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How To: iZotope Neutron 3’s Mix Assistant, Visual Mixer and Balance Assistant

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How To: iZotope Neutron 3’s Mix Assistant, Visual Mixer and Balance Assistant

Coming from forward-looking software developer iZotope, Neutron is a complete mixing package assisted by artificial intelligence. Similar to iZotope’s Ozone package for mastering, Neutron offers seven processors: Two types of Compressor, EQ, Exciter, Gate, Transient Shaper, and the new Sculptor module, making it, at heart a mixing toolbox.

But Neutron is more than just a great channel strip – it’s also a powerful software package assisted by artificial intelligence, with the ability to analyze every element in your mix, suggest starting points for mixing setups, and control the overall panning, gain and width of each track from a single plugin.

Version 3 introduces new ways to auto-mix with Balance Assistant, and the new Sculptor module, which makes a track sound “more like itself”. Here we’ll illuminate some of Neutron’s most crucial features: Track Enhance, Balance Assistant and the Visual Mixer. 

These features all apply to the Advanced version of the Neutron 3 package, whereas the Visual Mixer is also available in the Standard package. All seven processors are available from the one plugin within Neutron Elements, only without the artificial assistance or visual mixer technology.

Neutron 3’s Inter-Plugin Communication means that you get the best out of it when it’s placed on every single channel of your mix. This lets one instance of Neutron command all others, listening and making adjustments to its modules based on everything it heard from your entire mix – not just based on what’s going through one channel.

If you’ve got channels that you want Neutron 3 to hear but not to process, you can also insert a Relay plugin (which installs alongside Neutron 3) to let Neutron listen to a channel.

Mix Assistant: Track Enhance

With Neutrons and/or Relays inserted over all the mix channels, open one instance of Neutron, and select the Mix Assistant to go through the process of getting Neutron to create its own starting points.

Neutron now offers to assist with either Balance or Track Enhancement. Balance will listen to your entire track and start altering gain levels, putting you at a better starting point for the actual mix. We’ll get to the Balance function later, but for now, we’ll call up Track Enhance.

In the next dialog, you can select the type of instrument on the channel (although Neutron will do a good job of detecting this for you itself), and select a Style – Warm, Balanced or Upfront – and a processing Intensity – Low, Medium or High.

Select the Style and Intensity based on the instrument’s role in your mix: is it a background element or a foreground one? Does it take up too much space? Does the sound need sculpting or does it already seem appropriate in energy levels and balance?

Neutron 3 will then ask that you play your DAW session, and will take some time to ‘listen’ to what’s going on. In the background, it’s deciding which effects modules to load over the channel in order to affect its signal.

After a number of seconds, the process should be over.

After working it out, Mix Assistant has placed a Sculptor, a slight EQ curve, a broadband Exciter and Two compressors over our bass sound. These processors are all doing pretty light work, as Neutron has identified that the bass sound fits fairly well already.

Balance Assistant

Balance Assistant, an entirely new tool for version 3 of Neutron, is where the software’s talents really make it to the forefront. With another click of the Mix Assistant button from any one instance of Neutron, just play it your entire track from start to finish, and plugin will intelligently adjust the output levels of every single Neutron or Relay plugin in your entire mix.

By selecting the Mix Assistant’s Balance option, you’ll arrive at a list of the Neutron and Relay instance that we put onto each channel of the project earlier. 

Use the tickboxes to select which elements you want to be balanced, and choose to star any tracks to denote them as the project’s ‘focus’. This could be a vocal or a kick drum, for example – anything that will take precedence over other elements.

Neutron now requests that you play back your track from start to finish, so it can judge the levels throughout. If you don’t play the entire track at this point, Neutron might miss any changes through the arrangement and set the levels in the wrong fashion.

When your track has finished playing through, click Go To Results and you’ll be shown the adjustments that Neutron has made to all Neutron or Relay instances in your project. You can listen back and re-level these changes – which are grouped by percussive, musical, bass, percussion and Focus categories – to make broad tweaks at this point.

Visual Mixer

Visual Mixer is a separate plugin that installs with Neutron 3, and is available in both the Standard an Advanced versions of Neutron 3. This plugin can be placed on any channel, as it doesn’t change the sound directly – instead, it offers control over the output parameters of the various Neutron and Relay instances within an entire DAW project.

It’s helpful at this point to rename the name given to each channel within each instance of Neutron so that it will appear with its name in whichever other instance you’re using to control everything. 

With the balancing performed, we can insert a Visual Mixer plugin over any channel in the mix. When you open up that plugin, you’ll see your tracks arrange as pucks on a two-dimensional surface. Their height represents their fader level; their left/right position reflects their panning.

By dragging one of our mix elements up, we can increase its gain. What’s actually happening when we do this? In that channel’s Neutron or Relay plugin, the output level fader is being adjusted. The Visual Mixer is just a very convenient way of doing this for all tracks at once and makes a good rival to your DAW’s mixer and its faders.

You can also increase the stereo width of any Neutron or Relay’s output, widening the stereo impression of that instrument, by widening the handles of that channel’s puck. Again, this is reflected in the actual plugin instance.

Using the channels list on the right-hand side of the Visual Mixer, you can select to show or hide individual elements on the mix, in order to be able to move and monitor other mix elements more effectively. 

The Visual Mixer also offers a place to pan individual channels, dragging them left and right to move them around the stereo field. 

In the top-right, you can save up to three Snapshots of each mix, enabling you to switch between entirely different setups at the touch of a button to compare.

Try before you buy

Download Neutron 3 Advanced trial version for free!

Other iZotope products