I've been using iZotope's RX audio restoration bundle extensively for a few years now. I think this product is exemplary. I'd heard good things about their Ozone mastering plug-in, so I decided it'd be fun to sit down with some of the staff and see what they were up to. I spoke with Jeremy Todd (CTO Chief Technology Officer), Jack Kote (documentation, videos and product design elements) and Victoria Kane (marketing and press and artist relations).
How many people work for iZotope?
Jeremy Todd: We're at about 25 to 30 people, depending on how you count something like that. We work with a lot of people on a part-time and full-time basis.
Jack Kote: I'm half a person!
Where are you based out of?
JT: We're in Cambridge, Massachusetts — just north of Boston.
How long has iZotope been around?
JT: Since 2001.
Who started it?
JT: Me and Mark Ethier. There was a big group of us that started it out of our dorm rooms at MIT when we were seniors.
That's great! What was the initial emphasis and what was the first product?
JT: We were all interested in audio; we're all musicians. A lot of us had experience interning at various companies in the music industry. I studied audio DSP [digital signal processing]. I think it took us a few years to find a really solid course, but the very first thing we did was Vinyl, which is still on the market. That was an example of things we'd been studying. We wanted to put it out there and make it free. That was a great way to get started, because we were completely unknown. It built up goodwill, as well as a brand for us.
What is Vinyl?
JT: Vinyl is a plug-in available for PC and Mac (as well as all major plug-in formats). It does vintage vinyl simulation. It will take audio and make it sound like pulled from vinyl. It's by far our number one, as far as people using it, because it's free. [laughter] It's a lot of fun.
It's a loss leader that gets the name out.
JT: Yeah, exactly. So, we did Vinyl and then started working on Ozone, our mastering product. Vinyl had built up a pretty significant database of users — you have to give us your email address [to use Vinyl for free]. Then we were able to tell everyone about Ozone. Vinyl was one of the best free plug-ins most people had worked with, so they were willing to try Ozone; that kick-started our company.
Victoria Kane: That kind of pricing model is indicative of iZotope. All of our other plug-ins are very reasonably priced and affordable to the user. We also offer a 50% discount to students on all of our software.
JT: We saw pretty expensive equipment on the market at that time, so we tried to make something a bit more accessible and we've held true to that over the years.
So what year did Ozone come out?
JT: I think December of 2001.
That was something that would be for all-in-one mastering?
JT: That was one of the first plug-ins to pull in what had previously been done by using separate chains of plug-ins. There were some significant workflow advantages to doing that. We've since released several plug-ins that have a similar idea behind them; an all-in-one solution instead of several different components.
Right, that makes sense. When did the RX series come out?
JT: 2007, with the RX 1. That was our first restoration product, which had some really exciting features and was also the first [standalone] application we'd made.
For the first time, customers didn't have to be in a DAW. But, at the same time, RX provided plug-ins that were compatible with every DAW on the market. Users who wanted to stay in their DAW could still access the RX suite. We didn't want to force a workflow on the user.
I couldn't believe that someone could bring restoration software to market that did a great job and was affordable.
JT: For something like de-noising, if you're looking at cleanup and audio recording, I feel like these technologies don't need to be that expensive. We saw a price point that was fair and competitive. We looked at what other companies have, but on the whole we have an incredible Denoiser in RX and we'd love to have it compared to other brands. The comparison is it was usually very favorable towards us.
VK: Yeah, we like to think of RX 2 Standard not as a light version, because it really is a complete toolkit for...