One of the most important VST-plugins, which I use when mastering my tracks, is definitely Izotope Ozone 4. It consists of many useful blocks for sound processing. But for a beginner it is not so easy to set up all it's parameters correctly. That's why I decided to describe in detail this wonderful and very useful VST-plugin.
As I said before, Izotope Ozone 4 is an important part of my mastering algorhythm, which has been described in general in my previous article Mastering in Ableton. Introduction. But here in this article I will go more deep down to describe some interesting details of the plugin.
I began to use Izotope Ozone long time ago, at the moment when the very early 1st version was released. And I still actively use this plugin to master my tracks. Ozone itself intended to be the all-in-one plugin for mastering, I mean that you could use only this one Ozone plugin to solve all your needs in mastering. This is what it was intended for. But after long experience with different settings and sound results I came to a conlusion, that I need more plugins for mastering to get satisfactory result, not just only one Ozone. For example, I don't really like the work of Ozone Limiter block. As a result, I began to use Izotope Ozone only at a some certain stage of mastering, after which I put two more plugins into mastering chain - PSP MixSaturator2 and Waves L2. These plugins "polish" the final sound to the level that I wanted, and I will describe these two plugins later.
So, as I told before, Izotope Ozone has six sections for sound processing, they are Paragraphic Equalizer, Multiband Dynamics, Multiband Harmonic Exciter, Multiband Stereo Imaging, Loudness Maximiser and Mastering Reverb. On the next figure it is clearly seen, that switching between these sections is made in the lower part of the plugin's window.
Fig. 1 - Izotope Ozone 4. General view
The signal flow inside Ozone from the beginning to the end goes by this path: Equalizer - Mastering Reverb - Multiband Dynamics - Multiband Harmonic Exciter - Multiband Stereo Imaging - Loudness Maximiser. This path is chosen by default when you open the plugin at the first time, but if you will want to change the order of the signal flow between these blocks, you can easily do it by clicking on a Graph button. A new window will appear and you will see current signal flow order, as I described it before, and you can change it simply by dragging the blocks with the mouse. But at this moment we will not going to change it, because we will use the standard signal flow used by default.
Next to the each section select button there is a green indicator "Active", which shows you, if the corresponding block is on or off. When you open Ozone for the first time, all its six blocks will be off. This is the right start for setting up the plugin.
Next, here we can speak a lot of time, describing the each button, knob, function etc., but it will take a lot of time and I will have to put here a lot of "water" in the article. But I will not going to waste time just by repeating the text, written in the Ozone's manual. I will tell you only about those functions, that are directly used in the mastering process, and which I do constantly use, and nothing else. So, let's proceed from the first block.
First block which I usually set up is a Paragraphic Equalizer. I activate it by clicking Active button, and using the eight available bands I "color" the sound of the track. It is done by ear, in a process of many times sound comparison of my track with some reference quality firm record, which I use as an example and trying to achieve that sound. The sense of mastering-equalization is that you cannot hardly rise up or cut down frequencies, because you can ealisy make you track sound worse by doing that. Mastering equalization is usually done within the limits of not more than -3...+3 dB for each band.
Fig. 2 - Equalizer section
Control. You can change parameters of each of eight EQ bands either by using a mouse (moving the rounds by mouse to left/right changes the frequency parameter, moving up/down changes the gain parameter, rotating a mouse wheel changes the parameter Q of choosen band), or by typing these parameters in a numeric form below the red eq graph. You can also use a pc keyboard for control. To do so, you must first select the desired band by clicking one of the eight rounds on a eq graph with the mouse, and then by pressing left/right cursor keys you change the frequency parameter, keys up/down change the gain of the band.
On a fig. 2 it is shown a screenshot of my typical settings of equalizer. Let's describe settings on this figure in general. I'm doing here the following:
- Making a high frequencies cutoff (in my example it is done by 8th band). It helps to avoid unnecessary high frequency noise in a super high frequency range, and also slighly "warms" up the track, making it sound more like an analog record. One detail: to do so for 8th band you must change filter's type to Lowpass by clicking mouse on a green rectangular button next to the band's number.
- Very often it is happens that a low middle frequency range in about 140-200 Hz must be lowered down a little bit (3rd band on Fig.2). It decreases turbidity and mutter effect of the bass range in the track and adds more clearance to the rest of the spectrum. In general, this frequency range is very dangerous, in that sense that you can easily ignore its wrong sound. A result in this case will be unpleasant turbid and buzzing sound, that will produce overdrive and distortion effect on most audio systems.
- I very often rise high frequencies range in about 8000 - 11000 Hz by +1.5 .. +2 dB up, to achieve enough "lightness" and clearance in the mix (7th band in my example at Fig.2)
But this is not all that I'm usually doing with the EQ settings. The rest of the bands I tune in different ways, depending on the track's sound. Often happens that in the beginning of the mastering process I practically do nothing with EQ and leave it almost flat, if I don't hear some significant mistakes in my track's sounding. And only after tuning up all the rest block's settings (it will lead to some changes in final sound), I can go back to EQ and try to correct some things with it depending on what I want to achieve in my final mix.
If you want to know more in detail about the theory of equalization, then I must write here a separate article to describe how changing a certain frequencies will result on the final sound. I'll try to do it as far as I can when I'll have some free time for it.