Learn Music and Audio Production | iZotope Tips and Tutorials

The Future of Audio Plug-in Design, ft. Nectar 3

by Jon Simmons, iZotope November 2, 2018

Let your vocals cut through the mix:

Nectar 3 Plus

iZotope email subscribe

Never Miss an Article!

Sign up for our newsletter and get tutorials and tips delivered to your inbox. 

Every module in Nectar 3 has been redesigned with your time and experience in mind. Underscored by ultramodern graphic experiences, Nectar 3 sports interactive visualization, smooth metering, contextual parameters, and resizability. It’s a visual experience so smooth, you won’t want to go back to knobs and faders.

Let’s go over each in more detail below—and check out what’s new in this video below!

1. Interactive & improved visualizations

Starting with the Pitch module, we’ve built an entirely new visualization from Nectar 2. The chromatic scale, displayed like a compass, is mapped in a circle. The dial hand points to the pitch of the sung note at any given time.

Notice the big grey circle in the background with the key? That’s your vocal, which latches on to the target key you’ve set. You can think of the Pitch module almost like how a guitar tuner tells you how far out of tune a string is as you’re tuning it.

You’ll also notice an orange circle behind the target, which indicates how much processing is being applied, displaying a pulling motion toward the main, grey circle (target key).

Pitch in Nectar 3

Solo Mode in EQ module

If you’re hearing a nasty vocal resonance, or just want to dial into a specific band of the frequency spectrum, the newly designed Solo Mode allows you to do just that. Click the “S” icon on an EQ node, and drag the node around the spectrum to find the offending frequency.

Solo Mode in Nectar 3


The concept of compression in audio signal processing can be confusing, especially if you’re just starting to mix music. In Nectar 3, we designed the Compressor to clearly illustrate how a compressor works, so you can visualize the changes you’re making to your audio signal. Now, you can see exactly what you’re compressing, showing before and after compression.

The light grey waveform is your output. When you grab the threshold and bring it down, so that it’s below the peaks of your output (seen in the image at -18.7 dB), you’re reducing gain. You can see the gain reduction traced by a the top yellow line.

The dark grey waveform, which you can spot above the light grey waveform, represents your input prior to compression.

Learn more about the Compressor in our complete help doc.

Compressor in Nectar 3


Intuitively focus the frequency range you want to affect with the redesigned De-esser in Nectar 3. Just drag the threshold to hone in on where you’re hearing esses, click the “Listen” button, and listen to the output. Adjust the threshold to find sibilance that you may want to attenuate.

Notice the “before” and “after” waveforms (light grey, dark grey) from the Compressor module in the section above? We added this view to the De-esser as well (our algorithm ducks the entire signal when it detects sibilance, and avoids creating the artifacts that can be caused by using multiband processing for de-essing).

De-esser in Nectar 3


Gates shouldn’t be complicated to understand or use—that was the guiding principle behind the redesign of the Gate module in Nectar 3. Unlike any other gate in the industry, the Nectar 3 Gate module visualizes the volume at which the gate opens and closes. When the volume drops below the “Close” bar, the gate will be closed. And when it hits the “Open” level, it will open back up. Simple!

Gate in Nectar 3


As you turn up the saturation in Nectar 3’s Saturation module, you can see “northern lights” start to appear on the spectrum. These lights indicate which parts of the spectrum are being saturated.

This lets you figure out which frequencies you want to distort, dialing back the effect to taste. You might also notice that a certain area of the spectrum is or isn’t distorting as much or as little as you want it to. In this case, you can add an EQ before the Saturation module and give it a boost where you’d like more saturation.

Overly distorting higher frequencies can sound “harsh,” while subtly distorting lower frequencies can sound “warm.” Depending on the register of the vocalist and the quality of his or her voice, the different saturation algorithms will react differently. The visualization helps you understand where a particular algorithm might be overdoing it in a certain area, etc. Then, the post filter lets you tame the sound a bit., similar to how a tone control on a guitar pedal works.

Saturation in Nectar 3

2. Contextual parameters

New in Nectar 3 is the ability to find information and controls as you need them, where you need them, on demand. Rather than having to wade through pages of parameters to find what you’re looking for, now you can make mixing decisions right from individual nodes within the EQ and Harmony modules. In previous versions of Nectar, simple actions like adding new nodes or adjusting filter shapes of EQ bands required you to divert your attention from the spectrum analyzer, and make changes in a completely different part of the module.

No longer is that the case. Now, adding EQ nodes or harmonies and adjusting parameters can be done in just a few simple clicks—including Dynamic EQ and Follow EQ modes—directly from with the new HUD (heads-up-display). To access the HUD and make changes, just click on a node. For Dynamic Mode controls, click the arrow.

Adding contextual parameters also frees up real estate for the EQ spectrum and visual stage of the Harmony module to pinpoint what’s happening in your mix, giving you a larger, clearer window into your music.

Contextual parameters on Nectar 3 EQ

Add additional voices in the redesigned Harmony module, and dial in parameters directly from each voice:

Contextual parameters on Nectar 3 Harmony module

3. Resizable and flexible

In Nectar 3, we’ve made the entire plug-in resizable, letting you optimize your screen real estate and expand the parts of the plug-in that you want to expand. We built the new modules to be "meter-first," meaning that when you expand the size of the plug-in, the meters get bigger without increasing things like the module picker—just the spectra and waveform displays. This lets you choose whether you want to see more detail or save more room on the screen.

Intuitive left-to-right signal flow

For the first time, we’ve designed a product that very intentionally follows a left to right signal flow. This includes Nectar 3’s Limiter, which can now be found in the I/O section, as opposed to as an individual module. The reason we added it to the Output Meter is that in Nectar, you’ll use a limiter on an individual track, and most times people use a limiter on a track is to make sure it doesn’t clip. You can adjust the Limiter right from the Output Meter, taking note of the gain reduction happening in yellow.

We've also added auto-leveling technology to Nectar 3, pictured as ALM (Auto Level Mode) in the I/O panel. This time-saving addition takes the input.. and massages it to make sure it’s at the appropriate level, adding or removing gain, as opposed to using compression, to make a vocal performance more consistent. It sits to the left of the Output Meter and Limiter, and as you’ll notice, has two arrows (up and down) highlighted in yellow. This helps indicate whether the ALM is going to help pull the volume up or down, depending on if the volume is too low or too high.


A flexible module chain

Want to add more than one EQ or compressor? How about a delay, reverb, and a gate as well? No longer are you limited six slots on the module chain. We took the drag-and-drop approach to the module chain into a familiar iZotope workflow, and made it more flexible and customizable. If you want to, you can add all of Nectar 3’s modules to the reorderable module chain.

Adding modules to Nectar 3

4. Smooth metering

Last but not least, each of the modules’ EQ spectra sport smooth metering, giving you a consistent, polished experience when you’re mixing vocals. This best-in-class smooth metering can display meters at up to 60 frames per second—a frame rate you’d find in video games, not audio plug-ins!

Learn more about Nectar 3.

Most Recent Articles

iZotope Logo
iZotope Logo

We make innovative audio products that inspire and enable people to be creative.