Ozone 7 is a sizable update to the already feature-rich Ozone mastering suite of plug-ins. The standard version of Ozone 7 includes three new functions, while the Advanced version has seven.
Vintage Limiter pulls the "tube" mode found in earlier versions of Maximizer and gives it its own module. Both a faster and a slower setting provide responses not always available in real-world tube gear. Although inspired by the Fairchild 670, the plug-in departs from the original, providing more tweaking powers. In use, I didn't like it as much as Maximizer for mastering, but enjoyed it on instrument tracks and mix bus. Using Vintage Limiter results in a subtle change to transients (in comparison to Maximizer), and the change is easier to hear by bypassing the module once you've started using it (as opposed to when you first instantiate it). Worth mentioning is the equal-level audition feature, which is represented by the "ear" button. Added in an earlier version of Ozone, this function allows you to compare post-processed sound against the pre- processed source — with the listening levels matched. This reduces the chances of always preferring the louder version, even when it might not be an improvement.
The other two additions to both versions of Ozone 7 are export formats and the IRC IV algorithm in Maximizer. Export is a time-saving feature for saving masters to different file- formats, sample-rates, and bit-rates. It supports rich metadata, such as track name, song name, etc., when creating MP3 or AAC files. Seasoned users of Maximizer will recall that there are three flavors of IRC (Intelligent Release Control), which offer pre-optimized release responses depending on source material. IRC IV has multi-band and frequency-specific operation, which leads to less toll on the limiting processing. In use, IRC IV is more transparent and a better choice when you want to avoid pumping, or what I call "evident compression." (It's what the kids like these days. When I was young, it was called "not knowing how to use a compressor" — but who can argue with success? Oh, please get off my lawn.)
Four new features are for Ozone 7 Advanced only: Vintage Tape, Vintage EQ, Vintage Compressor, and Codec Preview. Vintage Tape is iZotope's take on a well-maintained analog tape deck. I've been auditioning more than a normal share of tape plug-ins recently, and I would put this in the quadrant of good quality but easy to overdo. More directly, I would advise using it for mixing without hesitation. For mastering — as always — it depends. Instantiating the Vintage Tape module immediately powers on a virtual set of transformers and circuits in addition to the tape. There is an immediate "gel- ification," with an enhanced firmness and a more solid midrange. This module is also a tweaker's delight, with provisions for altering harmonics, bias, input drive, and more. Clearly, a lot of work went into this module, and if you jump into Ozone 7 Advanced, I'll bet you'll spend the first day here without going anywhere else.
Vintage Dynamics is a hybrid beast in that you get modern multi-band control using a more classic circuit design. The best parts are the auto attack and release settings using the Adaptive Release feature, and the extensive control over sidechain, which includes a Thrust-like control (made popular by the API 2500 bus compressor [Tape Op #52]).
But honestly, the biggest surprise was the module I was prepared to be underwhelmed by — Vintage EQ. Your first impression of the GUI might be that it's boring, but I challenge you to find a more straightforward implementation of the Pultec program equalizer's paradigm. Let's face it, using a real Pultec, when you have two hands simultaneously twisting knobs, is a very rewarding experience. But using most Pultec plug-ins stinks. Half the time, you're bouncing back and forth between cut and boost knobs, and the other half of the time, you're wondering if you grabbed the wrong one. (Which knob is related to which? Is it the one next to the first one, or the one above it at an angle?) With Vintage EQ, it is very clear what each feature controls. Most importantly, I have never had an easier time doing final touches with an EQ plug-in than with this one. Yeah, it might look like an extra from the 1960s-era TV show The Rat Patrol (how old am I?), but it sure sounds nice.
Codec Preview, as the name states, offers real-time preview of master files after they are converted to MP3 or AAC. The best part is that you can compensate for any changes you hear post-conversion, while A/B'ing the source versus target. You can even solo just the difference signal (the information that's being thrown out by the "lossy" codec). Honestly, mastering to a codec-compressed music file is a time-consuming process otherwise. Mastering engineers traditionally run passes of a song using different data-compression settings, compare them, go back with changes, re-render, re-compare, and repeat. It's very important in the Internet age to follow through with the sonic effects of data- compression, but the aforementioned workflow is very slow. Anything that speeds this up is a lifesaver. Let's face it — our clients very much need this service, but few have the full budget it requires. Codec Preview provides you with instant feedback on MP3 and AAC data-compression, which makes it much easier for you to reactively adjust how you're mastering the song for the chosen codecs. This speeds up your workflow and reduces its financial impact on your client's budget. I think those are good things.
iZotope closed some of the holes that many of us didn't know previous versions of Ozone had. Ozone is increasingly an all-in-one solution that alleviates the need for other plug-ins. While you may or may not have other choices for tape, EQ, and dynamics processing that you favor, it's undeniable that the new Ozone 7 modules go far beyond useful; they will go toe-to-toe with any other market offerings.