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Exploring the Design Innovations in Neutron 3

by Lance Riley, UX Designer June 6, 2019
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Design is important to us at iZotope. We're well known for high-quality algorithms and audio processing, but we also aim to make products that people can quickly understand and use to get the results they want. For Neutron 3, we're proud of the work we've done to make the overall product faster, smoother, and more precise, while adding a variety of new features and enhancements.

iZotope design principles at work

A consistent experience

We do a lot of user research at iZotope, and something that comes up often is a desire for a consistent experience from product to product. Consistency makes it easier to get oriented when trying a new product, and makes moving between products easier.

Neutron 3 UI fan

Neutron 3’s interface is designed to focus on informative visualizations. Rather than emulating physical hardware, we provide a way to interact with your audio in a modern way.

Neutron 3 Compressor

Neutron’s Gate and Compressor modules are examples of how we allow you to directly interact with their audio. Pulling down the Threshold over the waveform begins to affect the signal's dynamic range, or in the case of the Gate, sets the point at which the signal starts being attenuated. You can see exactly where the parameters fall in your audio, how it affects your output, and an input/output comparison to make clear where processing has occurred.

Going broad to fine

One of our core design principles at iZotope is to provide broad to fine control. The idea behind this is to give you the right amount of control when you need it.

When opening an iZotope product, you should be able to quickly understand the bounds of what is possible with your audio in just a few clicks. These broad controls should get you 80% of the way there. As a more experienced user, you should then be able to go deeper into a product to fine-tune your audio.

You can see this in our contextual HUDs that follow your node. Expanding these allows you to access even more feature-rich aspects of our EQ if you want to dive down another level:

Dynamic contextual controls

In Neutron 2, there were controls visible that may not always have been needed. This was sometimes overwhelming to users because it felt like Neutron was a more complex tool than necessary for most mixing projects.

Neutron 2 UI

Now, in each of Neutron 3’s multiband modules, you start with a broad frequency spectrum with a simple set of controls. If you want to get more surgical, you can easily add additional frequency bands by clicking right on the spectrum at the top of the UI. This allows you to work more naturally, while at the same time reducing on-screen clutter in the more complex modules.

Neutron 3's Multiband modules

Staying in context

In Neutron 1, we introduced the ability to visualize perceptual loudness loss when two sources combine, known as masking, to help improve clarity. We called this the Masking Meter. In Neutron 3, we improved the Masking Meter design from the previous two versions by directly overlaying the audio information from both selected EQs on top of one another, making it even easier to see where frequency collisions are occurring.

The new Masking Meter lets you see the relationship of two plug-ins more easily, by showing both the spectrum and EQ curves on the same scale.

Improved Masking Meter in Neutron 3

Meet your new assistant

Neutron 3 Advanced comes with Mix Assistant. Mix Assistant can help you balance your tracks by listening to your mix and providing a recommended starting point for all your track levels. Powered by machine learning, Mix Assistant identifies the types of instruments in your production, groups them together, and sets them to sound well balanced. And of course, Mix Assistant can still recommend settings on individual tracks, helping them sound the best they can by automatically processing them with EQ, compression, and new for Neutron 3, the new Sculptor module.

Sculptor has arrived

Built on iZotope’s spectral shaping technology, the Sculptor module is a new way to automatically sculpt your audio to become a better version of itself. We found that we could better expand this functionality with a brand new module that not only visualizes what it does, but better handles the audio by driving it to a target curve. This target-based processing is a really fun and easy way to shape instruments to sound better in the mix.

Neutron 3 Sculptor

Introducing the Gauge

The Gauge is a new type of control we developed to give people more control over processing settings.

The Gauge in Neutron 3

Why did we create a new type of control when knobs and sliders exist? While most audio effects are digital, they are often digital representations of analog controls. The action of clicking and dragging up or down doesn’t always line up to the real-world interaction of using them. You should be able to work directly with what you see and translate what you hear with easy-to-use controls nested in smooth, understandable metering.

Typical knobs

The Gauge is the best of both worlds. It can convey prominence while also showing its relative relationship to other controls, and on top of that, it is true to a digital medium.

Neutron 3 is completely resizable

With so many different screen sizes in the world, it’s important now to be able to adjust a plug-in to a size that is good for your work environment, whether it’s a laptop or dual 4K screens. In Neutron 3, we redesigned all the modules to give you more detail when you need it, or save more room on the screen.

Neutron 3 at work

Thanks for reading. We hope you enjoy the latest design and UX updates in Neutron 3! Be sure to subscribe to our Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube channel to join the conversation on the past, present, and future of audio production.

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