A couple of weeks ago Simon reported on the free iZotope Neutrino plug-in. You’d drop it into a channel, choose the type of sound material and it would create some magical space around it without you have to do the mixing thing. They are following that little nugget up with something more ambitious. The Neutron will identify the sound material, point out masked frequencies and suggest EQ and other channel strip settings in order to help you make the right mixing decisions. They stop short at calling it “auto-mixing” but that’s pretty much what it is.
Neutron – it’s not auto-mixing, honest.
It’s seems remarkable to me that with all the computing power we have and the amount of experience travelling through the circuits that someone hasn’t written an algorithm that can mix for you. The basic idea of getting different instruments and sounds to sit right together, separated and clear can’t be that difficult to analyse. Recently we’ve seen the rise of automatic mastering. All DAWs seem to contain automatic tuning these days. I’m surprised we haven’t seen automatic mixing well before now.
But of course Neutron isn’t mixing for you. iZotope go to great lengths to emphasise that the plug-in is more like a helpful assistant. Yeah, one who annoyingly tells you all the right settings for everything before you’ve discovered them for yourself. They say it doesn’t make mixing decisions, it simply generates EQ nodes and compressor thresholds that you’d be an idiot not to use.
So what does it do exactly? It automatically detects instruments like vocals, guitar, drums etc. and then applies spectral shaping technology to provide subtle clarity and balance to each track. This is essentially what Neutrino, the free plug-in, was doing. Next it will recommend some starting points using the Track Assistant. This includes EQ nodes, compressor settings, saturation types and multi-band crossover points. It’s just a suggestion – you are still in control. It has a clever Making Meter which helps you identify sonic clashes and carve out space for different instruments. All of the 5 processes are built into a single channel strip for minimal CPU loading – they are expecting you to use it on everything. The advanced version also supports surround and you can use the 5 processes as individual plug-ins.
So it’s not really auto-mixing it’s just giving you a helping hand.
Auto-mixing for everyone
This is going to be the next big thing. It’ll turn up in everything like pitch correction has. There will be uproar in the pro audio community as they find their skills replaced by a plug-in. Much like what the mastering community is trying to fight off at the moment. But of course no plug-in can replicate the creativity of a human, of real ears and real experience. I wonder how long it will be until we can’t really tell the difference? Lots of room for angry comments there!
iZotope Neutron Mixing Console will be available from the 5th October for a special price of £149. The advanced version will go for £219 until the end of the month. But perhaps the better deal is the iZotope Music Production Bundle 2 which is on a special deal of £369. It contains the advanced version of Neutron plus Ozone 7 Advanced, VocalSynth, Nectar 2 Production Suite, Trash 2, RX Plug-in Pack and the Insight Metering Suite. That’s around £1500 worth of software – that’s a fabulous deal.
More information on the Time and Space website.