iZotope Neutron Review
Line up sceptics, the embracement of the digital era is well and truly here, and the audio industry is not falling behind whatsoever. Over the past few years, 3rd party services such as LANDR and Aria have made waves of controversy amongst the audio community with automated mastering services utilising artificial intelligence. Recently and unsurprisingly the bar in the pro-audio market utilising AI has been raised to new heights. The latest instalment from iZotope, Neutron, is a perfect example of that. The plug-in features a digital "track assistant" that utilises artificial intelligence to create starting points for your processing and a very useful masking tool with linking features which push the boundaries of conventional audio processing.
So let me offer some foundation to this discussion, iZotope Neutron is a relatively new release from the iZotope team; this particular plug-in features a channel strip/process chain layout; An EQ (with switchable band specific dynamics processing), Compressor, Multiband Compressor, Exciter and Transient Shaper. All of which can swap into the chain of your choice. Not anything new in this department, but it's the 2 new features which accompany this processor which makes it stand out. Track Assistant and Masking. I spent a few days losing myself in the software not understanding what everything did and how to use it before watching the webinar that Jonathan Wyner and Matthew Hines hosted for iZotope on the software. After watching the webinar trialling it out a few times between session I've come to make some conclusions.
Track assistant reminds me of my time as an assistant and intern back when I was learning the ropes; I'd be intently listening and taking notes to what the session's engineer was doing and offering a second insight into what was going on in the mix and with the material. Track Assistant works similarly by listening to 4-10 seconds of a signal, determines what instrument the source is, assess it's dynamics and timbre then dials in parameter settings to what it believes serves the material best. On paper, this opens up the imagination to a "silver bullet" solution, IT IS NOT, it is far from it. It won't compensate for taste, creative decision-making and balancing your mix. That's on you. What it does do is create a foundation that will efficiently recognise dynamic inconsistencies, potential tonal embellishments and unflattering frequencies. In particular, its ability to dial in notches to the EQ curve is surprisingly accurate. I can't stress how far this feature is from a set and forget; it does require you to use your ears after the fact and assess where you can continue to take the material.
The masking tool is another feature which took me by surprise. We always hear about, "making space in the mix." This tool is exactly for that, with multiple instances of neutron loaded across various channels I can open neutron and enable the masking tool on channel A, while metering a signal from a secondary channel alongside itself. To assist you there is a spectral analyser which only measures the conflicting frequencies of the two channels, allowing you to visually see where the two channels are conflicting in a purely mathematical sense. It's then up to you whether you decide to dip/boost conflicting frequencies and from which material. Also, iZotope has facilitated a handy feature to help this process along, the "inverse link." Which when switched in will apply an opposing boost or cut to the EQ parameters you set on the A/Bed material.
Overall I strongly advise trying this software and making up your own mind and whether it's suitable for your workflow. But for me, as you can see it's something that I believe will be adapted into my own and many others practices for some time to come.