iZotope say that Neutron not only has the processing power to address all sorts of mixing issues, but the intelligence to help you identify them.
For a while now, the bundled plug-ins in most mainstream DAWs have provided ample bread-and-butter processing facilities, so a lot of third-party plug-in manufacturers are focusing their development efforts on products that offer a time-saving advantage — for example, by creating ever more user-friendly metering and interfacing, or by working out ways to automate labour-intensive manual mixing tasks. The stir caused by iZotope at the Audio Engineering Society’s recent convention in Los Angeles provided further evidence for this trend, as most of the buzz about their Neutron plug-in launch centred not on the software’s audio-manipulation capabilities, but on two innovations aimed at speeding up the user’s workflow: a Masking Meter to help locate psychoacoustic frequency clashes between different instruments in your mix and, more intriguingly, a Track Assistant designed to custom-generate promising-sounding initial processing chains automatically in response to the characteristics of your source audio.
Since returning from the show, the question I’ve been peppered with most often (after “Where the hell have you been for the last week?!”) has been “Have you tried Neutron, and does it really work?” Well, I have now had the opportunity to give Neutron a thorough going-over, but I can’t really tell you whether it’ll meet your expectations without first explaining a bit more about the nuts and bolts of how it works...
At Neutron’s heart is a chain of five processing Modules: an Equalizer, two Compressors, an Exciter and a Transient Shaper. These can be dragged into any order you like, and the more expensive ‘advanced’ version of Neutron provides the individual modules as stand-alone plug-ins too, as well as featuring 7.1 surround-sound support. Presets are available both for the whole plug-in and for individual modules, and there’s a nifty Undo History window which lets you instantly compare up to four different custom settings.
The sheer range of audio-processing facilities on offer in Neutron can seem a bit daunting at first, so to start with let’s get our bearings by looking at each processing block’s self-contained features. The Equalizer offers 12 filters in total (high-pass, low-pass, high and low shelves, and eight peaking bands) with frequency control, a useful range of shapes/slopes and, in most cases, adjustable bandwidth. Most of the filter types can also be switched to dynamic compression/expansion operation, with per-band Threshold control.
All three of the other modules are three-band types, each with independent band-split frequencies. The two Compressor modules are identical, with traditional Threshold, Ratio, Attack, Release and Gain controls alongside plenty of more advanced extras. For example, the ratio has an adjustable soft knee and can be applied not only ‘top down’ (ie. squashing peaks), but also ‘bottom...
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