Izotope Ozone 8 Review

Right out the gate here I want to say that when focusing on any one critical element in Ozone 8 (such as the brickwall limiter), it almost always does just as well as some $200-300 counterpart.

Each portion of Ozone 8 is in A-list territory.  The “bulk” nature of this thing makes it easy to expect some quality cutting. I simply did not find that with the Izotope Ozone 8.

A person can find most of these tools individually online, but that person will pay the $200 for each individual plugin and  I’d be quite surprised if any of these individual plugins were objectively better than what you’d find in Ozone 8.

Easy To Miss 80%

The bulk nature of Ozone 8 also makes it easy to miss many of the features going on under the hood.  I’ve put off doing this review simply because there are WAYY too many features for me to cover or even entirely understand….possibly ever.  With months of it under my belt, I finally feel qualified to have an opinion.

I like to dive in with a plugin without paying much attention to the manual first.  This works well with many tools.  When this doesn’t work well I gladly concede defeat and bury my face into a PDF.  With Ozone 8 I recommend not even fighting this one.

This isn’t an issue of “complexity”.  It’s simply that iZotope has made Ozone comprehensive. They’ve jammed a whole bunch of solutions to your problems in there and if you aren’t aware of some of the nooks and crannies, you are only cheating yourself.  Opening that manual does sting the pride a bit… 😉

The Price

At < $450 street for the standard version, picking up Ozone 5 is a no brainer.  The Brickwall Limiter is easily worth that.  The Multi-band Imager is worth $200 and the Multi-band Exciter is worth $200, too.

Ozone 8 For Mastering Or Not?

Mastering is a BS buzzword for most.  The audio processes included in Ozone 8 are just as relevant on individual tracks as they are on the 2bus or on a rendered mix.

The fact that the Advanced version allows for use of individual “modules” is evidence of that.

Individual modules appear to only be available for the Advanced version, unfortunately, which costs quite a bit more.

What I Love in Ozone 8  – The Short Version

Brickwall Limiter

There are a ton of options in the brickwall limiter that don’t really turn my crank, but once I found the settings that worked for me (IRC II in “Clip” mode) I found it to be a prime time brickwall limiter just as good as anything out there.

The only reason I may prefer another limiter would be due to a specific feature.  The Transient Recovery thing is darker version of a similar feature in the Slate FG-X that, in some ways, has more of a “New York Parallel Compression” sound to it just a bit while the Slate FG-X allows adjustment of the top of the bottom.

Imager

I absolutely love the Imager.  I find myself using it all the time.  The fact that it’s full-multiband is a huge help as I almost never want anything under 200Hz widened, but the top end is something I need pulled from the center quite often.

The “Stereoize” button for mono tracks was a HUGE help when I was stuck with a fun mono synth tracks.  Even extreme settings in the Imager appear to be mono compatible.

Compressor

The built-in compressor starts out as a 4-band multiband compressor (with separate compression and limiter for each band….pretty cool).  As a multi-band compressor, it’s great.

What I found is the compressor, when set to a single band, is freakin’ GREAT on drums.  I LOVE it on drum bus. If they’d sell this compressor for $100, people would be raving about it on drum bus.  It adds that thuuuuuWHACK that I have trouble getting with my UAD stuff.

For the hyper-surgery limiting, it would have been nice if I could have used narrower bands.  I’m not complaining, necessarily, but random peaks at X frequency of the high Q (narrow) variety are something I wish I could contain more with the multi-band.

I was kinda surprised that this compressor is quite similar to the UAD Precision Multi-band (which I use all the time) in that it’s a hair old school in being a “conventional” multi-band compressor.

I was hoping iZotope would be a hair more on the cutting edge side of the fence with this one.  This doesn’t make the multi-band compressor bad, it just means it’s fairly typical.

Spectrograph

I’m using my eyes a lot more as that’s how my brain likes it.  When  (free VST) doesn’t give me any clues, I’ve found that the Spectrograph has been a HUGE help.  I believe it’s only available in the MUCH more expensive version of Ozone.   It was me, I’d run out and find a spectrograph NOW.   Highly useful!

I was particularly impressed with the Meter Taps feature.  I tossed on a Meter Taps plugin instance on anything that I thought I’d need to see in the Spectrograph.

Even with Ozone 8 on the 2bus I was able to click on “bass”, for example, and see what just my bass track was doing.  I could also do things like look at both bass and kick together with individual colors for both.  This kind of visual was VERY useful for pinning down problems my ears were hearing an issue but didn’t necessarily know how to solve.

I should have bought a spectrograph years ago.

Alt-Click Alternative to Sweeping

The ability to solo a frequency band is an interesting alternative to the Sweep Technique I’m so huge on.  This represents the kind of forward-thinking I respect so much in iZotope.  I wish more companies were interested in new features like this as opposed to making 1176 clone #52335.

M/S Processing

I really liked Ozone 8.  Then I took a few hours and read the manual while taking notes.  When I realized that most features had a standard mode AND THEN a mid-side mode I fell in love with it.

I don’t get too wound up about “space ship” type crazy features most of the time, but what I do love is when a company has put a lot of work into making it a lot easier for me.

What Was Handy in Izotope Ozone 8?

Reverb

The built-in Reverb doesn’t have the wow factor of my UAD EMT 140 or EMT 250.  However, it does have a thing it does very well.  I’ve never gotten into the 2bus reverb thing in the past, but I found I liked it.

Multi-band Exciter

The multi-band Exciter is another VERY fun tool in Ozone 5.  It’s easy to use too much.  I like that, but then I hate it.  I found myself using too much and then backing way off and not using enough.  It’s a tricky tool that I’d need to get used to.  Each mode sounds completely different which I highly appreciate.

There are a handful of modes that obviously do different things.  Each mode has enough character that they can solve different problems and are even bold enough to cause a few.  I dig that very much. 🙂

EQ Matching

You may remember products like Har-bal and such that promise to let you match pro mixes via EQ.  I found these to cause more problems than they helped.  If you’ve got a Zach Galafanakis mix, it’s sometimes better to leave it as Zach Galafanakis.  Forcing that mix into a Van Wilder-guy mix isn’t always the best route.

I found the EQ matching thing helpful.  It’s an interesting clue for what your mix may need.  In the manual, they tell you right off the bat that this thing, by definition, can’t be perfect in many cases.  As expected, Mr. Matcher, reminded me of my tendency to mix with a bit too much 5k.

I’m glad the feature is there, but it’s not something I’m going to use every month.   I find it a better research tool than anything….which is just as important as prime time work.

MID Side Meter

This is something I’ve wanted for a while and now I’m glad I have.  I need to put it through its paces.  The theory is there is a ratio of mid-level to side-level that is ideal.  Too much of either and you’ve got a problem.

I’ll have to get back to you on this one. Now I have it.

EQ Clean / Vintage Modes

The EQ has two different modes that definitely do sound different.  One is intended to be 100% clean and this EQ I found to be comparable to just about every other clean style EQ.  (By definition if done right it shouldn’t stand out.)  The Vintage EQ has a thing.  I seldom get wound up about EQ one way or another, but the Vintage Mode definitely has a sound worth looking into.

Down Sides

CPU Usage

Ozone 8 makes no bones about it.  They are chewing through some serious 2 plus 2 with each and every module.  For guys who aren’t on Quad-core processors yet, this could be an issue if wanted to use Ozone as you mix (which is the only way I roll anymore.

On my AMD 1090T 6-core, I usually had no trouble with CPU power unless I had a VERY crazy mix.  I’d expect Intel users with a Quad core will be in a similar boat.

You can turn on only the modules you need and that does seem to help when using multiple instances of Ozone 5, however, it’s clear that they didn’t intend for users to slap it on 19 channels when they designed it.  I’d check out iZoptope Alloy for that (which I consider a home run product….see my review here. )

High Latency

The other pain in the neck with Ozone 5 is its plugins are relatively high in latency.  This is a problem anytime I switch from direct monitoring to monitoring within Cubase like when using soft synths or guitar emulators.

I like to have a brickwall limiter on even when tracking but too often I had to remove the Ozone 5 brickwall limiter during this phase.  A huge issue?  Not really.  An annoyance that distracted me from my work a few times?  Yes.

Bottom Line

Every single feature in Ozone 8 has been incredibly thought out by forward-thinking dudes.  Most of us are conditioned to like the look of Pultec or 1176s when choosing audio gear, but in blind tests Ozone 8 holds up VERY well.  I imagine a cool, black actor with a gun and a badass hair cut and jacket saying, “I’ll take the f’ing Pepsi challenge, mo fo.”

If they offered a vintage “skin” (much like the Zebra 2 synth does) that looked like something from an Apollo Program control room, I’ve got a feeling these products would gain tremendous popularity in the “serious audio” community where eyes could very well be more important than ears.

It’s hard NOT to somehow think the tool you are using isn’t quite as good because the GUI looks incapable of “magic”.  It doesn’t take much experimentation to conclude that there ISN’T any magic in most plugins and even hardware boxes.

For those who aren’t afraid of black cats or walking under ladders, Ozone 8 is a winner that will help you become a better engineer.  It has more tools than you will conquer this month.  For me, that’s a huge strength.  Some will see it as a downfall, unfortunately.  This thing is NOT Waves “One Knob”, fortunately.

By definition, most of the Ozone 8’s intended tasks are not intended to be absurd.  There are no Decapitator-like sounds in Ozone 8.

That’s not really what it’s doing.  I don’t expect to do my first backflip for a clean EQ any time soon.  In most cases what you are paying for is highly thought out features that allow you access to the heart of problems quickly and easily.  THAT is what Ozone 8 does extremely well.

Is An Upgrade Required?

As a first major plugin upgrade, Ozone 8 gives youa plethora of features (some of them highly advanced) that are a very big deal.  For a guy who already has a slew of UAD or Waves plugins….this gets a hair tricky.

I don’t have any tools in my UAD plugins collection that offer anywhere near the Mid-side processing in Ozone 8 and I’ve got $3k wrapped up in my UAD toys.

The Imager and Exciter do things that none of my UAD plugins do, particularly when you factor in Multi-band capability.  UAD is looking backward with their tools and I consider the iZotope line to be more on the forward-thinking side of the fence.

It comes down to whether a person needs a multi-band exciter, multi-band imager, and things of that sort.  For me, that answer is yes.  I probably use them more on individual tracks than on the entire mix, but I can’t think of a better and less expensive way of getting those than with Ozone 8 at the moment.

The fact that the brickwall limiter and multi-band compressor are right on par with the other prime time plugins at the price of most competing brickwall limiters makes the iZotope Ozone 8 about as good of value as you are going to find…particularly for anyone who doesn’t already have 5 other expensive brickwall limiters.

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