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iZotope Ozone 9 Hands-On Review: The best mastering suite out there

Ozone is a smart mastering software created by intelligent processing software developer iZotope. We have been fortunate enough to be invited to beta test the latest version of this software, Ozone 9 after having used Ozone 8 for quite some time as a basic mastering platform. Of course, switching from ProTools took some time, but Ozone offers simple playback, intuitive looping, and will automatically find and indicate sections of a song. With the new version 9 allowing for the use of third party plugins as modules, we no longer use traditional DAWs as our starting point when mastering.

Mastering in Ozone 9 is great for engineers of any level. For those who have no experience with the process, iZotope has included an automatic mastering feature called Master Assistant. This is a great place to start out. The Master Assistant allows users to select whether to use transparent digital plugins or to emulate analog hardware, pick the loudness and transient control, and the intended medium for a song’s release. Then, while playing back the audio, Ozone will analyze the track to determine the procedure necessary to balance the tonality and control the dynamics of the song before applying appropriate modules and settings. Instead of just spitting out a final audio file, the Master Assistant leaves the track in the software with the preset modules in place so users can tweak or add to a song before bouncing. Our favorite way to use this feature is not as a starting point, but as a guideline. We typically bounce the Master Assistant’s idea of a good mastered song, and then import the audio to compare loudness and timbre as we work. Even if you don’t have a clue what to do when mastering a track, Ozone 9’s Master Assistant is a far better choice for cleaning up a mix than services like Landr both from a financial and quality perspective.

For those engineers who already master using software, Ozone 9 is an incredible platform. Not only are the included modules great, but for those who want to use the plugins they have already grown used to, Ozone has finally added third party plugin support. Say for instance you have a go-to soft compressor like the Plugin Alliance SPL Iron or UAD’s Shadow Hills’ Mastering Compressor. These plugins will load within the software and the familiar GUI will show up as a separate window. Currently, some plugins (even those running on DSP cards) have a somewhat clunky visual response, such as the gain reduction on a compressor or the RTA on a Parametric EQ, but we are sure this will improve with future updates.

Most mastering engineers, ourselves included, simply could not imagine doing their work without the use of trusted, time tested analog hardware. Even for those of us who fit this bill, Ozone 9 is revolutionary. We have been using Ozone to play our audio, sent out digitally to a D/A converter. The D/A feeds our analog chain, which in turn goes through an A/D converter into a ProTools rig. The ProTools rig records the mastered audio once the desired results are achieved and then final limiting and fades are done within ProTools. Ozone provides a smarter way to work for every level of mastering engineer. Version nine in particular is a serious force to be reckoned with. There truly is no better mastering software available.

We really can’t get enough of Ozone 9. On the rare occasion that an included module doesn’t offer what we need, we can load up our favorite third party plugins or send signal out to hardware. We can and do use their modules as plugins for mixing in other DAWs, and the workflow offered within Ozone is perfect for its intended use – mastering. Mastering is very different from recording and mixing, and it is appropriate that a software has been designed to not only reflect those differences, but to adapt to them as well. We won’t soon be selling our outboard gear, but Ozone has found a comfy spot as an indispensable part of our process.

You can get Ozone 9 for yourself using the links below.

Where to buy:

Guitar Center$199Buy Now!
Plugin Boutique$199Buy Now!

Craig Jones

Currently, Craig runs a studio in uptown Minneapolis. Before, he was a gigging musician. No matter the occupation, one thing remains unchanged. Craig is, always has been, and always will be a gear head through and through.

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