Tips & Tutorials | March 25, 2015
This blog post has been edited from its original format; some references have been changed to reflect Ozone 7.
Congratulations! Your track is finally finished, and your mix sounds great. Now, before you send your track out, give it a quick mastering "shine" and "polish" in our creative mastering platform Ozone using these simple steps.
While Ozone can be enabled as a plug-in on a master bus of a DAW, the following steps demonstrate creating a master in Ozone using standalone mode.
When you launch Ozone, the presets window automatically appears. You can close out of this for now and uncheck the box labeled "Show at Startup" if you don't want that to happen in the future.
You'll notice that the Ozone modules Equalizer, Dynamics, and Maximizer have automatically been loaded into the interface as the default signal chain. You may customize the signal chain by adding or subtracting other module types or by dragging horizontally to change the order of the modules.
Load the track you want to master by dragging and dropping it onto the Ozone interface.
Load a reference track that you want your master to sound like. Your reference track should be a mastered track with a similar feel to your track.
Listen to your reference, then click back to your track, and see if you can identify differences between them. Is one louder than the other? Is one brighter than the other? Is one wider than the other? Listen to similar sections in the two tracks. Does the lead vocal in each track seem similar during the choruses? What about the verses?
Play back your track and click through different presets while listening. See if you can find a preset that approximates the sound you want. This can be a starting point for you to begin your mastering process.
Set the ceiling of your Maximizer. While listening to your reference track, notice the peak and RMS levels. (RMS stands for "Root, Means, Square" and indicates average loudness over time.) If you see that your reference track has a peak level of -.5 dB, simply click back to Ozone's Maximizer module on your track and set the ceiling control to -.5 dB. This will limit the peak output of your track to never go above -.5 dB.
Set the threshold of your Maximizer. The threshold sets the level at which limiting begins. As you move the threshold slider down, you are limiting more of the mix. You will notice that the sound appears to get louder as the threshold is moved down, because make-up gain is being applied automatically after the limiting. Watch the RMS level of your track as you reduce the threshold—is it getting closer to the RMS level of your reference track?
Choose the type of Maximizer you prefer. The Ozone Maximizer has four modes: IRC I, II & III and Tube. These are like four distinct hardware limiters, and they each have their own unique character. Click between them to choose one that sounds best for your material. Continue to check your track against your reference track.
Engage Automatic Effective Gain Matching. Click on the ear icon next to the Bypass button on the right side of the interface. This ensures that whenever you bypass Ozone's processing, you will hear the unprocessed track at the same perceived loudness as your mastered version. This is important, as humans have a preference for a "louder" version over a quieter one, and this can influence our judgement of sound quality when switching between a quieter 'bypassed' version of our track, and the louder "processed" version.
Click Bypass and listen. What effect is the Maximizer having on the sound of your track? The lower the threshold and the higher the RMS level, the more your track is getting limited and possibly making the mix sound less lively and musical.
Click through the other modules in your signal chain and adjust other parameters to help achieve the sound you want. Continue to compare against your reference recording and bypassed mode to make sure you're getting the results you want. Check out the free PDF guide Mastering with Ozone for more tips on using the individual modules.
You only need to enable dither when reducing bit depth in your export (e.g., a 24-bit source file that will be exported at 16 bits). For complete control over your dithering options, open the Dither module. It can be accessed by clicking on the button located just below the Mono and Swap buttons underneath the Master Input/Output section.
You can learn more about dithering in our free PDF guide Dithering with Ozone or our five-minute Insider Tips video "Introduction to Dithering." (Mastering for YouTube, Soundcloud, etc.? Find out how to master for MP3 and AAC formats in our blog post "Mastering for Compressed Audio Formats.")
Want to back up a few steps? You can do that! Just click Undo, or the History button on the bottom of the Ozone interface to expose an entire history list of your mastering process. You can always backup or retrace your steps as you learn how to master and get the best sound possible.
Before you send it off for distribution, listen back to the entire file multiple times on different systems to ensure it sounds great in different environments.
Learn more about mastering in our comprehensive, free PDF guide Mastering with Ozone.