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One of the great conveniences of using digital audio plug-ins is how easy it becomes to mix and match your processing effects. That means we creators can quickly explore our hair-brained ideas, produce interesting sounds on the fly, and instantly enhance the character of one plug-in with the help of another.
In this article, I’ll show you six ways to combine iZotope plug-ins so they sound better together.
Neutron 3’s Mix Assistant and Visual Mixer tools are a big help during the “static mix,” a term you may have come across on the iZotope blog. It refers to the process of getting the mix to an initial balanced state, typically before any EQ, effects, or automation are added. It involves just two tools: levels and panning.
Mix Assistant takes care of the first part by listening to your tracks and automatically setting the appropriate levels so everything sounds more balanced together. Follow Mix Assistant’s instructions to play your song from beginning to end, and it will adjust the levels of all tracks in your session that have Neutron 3 or Relay enabled on them while emphasizing your chosen Focus elements like vocals, drums, and other instruments that should sit in the forefront of the mix.
Once Mix Assistant has done its job, you can adjust track levels based on broad instrument categories—easy!
The second part of the static mix—pan positions—is where Visual Mixer can be very helpful. It’s a separate, free plug-in that comes with Neutron 3 Advanced and can be placed on any channel (though it should really only be placed on your master or your buses), offering control over the output, pan position, and stereo width of Neutron 3-enabled and Relay-enabled elements.
By dragging nodes around the spectrum, you can adjust that channel’s position in the stereo field, which you can then check using the free Ozone Imager. Pulling at the handles of a node will widen or narrow its width. If you want to reset levels, either adjust the node height manually or hit the Mix Assistant button up top to restart the automatic process described above. Note that Mix Assistant won’t change your pan positions. You can also save up to three different “Snapshots,” allowing for comparison between different panning configurations.
With these two plug-ins, you’re able to make fast, intuitive decisions about where you want to take the static mix. I wager it beats the tedious process of going track-by-track in your DAW to nudge individual gain levels and pan dials.
Cleaning audio is an essential step in music creation because it sets the conditions for the tone of your processing with mixing tools like Neutron 3 and Nectar 3 down the line. For the field recorders and sample-based musicians out there looking to clean up their audio, RX is the industry standard. Clicks from dry mouth? Crackles from old vinyl? Hum from your studio fan? Wind from an outdoor recording session? All this and more can be reduced or removed depending on your preferences.
RX gives you a cleaner mix, that’s for certain, but it also gives you more control over your sound. You may actually want a little crackle from that 60s acapella, but just the right amount to convey warmth and not overwhelm the mix with spiky transients. There are a number of ways to get to work with RX—you can use individual modules in your DAW, edit by hand within the RX standalone application, or trust the Repair Assistant to search for and remove noises based on machine learning algorithms. I typically use the standalone application to grab specific noises manually, and the Repair Assistant to get rid of issues that are consistent across a recording.
Remember, the cleanliness of your audio impacts how your processing sounds with mixing tools like Neutron 3 and Nectar 3. If you leave unnecessary clicks in a drum loop, you may trigger Neutron 3’s compressor to compress at the wrong time. If there is too much noise and hum in your vocal, Nectar 3’s delays will smudge the contours of your mix. So be sure to use these plug-ins together to optimize your results.
Nectar 3’s Harmony module allows you to create additional voices that harmonize in tune with your source material. This is a great tool for spicing up a vocal with new tones, thickening up the chorus with unison layers, or adding some ghostly backing support to your leads.
One of the great bonuses of the module is Voices Only mode, which only outputs the generated voices by muting the original sound. If you double your vocal track with Nectar 3 and use one for copy for the lead and the other for background with Voices Only enabled, a gamut of creative processing options opens up.
One such option is to use VocalSynth 2 on just the solo’d voices in the Harmony module. This way, you can process your new computer-generated vocals with a robotic or alien effect—which seems to be all the rage in rage in pop, R&B, and hip-hop these days—while keeping your lead dry or applying lighter processing.
Since the harmonized voices are on their own track, you can also take advantage of the additional FX modules in both Nectar 3 and VocalSynth 2 to mess with them further. Biovox, Compuvox, and Polyvox in VocalSynth 2 are especially fun.
On the topic of vocals, here’s another quick tip. Vocal Doubler—which does exactly what its name implies—is a free plug-in that makes vocals feel thicker, more present, and professional, all in a matter of seconds. The setup is simple: place the plug-in directly on your vocal track (it also works well on strings and pads!) and drag up and down for stereo separation, or left and right for human variation.
After finding the right settings, use one of iZotope’s Exponential Audio reverbs to add a sense of dimension and space for greater realism in your production. NIMBUS, for example, comes with dozens of clean-sounding and creative vocal reverbs.
Depending on the effect you want to achieve, reverb can either be placed directly on the vocal track or used as a send. As explained in our article Aux vs. Sends, it makes more sense to strap reverb on as an insert when further processing is required and then tweak the effect to taste with dry/wet controls. For a sense of cohesiveness––in other words, to get your vocal to sound like it belongs with the rest of your track––sends do a better job.
Tonal Balance Control 2 is like having a second set of ears to double-check your mix. When placed on the master output, it analyzes the frequency content of your entire mix, then compares it (in real-time) against a reference target, to shed light on the areas across the spectrum that need your attention.
When mixing in a non-ideal setup, you may add too much low-end, muddying the kick and bass. If you’ve been mixing for hours on end, you may add more highs to the vocal than necessary, then turn up the levels of other instruments to compete. These decisions throw off the balance of the mix.
Looking at your Tonal Balance Control 2 window, frequency balance issues can quickly be addressed by considering the location of the white lines within the blue-green overlays. In the mix shown here, my lows are overwhelming and my highs are underwhelming.
To zone in on the issue, hold alt or option (PC vs. Mac) and click the problematic area on the plug-in interface. This will solo the corresponding audio within the spectrum, so you can hear what may be contributing most to the imbalance.
To solve the issues, you can adjust the gain and EQ on problem tracks right from within Tonal Balance Control 2, by selecting any Neutron 3, Nectar 3, Relay, or Ozone 9 plug-in within your session from the dropdown menu. This way you can make tonal adjustments without changing contexts, all while seeing how your efforts impact the overall balance of the mix in real-time.
Learn how to do all this in the video below:
If you’re like me and have a soft spot for 80s-style shimmering guitars, pads, and keys, combine the following iZotope plug-ins to achieve this effect in seconds: Iris 2, Mobius Filter and Vinyl. Mobius Filter also adds infinitely rising or falling filter sweeps, similar in character to a phaser, that you can tweak to create subtle wobbles, resonant EDM-style risers, and anything in between.
Pair this with Vinyl, the free lo-fi emulation plug-in that adds pitch bends, dust, and scratches to audio to get some warm and woozy sounds, perfect for your next R&B tune or modern Funk banger.
If you already have a copy of Nectar 3, you can substitute the modulation of Mobius Filter for the Dimension module, which offers up chorusing, flanging, and phasing—and with more control—including controls for depth, feedback, and width.
If you’re a new iZotope user or just haven’t had the time to explore how our plug-ins can be combined with one another to create new sounds and streamline workflows, I hope this article has given you a handful of entry points. While you sometimes only need one tool to get the job done, a helping hand can go a long way in many artistic settings.
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