Izotope Ozone 9 Review (Is It Worth The Money?)

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Izotope Ozone 9 Review (Is It Worth The Money?)
VERDICT
Whichever version of iZotope Ozone fits into your budget, it will immediately become an invaluable tool to reach for with any project. Whether you use it to polish up a quick tracking demo or fully master your next project, producers of all stripes will appreciate Ozone’s ability to create stunning masters with ease.
Value
8
Sound Quality
9
Ease Of Use
9
PROS
Feature-packed with all modules you'll need to make great masters.
Integrated machine learning.
Excellent workflow and intuitive interface.
CONS
It's a bit of a CPU hog.
Not cheap (but totally worth it).
8.7
OUR SCORE
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In my last audio plug-in review, I looked at iZotope’s newest product, Neoverb. Today I’m here to give you the low down on another one of iZotope’s products, their mastering suite, Ozone 9.

In many ways, Ozone is iZotope’s flagship product, and it’s been around for a long time. In this review, I’ll tell you about some of the best features I’ve come across in the software, and if it really is possible for you to replace your go-to mastering engineer with iZotope’s AI (spoiler: it’s probably not, but it is a handy feature).

iZotope Ozone 9: Verdict

While you certainly cannot underestimate the skill of professional mastering engineers, iZotope Ozone 9 successfully puts a little bit of that magic into the hands of musicians and producers everywhere. It’s an incredibly intuitive piece of software that can help make your project sound more polished and professional with a few simple clicks.

Ozone is also an incredible tool for those who are already experienced with mastering. It allows you to craft fine-tuned and unique projects to help you stand out from the rest of the pack.

With integrated machine learning in the Master Assistant and a plethora of different modules and presets to choose from, Ozone 9 is a fine tool to have at your disposal.

While some of its greatest features like Master Rebalance and Tonal Balance Control are only available in the Advanced version of the product, it does not diminish the overall potential and usefulness of the other versions (Elements and Standard).

iZotope Ozone 9’s modern EQ module open, as well as a general overview of the layout of the plug-in.

What Does iZotope Ozone 9 Do?

Like most of iZotope’s products, Ozone 9 isn’t just one simple plug-in, but rather a full suite of different tools designed to help you achieve a bigger goal. For Ozone 9, that goal is mastering audio!

Ozone is an industry-standard plugin used by countless professionals to help take their recorded tracks from the mixing stage to the release stage. Ozone features in-depth metering for your tracks, as well as a detailed waveform analysis and real-time RTA of whatever track you have Ozone inserted on in your recording session (hint, it should probably be your master channel!).

One important thing to note about Ozone 9, as well as many of iZotope’s products, is that it comes in different versions (and prices) that are essentially tiers of the whole software package.

iZotope Ozone 9 Elements comes with the smallest amount of modules and is the cheapest option, designed for those who are just getting their feet wet with audio mastering or don’t intend on using all of the modules featured in the fuller versions like Standard and Advanced.

WE RECOMMEND
iZotope Ozone 9 Standard Edition

Ozone 9 is here, bringing the latest advances in audio technology to the world of mastering. Find the perfect modern or vintage vibe with an expanded Master Assistant, or match to your favourite reference track with the new Match EQ.

Check Price On Plugin Boutique Check Price on Sweetwater

Something to note about Ozone 9 Advanced is that it is the only way to use any of the individual plug-in modules inside Ozone as a stand-alone plug-in.

You can check out a full overview of what comes in each edition of Ozone 9 on PluginBoutique, but there are 3 very useful modules that are only available iZotope Ozone 9 Advanced:

Master Rebalance, which allows you to “balance” a single source (like lead vocals) against the rest of the track, including from already mastered or bounced sources.

There’s also Low End Focus which gives an extra polished “edge” to your bass frequencies.

And finally, Tonal Balance Control, which allows you to optimize your track for translation across multiple sound systems and to give your master a “Target” range of frequencies based on genre or other user-defined preferences.

While these premium tools are definitely useful for creating awesome masters, I’ve gotten by just fine without them for all of my projects thus far (though I also won’t claim to be a mastering engineer).

Master Assistant

Most of iZotope’s products in the past few years have really leaned on AI functionality and machine learning to improve workflow and speed up the process of making music, and Ozone 9 is no different with its intelligent Master Assistant.

Essentially, Mastering Assistant asks you a few questions about your song or audio file you’re mastering with Ozone 9 and builds an intelligent mastering preset for your song.

This allows you to optimize your file for the intended distribution format (digital, CD, streaming), as well as overall dynamic content.

It also allows you to choose a reference track, which is really helpful for getting your song or project to feel “right” against other commercially released songs that are similar to your own.

I almost always start with the Master Assistant when working on a project just to get a decent “ballpark” for my project and it always makes my mix sound better almost instantly.

It also sets the maximizer’s output to the exact right level you need to make sure your mix is loud enough to compete with commercially mastered music as well as be suitable for any streaming platform, taking some of the nitty-gritty level reading out of the process so you can focus on the sounds you are making.

Another great way to use master assistant is to pick a reference track that fits the sound you want your project to sound like, and have Master Assistant build a starting point based on this reference track.

This is a great tool to use when working on an album, because you can use whatever track you master first as the “reference” to the rest of your tracks to ensure cohesion between each of your songs, ensuring the levels are matched across each track.

Ozone 9 Layout

Upon opening up Ozone in your DAW (or after allowing the Master Assistant to create a suggested setting for you), you are shown a clean and simple layout, complete with many helpful visualizations.

At the top of the screen, you’ll see the mastering “chain”. I love that you can conveniently move the order around to see how putting your compressor or Dynamic EQ before or after your other modules affects the overall sound.

You can also easily change and remove any modules you have set up in the chain. Underneath, you’ll see a detailed view of whatever module you have selected in the chain, while on the right side of the window you’ll see your overall output meters and other master output information.

One of the most useful tools built right into Ozone is the “gain match” function. When mastering any project, you typically end up making the overall output louder than your initial mix through compression and the other processes used.

Psychologically, we perceive louder sounds to be better than quiet sounds, which can lead to us overlooking some critical mixing decisions or applying too much compression.

The Gain match function automatically changes the output of Ozone post-processing to the same level as your input, so you can accurately audition the difference Ozone makes.

Vintage vs Modern sounds

While the vast majority of the modules within Ozone are relatively self-explanatory, it is interesting to note the Vintage EQ and Vintage Compressor in comparison to their modern counterparts. In short, the vintage modules are designed to sound and behave like hardware equipment in a “classic” analog mastering chain.

While iZotope does not name any specific names when it comes to what exact pieces of gear the vintage modules are based on, they are certainly familiar.

The Vintage Compressor and Vintage EQ certainly add a nice depth and warmth to your mix, and the tape saturation option gives you that subtle high end softening and harmonic saturation that feels just right.

WE RECOMMEND
iZotope Ozone 9 Standard Edition

Ozone 9 is here, bringing the latest advances in audio technology to the world of mastering. Find the perfect modern or vintage vibe with an expanded Master Assistant, or match to your favourite reference track with the new Match EQ.

Check Price On Plugin Boutique Check Price on Sweetwater

While the vintage modules are certainly modeled after older gear, you still have a full set of modern controls for all of your parameters. This gives you the best of both worlds in terms of flexibility and vintage sound.

This should not diminish the quality or sound of the modern modules in any way. The Modern Compressor, EQ, and Maximizer are all great tools to help craft a sparkly and powerful modern mix that will fit in with most commercially released music made today.

The Maximizer uses a really great IRC look ahead feature that helps prevent pumping and other artifacts and makes it a very transparent tool to simply make things louder.

You can also use loudness targets with multiple metering options to ensure that your final mastered mix will be within the right loudness range for whatever media you intend on uploading the project to. This includes settings for various streaming sites or for physical media like CDs.

Ozone’s Maximizer features a look ahead waveform generator that follows along in real-time so you can see how squashed your mix is getting as you work!

Advanced Modules

There are two specific modules only available in iZotope Ozone 9 advanced, Master Rebalance, and Low End Focus. Master Rebalance is a tool designed to allow you to “fix” imbalances in already bounced mixes.

For example, if you get a mix from someone and the bass is just a little too overpowering for your liking, you can use Master Rebalance to lower just its volume, as if you were simply lowering the bass track in an actual mix session.

You can also use master rebalance to add excitement to sections of your song, like the chorus, by making the vocal more prominent in that section, or by bringing up the low end so you really hear the power of the song.

Low End focus is another new module unique to Ozone 9 Advanced that is designed to, as the name states, focus your low end. Adding compression or EQ across the broader spectrum of your mix can sometimes cause your bass to become muddy, over-compressed, or have too many artifacts.

Low End focus allows you to get rid of some of that muddiness and sharpen your bass frequencies so that your mixes sound punchy and full in the low end. It is also one of the easiest and simplest modules to use, with a very musical result that will enhance your bass sounds easily.

Other Features in Ozone

While the majority of features in Ozone are there to create a versatile and complete set of mastering tools, there are also a few extra features that can be applied to not only your stereo mix, but also other aspects of your production.

One module that is great as both a mastering tool and a production tool is the Imager module. The Imager allows you to see a visual of how wide your mix is across the stereo spectrum. It also gives you the ability to narrow or widen your overall mix.

Another new feature here is the addition of a new mode for “stereo-izing” your track, which gives you two different flavors for widening your sounds.

The Imager is also a great tool to use in production, especially in electronic music, because it can give sampled sounds that are not very wide a bigger stereo spread, which will help make your song feel bigger and more dynamic across the whole sound field.

The Imager also allows you to apply the widening across different frequency spectrums of your mix so that you can keep your bass frequencies in the center, and widen the higher frequencies. All of these can be used to give your mix a larger than life sound.

(For more on stereo imaging, check out How To Make A Mix Sound Wider (9 Practical Stereo Width Tips))

One really awesome feature that is built into most of the modules within Ozone 9 is the ability to change whether your process is done in stereo or in mid/side. This is a really useful way to be able to process different parts of your final mix without messing with the important elements that sit in the center.

Most of the modules easily allow you to only apply the processing to certain bands of your track simply by clicking on the upper bar region of the RTA graph. This is a really handy tool for compression since bass can tend to over-trigger a lot of compressors and cause pumping and other strange artifacts on other frequency ranges in your mix.

Another feature in Ozone 9 Advanced is the CODEC preview, which allows you to audition your file in various lossy formats so you can hear how that data compression is affecting the sound of your mix. This is a seriously unique tool that lets you fine-tune the way your mix translates across formats.

Ozone 9’s Imager module, which also features a multi-band setting so you can apply widening with different amounts to different frequency bands of your mix.

Which Version of Ozone Is Right For You?

Unlike some “lite” versions of software that actually operate differently or do not allow you to have in-depth controls over parameters, the difference here really comes down to the number of modules available in Ozone.

While Ozone 9 Elements comes with the least and Advanced predictably comes with the most, all of the versions are designed to give you a useful set of tools to achieve your sonic goals.

Elements is great if you need to quickly master demos, or you are getting your feet wet with the idea of how mastering works. It’s a great introduction to the way iZotope products work and still gives you Master Assistant, as well as the Maximizer, Equalizer, and Imager for crafting a simple and effective master sound for your tracks.

Ozone Standard, which I personally own and use, works great for those who are already familiar with other iZotope products or have a general idea of what goes into mastering. It has a wide set of different modules to choose from but does not become overwhelming, avoiding endless menu diving to develop the sound you want.

Its comprehensive metering options and flexibility make it perfect for both the working musician and experienced mixer alike. While Advanced might have more modules, it is in no way less effective at helping you craft a mastered track.

Ozone 9 Advanced is the most feature-packed, all-in-one mastering suite on the market. It’s an invaluable tool for professional mixers and mastering engineers. Ozone 9 Advanced can craft high-quality masters quickly and creatively with plenty of fine-tuning potential.

While the features that come in Advanced are certainly tempting for most people, they ultimately are “icing on the cake” type tools that can make your life easier if you think you will use them regularly, but certainly are not essential to crafting a good sounding master.

Is Ozone good for dialogue and post-production?

If I had to find a downside worth mentioning, it’s that Ozone is really only focused on being used for music, and not for dialogue or podcasting.

While you do not necessarily need to always run spoken word projects through a “mastering” chain to make them sound good, it would be nice for a future update of Ozone to have more features and presets geared towards spoken word projects for podcasts or videos.

Having said that, there’s no reason why it can’t be used for this purpose, it’s just better to look elsewhere if this is important to you.

Conclusion

Whichever version of iZotope Ozone fits into your budget, it will immediately become an invaluable tool to reach for with any project.

Whether you use it to polish up a quick tracking demo or fully master your next project, producers of all stripes will appreciate Ozone’s ability to create stunning masters with ease. All versions of Ozone 9 are highly recommended and there are options for all budgets and needs.

(If you want to take your mastering skills to the next level, check out these 6 valuable mastering tips from pro mastering engineers!)