Design - 8.7/10
Features - 9.0/10
Value - 8.7/10
We all know iZotope for its extremely innovative products. To some, the automated work iZotope software can put in without much effort is nothing short of magic. However we definitely can’t downplay the immense work and detail put into each new plugin. We have already seen this done many times before with iZotope Nectar 3 for vocals, and of course the unmistakeable iZotope RX7 package for audio doctoring and cleanup. With its backlog of products that effortlessly combine tools into one in-house chain, we expected nothing less from Ozone 9. For those unfamiliar, iZotope Ozone 9 is the company’s ninth installment of the now very popular mastering plugin. Earlier versions of Ozone now sit in the tool-belt of many producers, engineers, and mastering-specific engineers as a go-to pick. With this reputation, we had big expectations of Ozone 9, so we sat down to put it to the test.
iZotope’s Ozone 9 follows the same color scheme as the majority of the company’s other flagship products. The majority of the plugin is coated in either black, or dark grey with a blue-ish tint. When a feature is engaged, a light blue color turns on to tell you so. Other, smaller highlighted colors that present themselves occasionally are a more royal blue, red, yellow, and teal. Albeit a strange color palette choice, it fits the brand very well and gives Ozone 9 a very professional look. As always seen in prior iZotope releases, the metering and visualizers are very quick to respond to audio changes. The visual frequency spectrum meter also seemed very responsive and accurate to our ears.
From the start, the design of Ozone 9 can make it very easy for one to understand what’s happening. For example, once the mastering assistant is engaged and analysis starts, a checklist appears on the screen to let you know what is being done in real time. This is especially helpful, because it blocks off the rest of the plugin to let the assistant do its thing, while also setting expectations ahead of time.
When not actively analyzing a track, Ozone 9’s look is similar to that of its its vocally-focused brother Nectar 3. In-use and engaged effects appear across the top which can be toggled between by clicking on each one individually. With that said, because there are so many moving parts and visuals on screen, we could see how the plugin’s layout may intimidate more beginner users. Overall however, it would be easy for anyone to come to understand Ozone 9 a little better, simply with some tutorials, and time spent. Because of this, the design gets a strong mark of approval from us.
From the beginning, we expected iZotope to hit us with many features in Ozone 9. So we figured there is no better place to start, than with perhaps its most notable one, the mastering assistant. When Ozone 9 is engaged, or when users upload a mix into the program, users have the option to work in full manual mode, or use its built-in assistant. As mentioned above, when mastering assistant is selected, users are advised to playback the loudest part of the mix. This is an excellent inclusion, because it avoids a potentially overlooked user mistake, resulting in an overly-limited master. Afterwords, iZotope works its ‘magic,’ and shifts to auto-pilot to do your next 30 minutes of work for you.
The full frequency spectrum of your mix is analyzed, and Ozone corrects what it thinks requires correcting. This is done by applying either a vintage, modern, or dynamic EQ to your mix as a suggested improvement. Other features you or the system can engage in the chain include an exciter, imager, low-end focus, master rebalance, an EQ match mechanism, and much more. The majority of these tools are at any professional mastering engineer’s disposal already. But these are all created by iZotope and live all within this one plugin.
Because of this, especially after running the mastering assistant, Ozone 9 will absolutely eat up quite a bit of your computer’s CPU. Meaning if you’re working from a laptop or computer without a lot of processing power, you’ll run into some issues. For us, we found a simple workaround by making sure all other tracks in our session were inactive, and disengaging any other plugins present. While this reduced glitching, it did not completely eliminate the problem, and is kind of annoying. But with a plugin as packed and complex as this, we expected to need a little more juice on our end.
As far as the effects themselves are concerned, everything sounded amazing. The mastering assistant asks users if a more modern, or vintage sounding master is desired from the start. Based on this selection Ozone 9 might choose from its more modernized EQs, Compressors and Limiters, or their older sounding counterparts. Before we even heard them, we really didn’t expect to hear that much of a difference. However the discern-ability between both versions of each effect blew us away. We knew we wanted a more older, vintage tone on two of the five tracks in our project. When applied, we were astounded at their discern-ability in tandem with the fact that they still worked well as a full project with the ‘modern’ tracks.
In terms of the limiting and maximizing capabilities of Ozone, once again we were thoroughly impressed. When the threshold was pushed past the point it should be at, no crackling or unpleasantries were heard by us. Which makes it clear iZotope took its time to fine tune each individual effect to the best it can be. Even with a plugin including effects that are all mashed together into a huge piece of software. We were so happy to see this attention to detail continue, even though we expected it.
Ozone 9 Advanced is listed by iZotope with a $499 price tag. This includes all of the features we mentioned above including low-end assistance and rebalance, if so desired. However, the company also created two other options, Ozone Elements, and Ozone 9 Standard. Ozone Elements dues include features like the master assistant, and imager with a more limited performance for only $129. For improved performance and other features included such as the EQ match, Ozone 9 Standard would be the best purchase at a still reasonable $249.
We’d say this holds great value, given that the majority of features available in Ozone 9 advanced are also in both Ozone Elements and the Standard version. If Advanced were the only option available from iZotope, we definitely would consider the $500 pricing point much too high. But because anybody can choose a more limited version for a lot cheaper, this product is well worth anybody’s investment. Especially those whose services include mastering, but do not consider mastering as a majority of their work. This way, it can make one’s workflow a lot faster, and provides more time to focus on recording and mixing. If this sounds like something that could be useful to you, head over to iZotope’s website and pick it up for yourself, you certainly won’t regret it.