Ever worked on a song but the mix just wasn't sitting right? Maybe the synth was too piercing, or the tom fill didn’t pop out. We've all encountered situations like these—and this is exactly where Neutron Elements can help.
iZotope's Neutron Elements is a must-have plugin for any music creator with a home studio. It gives you powerful tools to tweak your mixes, a smart EQ with the EQ Learn feature, a Compressor with powerhouse parameters to give you full dynamic control, a robust Transient Shaper, and an Exciter to add punch, warmth, brightness, and presence to your tracks without muddying up the sound.
But although these features are versatile, they can be daunting if you're learning to mix music. And you may not have the time to set everything up from scratch. That’s where Neutron Elements’ 150+ professionally designed presets come in handy.
In this article, we'll cover how to use the presets that come with Neutron Elements to speed up your workflow and keep you in a creative zone.
Adding Neutron Elements
Today I'll be using Neutron Elements to help make my mix’s various elements blend together better. To give you a before and after comparison, here's the current demo without any effects, other than a small amount of reverb on a few tracks.
Full Song (Before)
In some ways, the demo mix sounds decent. However, this particular piece will be for a commercial. Since there will be a voice-over that will be placed on top, I need the spoken elements to be very clear to hear. For this reason, I want to mellow out any instruments that are creating lots of buzz, and shape the sound to allow more space for the vocal to sit on top.
Assuming you've already successfully installed Neutron Elements, you'll want to add it as an insert onto your track so we can get to work. In my case, I'm working in PreSonus Studio One 4 Professional. You can use the effect browser to find the desired plug-in, but one of the easier methods of adding an insert effect to a track is by selecting the track and clicking the + button in the inserts section. You'll be met with the dropdown pictured above, which will give you a list of available plug-ins. Choose the iZotope category and select "Neutron Elements." This will insert the plug-in on the track.
Note: If you're using a different DAW, you'll want to refer to the reference manual for instructions on how to add insert effects to a channel.
As you can see, when Neutron Elements is loaded onto a track, it instantly opens the Preset Manager window. This will be our goldmine for various mix enhancements, so let's dive into how it can help you achieve great results with minimal effort.
You'll notice that upon initiation, the “Default” preset is selected. If you ever want to start from scratch again and reset all parameters to their initial state when instantiating the Neutron plug-in, just select the "Default" setting, and all the settings will revert. If you made alterations to different settings and you decide not to use a preset and would like to apply the last settings used that were not associated with a preset, you can select “Working Settings.”
Working with the presets
Neutron Elements comes with over 150 professionally designed presets. The presets are organized in folders, which group them by instrument type, genre, style, and even application (there's a bunch of cool ones for post-production).
In my case, I have a problem with a synth that's overly buzzy and just stands out in the mix too much. I want to mellow it out a bit. After inserting an instance of Neutron Elements onto the track, I decided to scroll down to the "Synths" presets folder and check out if any of the presets gave me the result I was looking for. Each preset comes with a combination of different effects and different settings for each of the effects that were already crafted to achieve different results. So clicking on the different preset names allows you to quickly compare which preset works best for you. Additionally, at the bottom of the Preset Manager window, you'll find a brief description that will tell you a little about what that preset was meant to do.
After auditioning a few options I decided that the "OmniChord" preset was for me. The description alone fit exactly what I was trying to do: "EQ cleans up the nasty electric buzzing and adds a touch of lows." Here's the before/after of how Neutron Elements was able to instantly shape the sound of the synth.
The great thing is that these presets are a quick and effective way to get the desired results. But if you want to shape the sound further, you can. Want to alter the EQ in a specific way? You can. Want to alter some of the parameters in the Exciter? Go for it. In fact, I recommend you do make adjustments until you get the sound that you're going for.
Here are a few more examples of different presets that I used to enhance and alter the sonic qualities of different tracks.
The snare wasn't cutting through my mix the right way. Sure, I could make it louder, but the whole idea was to make it sharper in its sound. So I added an instance of Neutron Elements to the track, and dove into the presets in the "Drums (Individual)" category. Here I found a sub-folder of presets designed for snares. I gave a few of them a try and settled for "Get Crackin." As described, this preset "Gives an over-the-top snap to snare hits with an edgy mix of tube and tape saturation." Compare how drastically different the snare sounds before and after!
The toms didn't seem to be coming through right in the mix either. The "Bring Out the Toms" preset was the perfect choice for that. Using "subtle enhancement to emphasize note and sustain of tom drums," the preset gave my toms the sound that they needed to cut through better.
I also applied the "Heavy Saturation" preset to the snare fill. This gave it that "Flattened in your face distortion" that it needed to be heard in the right moments.
Finally, the problem child of my tune: the bass. As amazing as that synth bass sound was, it was creating too much buzz and muddying things up. Through some experimentation, I settled on the "Textured Punch" preset in the Synth Bass category:
Now compare the original to the final demo mix of the tune:
Full Song (Before)
Full Song (After)
The various synths have been mellowed out and the snares are cutting through nicely. All I used is simple presets and they allowed me to get instant results that helped tame problem areas and highlight the different elements that I wanted to accentuate.
If you're ever in a rush trying to get a song done and out the door and need help in getting the mix to sound better, check out the presets inside of Neutron Elements. They're a huge time saver. And if you own Neutron 3 Standard or Advanced, you'll get access to over 500 presets, as well as even more powerful modules.
Remember, the less time you waste on setting up plug-in parameters, the sooner you can get back to being creative and making music!