called the Clarity module. Izotope had been playing around with spectrum enhancement already and had a module called Spectral Shaper in earlier versions of Ozone, but what Clarity brings to the table is simple and oh-so incredibly handy.

What it does is basically remove unwanted overtones, harmonics, and frequencies that could make your mix sound muddy or harsh. Think of it as a kind of overall de-esser for your master.

Have any of you ever experimented with Oeksound’s plugin Soothe? It’s sort of a game-changer, adding an almost invisible polish to your frequency range.

Well, this is Izotope’s take on Soothe. The cool thing is, you can use it anywhere in the chain, so you can place it after all your EQ and harmonic add-ons, or you can put it as the first module to clean up whatever you’re compressing. It’s pretty genius that way.

And the best part? It’s super easy to dial in.

Final Thoughts

Ozone is more than just a brick wall limiter with EQ—it’s your secret weapon for enhancing any mix. Whether you’re working on a loud pop banger or a delicate solo instrument piece, Ozone’s versatility and quality truly shine.

It’s also a fantastic tool for sprucing up individual stems before mixing. For instance, I once used it to breathe new life into an acoustic guitar recording that was plagued by squeaks and an overwhelming boom.

Thanks to its AI assistant, the clarity module, and vintage tape, the guitar suddenly sounded as if it had been recorded in a professional studio.

In today’s world, where online collaboration through platforms like SoundBetter and AirGigs is the norm, Ozone really comes into its own. It’s a lifesaver for freelancers looking to impress clients from afar and rescue less-than-perfectly recorded files.

In a nutshell, Ozone is paving the way to the future. It’s high time other companies took a leaf out of their book and started embracing AI techniques, lest they risk falling behind.

With tools like these at your disposal, your music can reach new heights—it’s truly remarkable.

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About Tomas Morton

Tomas is a record producer, engineer, and synthesizer enthusiast based in Pasadena, CA. He received training at Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA. When not in his studio, he can often be found scouring garage sales or Craigslist ads for vintage gear treasures.

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