So you’ve got your song all ready to go, but you need that extra 5% to make it sound professional. Is the iZotope Ozone mastering suite worth it? Will it give you that finished sound. Are you interested in mastering Hip-Hop with Ozone? Or Rock? Or Jazz? I’ll walk through the product, and try to provide some answers. (You can now rent to own Ozone so you are probably better off going that route, because you can always opt out.) While Logic Pro does comes with compressors, eq and limiters, Ozone makes it fairly simple to master your tracks without a ton of knowledge, and as you learn, you can tweak it to suit your needs.
Here’s a Pink Floyd inspired sample that I’ll use for the examples.
To take my mastering skills out of the equation, I just used the Master Assistant. You can use a preset, but the Master Assistant works well enough. If you’re a professional, you will probably take issue with just hitting a button and calling it done. The truth is, it’s a pretty good starting point, and if you don’t have the experience, it’s not a bad way to go.
A quick aside, Ozone comes with a lot of presets, like “Added Attack”, “Added Warmth”, “In Your Face”, etc. But it also has genre specific presets, so if you aren’t up on the particulars for your genre, like what the EQ should be for the hi-end and the low-end, and what kind of Dynamics to use for the mids, then this is a good place to start.
The first thing it recommended was to low shelf the bass, which was probably not a bad idea. When I recorded this, I had just gotten the Neve 33609 plugin and was digging the sound on the bass track. A bit too much 😉 It was obviously overwhelming the mix.
It then applied a Bell Peak with a Q of 0.4 at 2.4 KhZ. If you listen to the sample, the bass isn’t quite as overwhelming, although I think I’d probably dip it a bit more, as I know my monitors have a bit of a bias in that range. There is also a bit more clarity up top. I turned off everything except the EQ so that you could just hear it’s effect.
Although not a bad starting point, I slid it up to 6.45 KHz which sounds better to my ears. I could see there being too much hi-hat now, which can be fatiguing (and may be why Ozone recommended the 2.4 KHz.)
The next thing Ozone recommends is Dynamic EQ. (It didn’t think any Dynamics were needed, so it left that one disabled.) I’ll leave the EQ enabled, and now enable Dynamic EQ so that you can hear just those effects without the Maximizer on.
A quick note on Dynamic EQ. iZotope Ozone is one of the few plugins I’ve come across that offers this. It’s a mix between a compressor and EQ. You pick the frequencies to dip (or raise) just like an EQ, but then you also set a threshold. It won’t dip those frequencies until the threshold is met. This is nice when say the hi-hats are a bit much. If you duck that frequency range with a plain old EQ, you have to duck the entire mix, which could leave it sounding hollow. This allows it to only duck when the hi-hats are hitting, allowing everything underneath to stay.
What Ozone recommended sounds a bit subtle. It takes a tad bit of mud out when the bass hits. The other two ranges seem to take away from some of the stick hits on the snare and hi-hats.
The last thing Ozone recommends is the Maximizer. You might want to turn your speakers/headphones down as this clip is quite louder than the others.
The Ceiling is typically set between negative 0.5 and 1.0db for an mp3 or streaming service. (That just means it won’t go all the way to zero and clip. It leaves a tad bit of headroom at the top. Spotify is now accepting -6 LUFS however, and Ozone can Learn the proper level.)
My stereo mix was in the -15db to -6db range and peaking at -3.5db. Because it was peaking infrequently, it’s able to squash those peaks without affecting the overall sound very much, while raising the overall volume of the track so that meets modern volume standards. The threshold is set all the way down to -9.9db. Now it’s peaking at -1.0db (no coincidence there, that’s the setting for the ceiling) and typically in the -6db to -3db range.
There are other modules to iZotope Ozone.
The Exciter is fairly useful. Exciters in general add a nice sparkle in the beginning, tricking you into using too much. Then once your final mix is printed, regret sits in as it become fatiguing to the ears. If you already have a lot of high end (hi-hats) or “air” then you probably want to avoid using it. Ever listen to Trap on small speakers, like your phone, and cringe at the harshness of the hi-hats? On the plus side, this means it’s all that much easier to sound professional (as the bar has been lowered.)
If the top end is really dull, then the Exciter can prove useful. Especially on badly recorded Vocals and Guitar. Just turn it up until it sounds good, then dial back a bit, keeping in mind that even though it sounds good now, it’ll get fatiguing later. It’s also good at adding “fuzz” to a bass. If the bass is too low, and hard to hear on smaller speakers, adding an exciter can “excite” harmonics higher up, allowing the bass to be heard on smaller speakers. We have an article on doing just that for an 808 if you make Hip-Hop or EDM.
The Vintage Tape module emulates the harmonics from a tape machine. This can be subtle, but is an attempt to replace that sterile digital sound by adding “tape warmth”, (although I think tape harmonics sound more harsh than typical tube saturation.) You have 3 tape speed options. and can set the level of harmonics that you want and give it high or low emphasis. The effect is super subtle to my ears, and I tend to use plugins from other vendors for this effect. Still, it’s included and if you don’t have a tape emulator yet, it could be a nice little bonus, and it’s easy enough to apply.
The Vintage EQ is a nice module. It’s their homage to a Pultec style EQ. I think the regular Equalizer is better for a beginner, but if you are familiar with the Pultec style, this might prove useful. Since it’s included, it’s a nice way to get familiar with that style, and decide if you like it or not.
iZotope Ozone Imager
The imager lets you check your stereo field, and adjust it if need be. If it’s too much down the center, you may want to push your wide end out to the left and right. Additionally, you may want to push your low end down into the mono/center. While not as good as panning during the mix, this will help separate the frequencies so that there is less competition, especially on a busy track.
The Spectral Shaper module is a bit unique. The controls are a bit like the compressor. You set the threshold for when the effect should kick in, and it’s applied to only the highlighted range that you select. You can also set the attack and release times. The tone affects how bright or dark the effect is. They claim that it attenuates problematic frequencies. Using it feels a bit like a shot in the dark, sometimes it sounds better, by I’m never really sure what it’s doing.
iZotope Ozone’s Tonal Balance
The Tonal Balance Control is part of Ozone, but a separate plugin not integrated with the rest of the mastering suite. I use this one all the time if I’m trying to doing something “in the style of” so that it matches closely to the sound of the mix. There are some presets they use that are profiles of modern music in general. However, you can import an audio example of the “current hit song” or “classic” that you are trying to match to. (Check out our article on How to Record Spotify using Logic Pro X.)
The simple or “Broad” setting breaks the frequency into 4 bandwidths, and there are ranges showing what the typical range for a song is. My song is the white line, so you can see I’m too high in the bass and too low in the high-mid. I already had a feeling that I had too much bass, so this confirms that. I was worried I had too much hi-hat, but this seems to suggest that I’m fine, and I’m actually missing a bit in the upper mids.
The Broad settings gives a pretty good general idea, but the Fine really lets you hone in on the trouble spots. Looking at this, I should really add some instrumentation in the 2 KHz range, or maybe jack up the EQ on some track, in a good way of course 😉 And it lets me see that my bass is most troublesome in the 50 Hz range, so I probably want that to be the center of my Q when I duck.
And if you were paying attention, you’ll realize that I ran this prior to the Ozone Master Assistant, and those are the two exact ranges that it suggested adjusting in the EQ. It put a low shelf on at 200 Hz, and a boost at 2.4 KHz.
If you decide to get Ozone, please consider Plugin Boutique. Logic Fiends will get a few bucks if you use that link to help keep the site running.
You can now Rent To Own Ozone 8 Advanced or Ozone Standard. (If you click those links, Logic Fiends will get a few bucks to help keep the site running.) The Advanced version has Vintage EQ, Vintage Tape, Vintage Compressor, Spectral Shaper and Tonal Balance Control. If you are just starting out, I’d recommend the Standard version and upgrade later, once you’ve “mastered” the basics (mastering pun not intended.)
Here’s a bit of my personal experience using it over the years.
It was one of the first plugins that I purchased. It comes with a lot of modules that allows you to put off (for awhile) the need to purchase a bunch of other plugins. The nice thing with the interface is that it’s consistent within all their modules.
So do I think it’s the best out there, and there’s none better? NO! Do I think it’s a great swiss army knife, and totally worth getting? YES! Additionally, they update it every year!
When I was starting out, I had plenty of other stuff to learn, and Ozone took away some of the stress of dealing with the 2Bus and getting the volume right. As time went on, I turned to more vintage plugins and hardware for the 2Bus and volume. But I still use Ozone, and consider it part of my tool belt.
If I’m in a hurry, I’ll almost certainly use Ozone. If I don’t have time to get the volume just right, I’ll use the Maximizer, (which I think is the best one out there.) The Imager is really useful for doing mono to stereo tricks (especially on EDM drops.) I use the Tonal Balance when trying to match an existing hit song.
The EQ has some overlap with the Logic Channel EQ, but I do like that it offers the Baxandall curve. I like the EQ matching. I like that it can do Mid/Side. I like that it can do Gain Matching. And I like their Exciter sometimes on Bass.
The Compressors are OK, but I think some of the vintage plugins are more fun. And if I’m feeling particularly professional, I’ll dump the song as either 4 stems or a stereo track, and “master” it in a standalone instance of Ozone. And the cool part about that, you can add in 3rd party plugins to the chain, so I might swap out the iZotope Compressor with a Neve 33609 or Shadow Hills, but keep all the other iZotope modules intact.
I hope this gave you a bit of insight into the iZotope Ozone suite of mastering tools, and I hope it helps you decide if it’s a worthy addition to your arsenal. Don’t forget to check out our other Logic Tutorials. Until next time…