Getting a well-balanced mix is a difficult task, and our home studio monitoring speakers aren't always on our side. Too often we end up with songs that have too much or too little bass, a high end that’s just too piercing, or mids that just don’t cut through—or worst of all, a vocal that's getting buried by a guitar. So why do it blindly when you have a secret weapon in your back pocket?
In this article, we'll learn how iZotope's Tonal Balance Bundle can be the best friend you never knew you needed.
The Tonal Balance Bundle brings mixing and mastering into one interconnected workflow with tools for professional, balanced masters, polished instruments and vocals, and time-saving assistive audio processing. The bundle features three essential tools:
With Ozone, Neutron, Nectar, and Tonal Balance Control 2, you have complete coverage throughout your workflow, allowing you to create balanced mixes and polished masters, so each song sounds as exceptional as it possibly can.
Let's take a look at how each one of these tools can help speed up your workflow and achieve brilliant sonic results.
If you're like me, you often record vocals. Whether it's a demo recording of yourself or professional final lead and background vocal parts, you want them to sound their best. But let's be honest, vocals are one of the harder elements to fit into a mix.
Finding the right EQ settings to make the lead vocal shine is tricky. Plus, vocals tend to be pretty dynamic. One moment the artist may be whispering, the next they're belting out the high note. Getting all those dynamics under control is no easy task.
Then there are all the piercing s sounds. So you insert a de-esser plug-in and you have to configure it to capture all those sibilants and duck them accordingly. Finally, you will probably add a touch of reverb to give the vocal a nice sheen and place it in a contextual space. Four different plug-ins—and that's just touching the surface of the basic processing needed to make a vocal sound great. Thankfully there's a better way.
Nectar 3 Plus is one of the best vocal plug-ins on the market because it wraps a complete vocal-processing chain into one powerful plug-in. Everything you need for vocal mixing is at your fingertips.
With these modules, it's capable of taking an okay performance and making it truly shine.
Not every vocal performance is flawless, and if you're not a professional singer, you may need that little extra lift. This is where the Pitch module can help.
The Dimension module includes chorus, flanger, and phaser effects to add movement and depth to your vocal. If you want a vocal part to sound even richer, the Harmony module will allow you to add up to four additional voices and stack your harmonies to fit your vocal performance’s register.
Nectar also features a vast library of presets for each of the modules. Unlike plug-ins you'd find elsewhere, however, Nectar also includes presets that engage multiple, or even all the different modules as part of these “power presets.”
But what really makes Nectar stand out in the Tonal Balance Bundle is the built-in Vocal Assistant. Think of it as your own machine-learning-enabled worker. And who doesn't like it when somebody else does the tedious work for you?
The truth is that presets are a great starting point, but they still require tweaking. Each vocal performance is different, and each vocalist may have a different set of sonic qualities that will make certain things easier while making others more challenging to mix and balance properly.
Vocal Assistant makes creating the perfectly-balanced vocal easier than ever by analyzing the content of your vocal performance and generating a custom-built preset tailored to the nuances of your singer’s performance.
More importantly, Vocal Assistant allows you to achieve a performance that is well-balanced on its own, as well as in the mix. The Assistant's Unmask feature uses Inter-plugin Communication to help place your vocal at the forefront of the mix by moving other competing mix elements out of the way automatically.
I'm all about efficiency and saving time because the faster I can achieve an exceptional-sounding vocal, the sooner I can finish the song. And the sooner I finish the song, the more time I'll have to make and/or play more music. So to say that Nectar 3 has become a staple in all the work that I do is a true understatement.
If Nectar 3 blew your mind, you'll want to meet Neutron 3. What Nectar did for vocals, Neutron does for all other instrument tracks. Just like Nectar features modules for easy, all-in-one control, Neutron does too. But this time, the modules are particularly targeted at creating a truly balanced sound for each one of the different instruments you may encounter. They include:
If you're wondering what the Sculptor does, I'll point you to my favorite description of the module: For sweetening, fixing and even creative applications, Sculptor is like having an army of EQs and compressors working tirelessly to shape your track. Choose from 25 unique instrument profiles to shape your instrument into a totally new version of itself.
Each one of the bundled modules is extremely powerful, but together they become unstoppable. The true potential of Neutron 3 becomes visible when you dig into Mix Assistant and its two modes: Track Enhance & Balance.
Ever since I started using Nectar and Neutron, I've been able to deliver truly outstanding mixes every single time—even on really tight deadlines. But once you complete your mix, there's still one process left to make it a well-balanced and polished song: mastering.
Mastering, it’s the process that most of us music producers fear the most. It's the magical art of making your song sound sonically competitive with all other songs on the market.
Just like the previous plug-ins, Ozone 9 includes a series of powerful modules, this time designed to create beautifully balanced masters:
Plus, in Ozone 9 Advanced and Standard, you get access to four Vintage modules:
And you guessed it, Ozone 9 Advanced also features a Master Assistant! Yep, whether you’re mastering for the first time or you're a seasoned mastering engineer working against the clock, Master Assistant is designed to give you a starting point that is intelligently suited to your music, helping you create a professional-sounding master, regardless of your experience level. Tell it what you're going for and it will analyze your audio, offering an excellent combination of the different included modules set up to help you reach those targets. Plus, the new Vintage mode allows you to quickly add the right combination of color and character, with automatic adjustments for Vintage Compressor, EQ, and more.
If you thought professional-sounding masters were out of reach, think again!
Finding the right balance in life is important. The same goes for your mixes. One of the harder things to accomplish is creating a mix where the lows, mids, and highs are all properly balanced. Too much bass can ruin a mix. Too many highs can make the song too piercing. Not enough high-mids will make your song lack clarity. And too much low-mids will make it sound dull and muddy.
Your home studio speakers aren't always ideal for mastering. Have you ever listened to a mix at home, satisfied with what you heard, only to go to a friend's house and discover that there were all these balance issues that were inaudible on your system? Each set of speakers will color the sound differently, so creating a mix that translates well on every system is a really tough job.
This is where iZotope's Tonal Balance Control 2 plug-in comes to the rescue. It gives you the tools to easily make adjustments in your mix or master to achieve the right balance for your song. The plug-in gives you the fastest way to locate and fix frequencies in your mix that may be out of balance so your audio can sound great in any listening environment.
Insert it at the very end of the processing chain on your master output bus, and as you're playing back your song, you'll be able to see how high, mid, and low-frequency areas stack up against targets based on genre or your own uploaded reference tracks. Use Broad or Fine view modes to identify problems both large and small, and solo frequencies to hear what instruments are contributing the most to your overall balance.
Because all of the plug-ins that are part of the Tonal Control Bundle talk to each other via Inter-plugin Communication, you're able to instantly adjust the gain or EQ on any instance of Nectar, Neutron, Ozone, or Relay directly from the Tonal Balance window. Less clicking and window-switching means you can make modifications to the overall balance of your mix and master in less time and with less effort.
Ever since Tonal Balance Control has become a part of my workflow, I've been able to deliver well-balanced songs with ease. Tonal Balance Control puts decades of mastering expertise in your hands, letting you adjust your tracks to targets based on thousands of professional masters. So stop trying to mix blindly in the dark, turn on the lights and see exactly what needs tweaking.
If you're like me, you've probably noticed that your songs need a little TLC. I can't think of a better plug-in bundle to get you started on delivering truly outstanding mixes and masters of your songs. The Tonal Balance Control Bundle features three essential tools that allow you to work with confidence and accurately fine-tune your songs in any listening environment or genre.