Tips & Tutorials | July 1, 2015
With over 7,500 albums under his belt, Greg Calbi (Senior Mastering Engineer at Sterling Sound) is an accomplished mastering engineer like few others. iZotope has teamed up with the legendary engineer to offer presets built for users of Ozone that are designed and used by Greg on a daily basis.
Each preset is crafted to achieve a certain sonic goal, to be a solid starting point for mastering your material. Auditioning each preset at the beginning of your mastering session can be a great way to quickly sample different aesthetic possibilities and decide on the direction to take your master.
Remember, though, that these presets are intended as a starting point to get you going in the right direction. While magic could happen on the first try, it’s rare that a preset will be perfect without some additional tweaks for your source material. Presets are like a window into where your mix can go on the journey towards a final master. It’s important to experiment—and have fun!
So how does Greg use these presets? One approach is to make swatches of compression. “I take usually the first verse and chorus of a song, create swatches with the different presets, and shoot them out to find the best possible preset,” he says. “I'll take the swatch that I determined was the best of all my Ozone presets, and then I'll manipulate inside that preset.”
Sometimes, for instance, a particular preset may be great for guitars but the bass drum becomes accented in a way that compromises the mix. So you’ll have to consider critically the effects each preset has on your material, then make the appropriate adjustments for success.
Listen to these examples to see how Greg Calbi Mastering Presets for Ozone can start transforming your sound into a more polished, professional-sounding mix:
For Greg, multiple comparisons are a must. Doing frequent A/B comparisons between two versions helps him decide which sounds better. Making minor adjustments along the way to each subtle variant of each family of presets, Greg continues the process of comparing and deciding which works better for the mix until he’s arrived at the ideal master.
It’s very important to ensure your final mix has a good deal of headroom to work with before applying any mastering processing. If your final mix is too loud, the mastering processing will sound harsh and over-distorted in most cases, and can make it more difficult to arrive at a great-sounding final master. Greg will even send back mixes that he receives which are too loud or so limited that he has no room to work.
In order to get the best results from these presets, you’ll need to take some care setting the incoming level of your mix. The presets expect an ‘average’ (sometimes referred to as RMS) input level of about -16 dBFS, give or take 4 dB. To accomplish this, adjust the input slider within Ozone while watching the plug-in meters. Use -16 dBFS as a target, and adjust the input level up and down by a few dB while listening through Ozone until you like what you hear.
And remember, always compare your master to the original mix at the same level. Ozone’s “Bypass” and Effective Gain Match features allow you to hear the musical effect, independent of level, of how your mastering is affecting the blend, color, and quality of the material.
“Having Ozone and the availability and the flexibility of the presets makes the job a lot easier,” Greg says, “in terms of walking out at night knowing that you did the best thing that you could.”