I've been using Ozone(v4.03) for about a year now and am very satisfied with it. I cannot compare it with other similar products as this is the first and only mastering tool I use, but I feel that this has everything a home-recording musician with little experience in mastering needs.
The high-quality processors, well-thought-out GUI, detailed option settings, helpful factory presets and very informative documentation all helped me produce great results. The Mid/Side feature newly added from v4 sounded complicated at first but it worked really great to adjust the balance between center instruments(lead vocal, bass, kick, snare, etc.) and side ones(guitars, hihats, etc.). Even if you fail in the final mix, Ozone4 can fix it this way at the mastering stage. It's wonderful.
Ozone4 is one of few products I've been 100 percent satisfied with and I'm surely going to use it for many years to come.
I bought Ozone because I wanted to experiment with home "mastering" and was able to buy it with an academic discount. I figured I would mess around with it, inform myself about what my mixes actually needed, and eventually have my album mastered by an engineer.
Um...no. This product is superb. I'm really surprised--it has a reputation for being something that crappy musicians can ruin their songs with. And honestly, it's not that at all. The EQ and multi-band compressor sound good, the saturator/exciter sounds very good, and the limiter is just fantastic. In "intelligent" mode, set to transparent, you can barely tell it's working unless you A/B...and if you A/B it will blow your head off. WONDERFUL plug, and I would gladly have paid the whole price for it alone. All in all these plugs sound VERY professional...smooth, characterful, and highly useful.
Of course you can absolutely destroy your mixes with this thing...most of the useful areas are way down near the bottom of the dial...a little bit goes a very long way. The delay function of the stereo widener, for instance, makes everything sound really weird and not quite real. But it is very easy not to abuse it, and easy to get amazing results, if you make judicious and informed choices.
Presets...hmm...pretty musch worthless for a product like this. Are there even any? There shouldn't be.
I love the GUI...the metering is great, the colors are subdued and easy to look at. (I wouldn't call them "pretty" though.) My one complaint is that I couldn't authorize the damn thing (this is the VST version) for a week...the serial number on the manual DID NOT match my copy of the software, Izotope took a full week to get back to me, and I ended up having to hook up my precious music computer to the internet THREE TIMES. Then two weeks later it forgot it was authorized and made me do two more times. VERY frustrating.
Worth the wait, though. Highly recommended. And one more thing...download the manual/mastering guide...it's a good read, explains mastering in great detail, and is useful even if you don't buy the software.
User Interface - Perhaps my only gripe with the program resides here. It is functional, but I'd really like to see some skins for it, since I'm not much for flourescent green over black. That's a small gripe though.
Sound - I did some A/B'ing of this and some mixes I had on my PC and the sound is phenomenal. There's a really warm sound and this program doesn't give the artifacts that some free or more expensive offering do. The reverb is nice and has a clean tail and the EQ, limiter, exciter, and stereo expander all sound great. I'm really impressed with the exciter since used in moderation will really liven up a mix well.
Features - What more could you want? Really. For the money you can't possibly go wrong. Its got to be the best price/value for a mastering suite out there. You've got everything you could possibly need to perform the job and it does its job exceptionally well.
Documentation - Sufficient for your needs with what's included in the download. There's also a nice mastering guide on the site.
Presets - There are a variety of presets to get the newbie like me started and you can tweak your mix from there. There's extra presets on their site. What impressed me is the range of presets. I think there's something there for almost every style of music.
Support - Unknown really, haven't needed any yet. Turnaround for purchase/authorization was speedy though, so thumbs up there. I do worry about the challenge/response authorization process, but that's par for the course nowadays. I just hope there's a process should they go belly up.
Value for money - Unmatched unless you're talking freeware IMO.
Stability - 100% so far. Had a problem in a beta VST situation last night, but I think its the host and not Ozone.
As an aside, I really like the layout and what really impresses me more than anything else is that it isn't nearly as CPU hungry as I thought it'd be. I think people judge it unfairly on this front, but you have to remember that you are running essentially 6 plugins when you have them all turned on. Which brings me to what I love about it most... 6 plugs in one tight package. No need to load 6 plugs with varying interfaces. They're all there. Pick Ozone load and go. I'm loving this thing.
EDIT: Izotope has changed their copy protection policy. As such, I am updating this review to match the current state of things.
I have been an Ozone customer since version 2. The product itself is very good. My current version is 3.0.1.
There is a new development with version 3.0.2 of Ozone that did not exist in version 3.0.1 or earlier versions. Izotope has switched to using PACE challenge/response copy protection.
UPDATE: Starting with version 3.0.4 (3.0.3 for DX-only customers) Izotope only uses PACE on the Pro-Tools version of Ozone, not the DX/VST version. Therefore, the issues I describe with PACE only may apply to Pro-Tools users.
What does "using PACE" mean?
PACE is a 3rd party company not related to Izotope that creates some of the strongest and most restrictive copy protection ever conceived.
PACE installs a driver onto the user's system to assist with its process of copy protection. Traditionally, users only need drivers for videocards and soundcards. Drivers are the riskiest component of a computer as they have the ability to do anything they want and also are able to crash a computer easily if the driver is improperly written.
Older versions of PACE have caused incompatibility problems with many users, which in turn caused PC instability and prevented users from using the products they have paid for.
It should be noted that in no way is PACE a technical requirement in order for a product such as Ozone to function properly.
EDIT: I have learned from Izotope that the PACE copy protection is only included with their Pro-Tools version of Ozone, but not with the DX or VST version of Ozone. Therefore, if you are using the DX or VST version of Ozone, you will not run into any of the PACE issues I have described above. I am raising the review scores to match this change.
Ozone is great. It's meant to be used as a mastering tool but I use it on everything. It basically makes everything sound better. Especially vocals. Also, its limiter is amazing. The only problem is that it's a bit of a CPU hog. That's ok for mastering, but it slows down the computer a bit if you try to use it on lots of tracks.
Edited for clarity.
Ozone, the sweet mastering suite! Even if you're not familiar with using EQs, reverbs, loudness maximizers, stereo enhancers, exciters, and multiband compressors, Izotope has been so kind to also release a mastering guide for you to read right along with their plugin. The guide, even if you don't own Ozone, is top notch, and very much recommended reading. The best thing about Ozone? It's all easily accessable in one place, no flipping from one plugin to another to polish up your production. That in itself is one of Ozone's greatest strength. As for the sound quality? In a word, wow! There are a lot of usable presets that come along with Ozone now that it has matured into version 3 that usually take just a bit of tweaking to get where you want to be. Still, one of the biggest downfall for most people is that it's still only a DXi, but there has been promises made that a VSTi version is on the horizon. So for those of you looking for an 'all in one' solution, look no further than downloading the demo and checking it out for yourself. Your productions will thank you for it.
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