Ozone still offers traditional mastering tools — but its AI‑fuelled options open the door to so much more!
iZotope’s Ozone, which first appeared way back in 2001, played a huge role in the ‘democratisation’ of audio mastering — at a time when DAWs’ in‑built plug‑ins were somewhat rudimentary, it was a powerful suite of software tools that anyone with a suitable computer and half decent monitoring could use. Of course, Ozone has evolved considerably since those early days but the latest version, Ozone 11, is the first major update since iZotope became part of the Native Instruments family. As with other recent versions, it’s available in three forms to suit different needs and budgets: Advanced, Standard and Elements. All are available for macOS and Windows, and they can work standalone or as a suite of AAX, VST or AU plug‑ins.
There are lots of options that could easily be described as ‘reverse mixing’ — or perhaps ‘magic’.
For a long time, Ozone required the user to have some understanding of the principles of mastering and how to apply them in practice. You can still apply such skills and understanding of course, but in recent years iZotope have been busy integrating ‘AI assistance’ tools that make it easier for less experienced users to benefit from Ozone’s deeper functions. This is particularly obvious in the Elements version: in this one, the processing is essentially ‘AI led’, and the user is offered a compact set of macro controls to customise the software’s recommendations. But my primary focus for this review will be the full‑fat version: Ozone 11 Advanced. While this also makes greater use of AI than its predecessor, the user is trusted with more control and it boasts an intriguing array of new features and modules. Ozone is still designed primarily with mastering in mind, but it’s definitely useful for more than that: in fact, there are lots of options that could easily be described as ‘reverse mixing’ — or perhaps ‘magic’, depending on your level of incredulity when Ozone does its thing!
A new module in Ozone 11 Advanced, Clarity expands on functionality in the existing Stabilizer and Spectral Shaper modules, and it’s a similar concept to plug‑ins such as Oeksound’s Soothe or Baby Audio’s Smooth Operator. It dynamically adjusts the tonal properties of your audio in real time to produce a more appealing tonal balance or, in iZotope’s words, to “pull the blanket off” dull mixes but without sounding harsh. This is achieved by undesirable resonances being tamed and adapting the average response towards that of pink noise.
Clarity operates only on the signal above 300Hz, but you can narrow the focus using handles in the real‑time frequency display. You can set the overall amount of tonal adjustment, as well as attack and release times for the processing, while a Tilt control lets you adjust the tonal balance of any adjustments for a darker (closer to a brown noise target) or brighter sound (nearer white noise). The different responses can be easily visualised on the display. With a mix that’s already well balanced, Clarity might apply just a touch of icing on an already tasty cake, but...