About This Column: Producers' Corner with Dirt Monkey is a series that consists of reviews of plugins and other tools in order to help up-and-coming producers improve their skills and workflow. On occasion, there will be special guest producers so that readers can gain knowledge from different perspectives.
This week, I’ll be going over Ozone 5 by Izotope. Ozone 5 is a mastering plugin consisting of: EQ, reverb, exciter, dynamics module, stereo width, post EQ, and limiter. Although Ozone is marketed as a “mastering” plugin, it can be very useful on groups/busses in projects.
I like using Ozone 5 on my drum group, mid range bass group, melodies, and sweeps/effects. Now, without getting too much into the nitty gritty, here are my thoughts on each aspect of Ozone 5.
The EQ(s): Ozone’s EQ layout is easy to use and very customizable, with anything from soft gradual shelves to brick walls, and everything in between. Having one at the beginning and one at the end of the chain is a great feature, especially for mastering.
The Reverb: I have found Ozone’s reverb to be very nice for mastering, usually at no more than 8% dry/wet, and reverb width turned up to 200%, in plate or hall setting, with the reverb’s EQ high passed around 3k Hz, and low passed around 15k Hz. This can give a tune that big, spacey feel without sounding like the song is coming from out of a tunnel.
The Exciter: Ozone’s exciter really shines (literally) due to its multi-band capability. Sometimes the low end needs some crunch (on the mid range bass group) or sometimes vocals need some exciting on the mid to high end. I’m a huge fan of tape mode on the exciter, especially on my mid range bass group. While I never really go too nuts with this, the coloring provided by tape mode glues all the bass sounds together with a slight analog crunch, bringing stuff to life.
The Dynamics (Multi-Band Compressor): While I try not to use this feature during the mixdown (better to get the dynamics right sooner than later), it has proved to be very useful and easy to use for mastering. Once you learn how it works, it’s super easy to see the amount of ducking/gating going on, and you can adjust things based off of the visual feedback feature.
Stereo Width: This is my favorite aspect of Ozone 5. The nice thing about the stereo width feature is that you can adjust the different frequency bands to different widths. Low frequencies can be more mono, and higher frequencies can be spread out. This is nice for keeping my sweeps spread to give everything a big feel. It is especially nice when you're dealing with the drum group. Kicks can stay more mono and the high end can be spread out, all by using one instance of the plugin.
Limiter: My favorite part of Ozone’s limiter is its visual feedback. When my ears get tired, it’s nice to see where I need to start backing off, especially in the loudness war we live in today. While I still think Voxengo’s “Elephant” is a better sounding limiter with a greater array of options, Ozone’s does the job quite well.
One more thing that I absolutely love about Ozone 5 is the mid-side capability of the EQs, reverb, dynamics, and exciter. The learning curve can be a bit intimidating when trying to implement this feature for the first time, but it will make your sounds pop in ways you never thought possible.
Fordeetv, an audio engineer, has uploaded some extremely helpful Ozone 5 tutorials to YouTube. To find out more about this plugin, check out the first part of his tutorials below.