In case you’re unfamiliar, Ozone 9 and Neutron 3 are proprietary mixing and mastering software suites from iZotope. Together they are intended to form a comprehensive production solution for completing projects, from start to finish. Both programs prominently feature iZotope’s renowned artificially intelligent “assistant” technology, which automatically suggests module settings for users based on reference tracks and AI analysis.
Each of iZotope’s suites are available at different price tiers, with the “Elements” and “Standard” versions offering limited features by comparison to the full “Advanced” tier.
Fortunately, the Advanced versions of both Neutron 3 and Ozone 9 are available in Splice’s bundle, so we’ll be breaking down the software with access to the full range of capabilities.
How We Reviewed the Ozone 9 + Neutron 3 Advanced Bundle
We applied instances of Neutron 3 to a multi-track mixing session inside of Reaper, alternating between applying plug-ins to each track and the master bus. This workflow allows full access to any of your other plug-ins, so you’ll be able to tweak things to your preference if you already have some favorite plug-ins. Ozone 9, on the other hand, we used in “mothership mode,” as a standalone application.
The ability to separate your “mixing engineer” and “mastering engineer” minds is crucial to paying attention to the right elements of the process, and working with Ozone 9 on its own allows you to focus on what’s happening in front of you without cluttering your workflow. We were particularly interested in the mixing and mastering assistant features, so we relied heavily on their suggestions to see what they were capable of, feeding Ozone 9 multiple reference tracks for the same session and exporting the results for comparison.
Since we’ve already reviewed each of the programs separately, we’ve tried to focus the scope of this review to highlight some of the best features as well as some less well-understood capabilities like inverse linking and masking analysis.
Best for: Any producer in need of a comprehensive mixing and mastering solution.
Seriously—both Neutron 3 and Ozone 9 offer powerful sculpting tools that can be used by newcomers and veterans alike. Less experienced engineers will likely find more utility in the artificially intelligent assistant features, but the ability to use individual modules as separate plug-ins (a feature available only in the Advanced tier) can keep sessions quick and efficient for more experienced users.
Paired together, the two suites will see you through from the beginning of the mixing process to the end of the mastering process, yielding stream or CD ready master files that can be sent directly to their final destination.
Neutron 3 – Mix Assistant
Neutron 3 Advanced’s Mix Assistant feature is subdivided into a Track Enhancer and Balance Assistant.
The Track Enhancer is applied to individual tracks and uses it’s AI to analyze your track and automatically apply presets based on the track type. You can, of course, apply presets yourself, but novice producers who don’t know where to start will find this feature especially useful.
Similarly, the Balance option employs the AI to auto-mix your tracks relative to one another, giving you a great starting point from which to tweak your mix. This effectively acts as a crash course in mixing for newcomers, but veteran engineers will find it useful for getting a quick rough mix and tweaking from there, especially if you’re working on a project with a lot of moving parts. Importantly, this feature is only available in the Advanced software.
- Automatically suggests and applies presets via Track Enhancer
- Automatically adjusts levels via Balance Assistant
- Only available in Neutron 3 Advanced
Neutron 3 – Inverse Linking and Masking
Much has been made of Neutron 3 Advanced’s powerful equalizer options, but the ability to link two instances of EQ together in an inverse relationship is an incredible tool that often goes overlooked.
It’s as simple as loading an instance on two tracks, like a bass and kick drum, and clicking the “inverse link” button at the bottom of the window. This enables you to make cuts or boosts to one EQ curve while Neutron 3 automatically adjusts the other curve in the opposite direction.
Neutron 3 also lets you see which frequencies are crossing over between your instruments (also called “masking”), making it easy to tell where to cut or boost. Subtle changes can yield incredible results and allow you to carve space for two parts that might otherwise compete for sonic space. While it’s technically possible to do this the hard way by toggling back and forth between two EQ curves, Neutron 3 makes it intuitive and quick. It may not be as flashy as the Mix Assistant, but it’s one of the most powerful tools in the whole suite for experienced producers.
- Provides visual masking representation
- Controls two track EQ curves simultaneously
- Self-contained workflow
Neutron 3 – Sculpting Within A Limited Band
The Sculptor tool can be a powerful dynamics processor and features presets that make it easy to use for beginners, effectively combining multiple types of plug-in into one instance.
The Track Enhance feature relies on it heavily, and at first glance it can be easily mistaken for a set-it-and-forget-it solution. The key to unlocking its potential lies in the action region. Neutron 3 allows you to narrow the action range across which the dynamics processing is applied to your track, enabling you to target only those timbral characteristics you really want and dramatically increasing its usefulness in complex sessions. In the Advanced version of the software, the Sculptor is available as a separate plug-in, which makes using it a snap.
- Allows precise timbral shaping
- Can be applied over entire frequency spectrum or selectable range
- Available as independent plug-in with Neutron 3 Advanced
Ozone 9 – Mastering Assistant
The Mastering Assistant is to Ozone 9 what the Mixing Assistant is to Neutron 3—except instead of using the AI to analyze your individual tracks or mix, you use it to analyze your completed mix during the mastering process.
The mastering process can be a daunting task for many musicians, especially those who are self-taught recording engineers; many may feel perfectly confident writing, recording, and even mixing their tracks, but don’t know where to begin with mastering.
The Mastering Assistant “listens” to your track and automatically suggests which of its modules to apply to achieve a quality finished product. Honestly, the results are astounding. While it may never replace veteran mastering engineers’ ears, it can provide them with a great place to start, and it will definitely provide extreme utility for novices. We’re particularly fond of the Vintage Limiter, which is intuitive and musical.
- Automatically suggests modules and presets for entire track
- Modern and Vintage modes
- Optimizes for destination (streaming/CD)
Ozone 9 – Track Referencing
One of the most beloved features of Ozone 9 Advanced is the ability to import a reference track into your session and use it as the basis for your EQ.
Part of the Mastering Assistant feature, this will let you copy the EQ from a similar piece of commercially produced music and apply it to part of all of your track, making it a little easier to get a finished sound that’s comparable to your inspiration. You’ll need to use an acceptable format for your reference track, like a .WAV file, as .mp3’s aren’t recognized by Ozone 9.
- Copy part or all of a reference track’s EQ
- Applies reference EQ to your track
- Supports internal playback of reference track
Ozone 9 – Master Rebalancing
Ideally, balance issues between things like vocals, drums, and bass instruments should be addressed during the mixing phase of production, while you still have access to the individual tracks.
You won’t always have the luxury of working with track stems for every mastering project though, and the Master Rebalance feature within Ozone 9 can be a lifesaver in those instances.
Applying the rebalancer allows you to independently adjust levels that correspond to the frequencies associated with individual elements of a track, like just the vocals or just the drums—especially difficult when those elements are buried in a mix. Even for a skilled pair of ears, isolating those elements through conventional EQ alone can be a tiresome and lengthy process, so this is an incredibly welcome feature.
- Allows manipulation of frequency bands corresponding to song elements
- Automatically identifies elements like vocals, drums, or bass
- Enables rebalancing without original tracks or stems
Both Neutron 3 Advanced and Ozone 9 Advanced can be operated as plug-ins inside of any Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) that accepts third party plug-ins.
Fortunately, that’s almost all of them. We used Reaper to ensure that our review is relevant to even the most budget conscious users, but the bundle is compatible with FL Studio, Ableton, Logic, Pro Tools, and more.
Ozone 9 Advanced is usable both as a plug-in and a standalone application and doesn’t require a DAW.
The bundle is available in AU, AAX, VST2, VST3 formats, all in 64-bit. Both Neutron 3 and Ozone 9 are compatible with Window 7, 8 & 10, and with Mac OS X 10.11 -10.14. Neither are compatible with Mac OS X 10.15 Catalina, so just be sure you check your specs before you download them.
When it comes to cost versus value, this bundle is difficult to match. There’s not really anything on the market that compares to iZotope’s AI, so it’s difficult to make a fair comparison to other software, but even taken as a set of individual plug-ins these suites are an excellent value.
The cost of outsourcing either mixing or mastering for a single song, much less an entire project, can easily exceed the price of Neutron 3 and Ozone 9 by hundreds (or potentially thousands) of dollars. Splice’s rent-to-own program allows you to bundle the two for less than the cost of purchasing the two separately, so it’s an easy win.
Bonus & Extras
Modules As Independent Plug-ins
We’ve alluded to it a few times already, but the importance of this cannot be overstated: the advanced versions of these suites allows you to save a huge amount of precious CPU by using only the modules you need for a session as independent plug-ins.
3rd Party Plug-Ins in Ozone 9
One of the most exciting (and overlooked) features of Ozone 9 is the ability to use some third party VSTs in the suite. We’re particularly fond of VST console emulators for adding analog-ish warmth, and the ability to drop them right into a mastering session with Ozone 9 makes workflow faster and easier.
Advanced Software = Advanced Results
After comparing the finished songs we used for the review to their professionally mixed and mastered counterparts, It’s difficult to imagine not using iZotope’s suites.
They simplify the process for an intuitive workflow and offer professional results at a fraction of the cost of outsourcing. If you’re looking for a comprehensive solution, you’ve found it.
If, however, you’re just looking for more plug-ins, we’ve got you covered. Enjoy our plug-in breakdowns and keep creating!