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Advice For Mastering With Ozone 8?

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I long maintained a stance that I never wanted to master my own audio - learning composition, arrangement and mixing was enough and I wanted to trust others with a non-biased ear to handle it. Today is different as my music career has ventured into different directions than I had expected. I want to release a slatter of material and paying $100-$150 for mastering each release when I may never see $100-$150 come back for each release just isn't economically viable in the continued Pandemic age.

At that same time, I learned that newer versions of Ozone had "smart" or AI-directed mastering in it and one place had Ozone 8 standard for $50. So I bought it. A lot of audiophiles likely bristle at the idea of AI mastering instead of a trained ear, but I don't. I think modern AI auto options have come a long way and can get me where I'd really like to be here.

What I Want To Do:
I'm aware that a $50 program is not going to be the same quality as a 30 year trained professional charging $100 a song. For these types of releases, I don't really need THE best mastering audio quality, I just need the bare minimum of getting it to sound good enough.

1. Getting frequencies all "colored inside the lines" and not bleeding out or being too much, etc.

2. Getting frequencies and song volumes all consistent within the same album release.

3. Getting the bare minimum amount of clarity for the instruments and accompaniment (maybe related to item #1 above?).

What I'm trying to do is build myself a solid process for doing this like I have for my final mix-down and loop-point setting stuff so I know what to do and can just do it quick and efficiently. Again, this is just for "less significant" music tracks that I do - commissioned music and music that I think should have better mastering I'll still be trusting to professionals. This is a solution for me releasing other material that needs to be mastered but really just doesn't need/justify a busy expensive professional for that.

I've played around with it some, but I have not really achieved much yet as, obviously, I have some questions.

1. What things do I need to get and put in Ozone? For example, I know I'm missing a METERING plugin that I read is supposed to be what helps me gauge and get volume levels consistent. I have Zynaptiq Intensity that I have a reliable preset for and use on everything. What other essential components like a metering plugin should I look for?

2. How do I get stereo width consistent on all tracks? Is that what I use the "Imager" plugin in Ozone 8 for? How perfectly aligned does each track have to have its stereo image with each other to be acceptable?

3. I have reference tracks that I want my tracks to sound like when mastered. Does Ozone 8 automatically try to get my track to match the waves/levels of the reference track when I use the Master Assistant. Am I supposed to get the output waves to physically (as it appears on screen) to match the reference track waves?

4. This might be a dumb question, but it is If I get one of my tracks in Ozone 8 sounding the way I'm satisfied with, is it appropriate or stupid to try to save this as a preset to process all the other songs I want to put in as a means of getting consistency in the frequencies?

I might have other questions, but that's the main crux of it for now.

Answers I'm Not Looking For:
Almost every time I ask a question on an audio forum, if I get any responses at all, most of them are usually unhelpful and fall into these categories:

"Just use [some other program/service entirely] LOL"

"Just hire a professional to do it LOL"

"Just learn how [every single tiny component of art] and do it yourself. Learn how compression works. Learn how limiting works. Learn how [xxxx] works. Read books, take classes, listen to lectures, train your ears, spend 5 years and thousands of dollars to do something from scratch instead of however you're trying to do it. I'm telling you this because this is ironically the preset answer any "serious" audio person should answer your questions with because I can't be bothered to actually read the topic or assume you have ever considered such a basic concept before LOL"

"Ever heard of Google? LOL"

Please understand these responses are not helpful. I chose to do a form of audio mastering with this program for a specific purpose and for specific reasons, I'm not going to go with a completely different direction at this point. I have already used Google and I still have some questions. If you haven't used Ozone 8 Standard or know what I'm talking about, you don't need to respond.

Long post, very specific, but hopefully detailed enough that I have explained my context and my questions well enough. Thank you!

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Can’t go wrong with the Ozone Mastering Guide for an overall crash course in mastering (and specifically Ozone). It at least should answer some of your questions (and then some): http://downloads.izotope.com/guides/iZotopeMasteringGuide_MasteringWithOzone.pdf

Also, IMO there’s not really such a thing as a workable preset for mastering, as every track is different. Sure, you might use the same chain for all your tracks (but even that is debatable), but at least the settings for EQ, compression, limiter, multibands etc will be different across tracks. You’re aiming at getting consistent output but the input can vary wildly, especially if you do wildly different genres, like me. $0.02.

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I think some of your questions are actually not at all related to mastering in the slightest.

"1. Getting frequencies all "colored inside the lines" and not bleeding out or being too much, etc. "

That is mixing 101. Sure, some issues can be fixed in the context of mastering, but really this is on the mix to settle.

"2. Getting frequencies and song volumes all consistent within the same album release. "

No issues with that. Just lots of listening. You could use a LUFS meter to help you in setting the overall level of each track if you don't have a lot of experience controlling the dynamic ebb & flow of an album.

"3. Getting the bare minimum amount of clarity for the instruments and accompaniment (maybe related to item #1 above?)."

This again is a mixing question, and not a mastering question.

Primarily, mastering is a function of Quality Assurance and Quality Check. A lot of time is spent just making sure that there is nothing wrong with the original source file. Is the source in mono when it is supposed to be stereo? Does one side of the stereo track have its polarity reversed? This is why it is often better done by an unbiased fresh set of ears. Frankly, I gotta side with Jorito here. He is correct in that the actual processing is going to vary between individual tracks. Sure you can use the same tools for accomplishing the task, but really you gotta listen and make the appropriate decisions based on the individual track. Some may need nothing more than some limiting and others may warrant M/S EQ, two layers of compression, soft clipping, and a limiter to sound right.

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