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iZotope Ozone 5 Review

Brandon Drury —  August 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

iZotope Ozone 5

Right out the gate here I want to say that when focusing on any one, critical element in Ozone 5 (such as the brickwall limiter), it almost always does just as well as some $200-300 counterpart.  Each portion of Ozone 5 is in A-list territory.  The “bulk” nature of this thing makes it easy to expect some quality cutting.  I simply did not find that with Ozone.  A person can find most of these tools individually online, but that person will pay the $200 for each individual plugin and  I’d be quite surprised if any of these individual plugins were objectively better than what you’d find in Ozone 5.

Easy To Miss 80%

The bulk nature of Ozone 5 also makes it easy to miss many of the features going on under the hood.  I’ve put off doing this review simply because there are WAYY too many features for me to cover or even entirely understand….possibly ever.  With months of it under my belt I finally feel qualified to have an opinion.

I like to dive in with a plugin without paying much attention to manual first.  This works well with many tools.  When this doesn’t work well I gladly concede defeat and bury my face into a PDF.  With Ozone 5 I recommend not even fighting this one.

This isn’t an issue of “complexity”.  It’s simply that iZotope has made Ozone comprehensive.  They’ve jammed a whole bunch of solutions to your problems in there and if you aren’t aware of some of the nooks and crannies, you are only cheating yourself.  Opening that manual does sting the pride a bit..  SMILEY

The Price

At < $250 street  for the standard version, picking up Ozone 5 is a no brainer.  The Brickwall Limiter is easily worth that.  The Multi-band Imager is worth $200 and the Multi-band Exciter is worth $200, too.

For Mastering Or Not?

Mastering is a BS buzzword for most.  The audio processes included in Ozone 5 are just as relevant on individual tracks as they are on the 2bus or on a rendered mix.  The fact that the Advanced version allows for use of individual “modules” is evidence of that.

Individual modules appear to only be available for the Advanced version, unfortunately, which costs quite a bit more.

What I Love  – The Short Version

Brickwall Limiter
There are a ton of options in the brickwall limiter that don’t really turn my crank, but once I found the settings that worked for me (IRC II in “Clip” mode) I found it to be a prime time brickwall limiter just as good as anything out there.  The only reason I may prefer another limiter would be due to a specific feature.  The Transient Recovery thing is darker version of a similar feature in the Slate FG-X that, in some ways, has more of a “New York Parallel Compression” sound to it just a bit while the Slate FG-X allows adjustment of the top of the bottom.

Imager
I absolutely love the Imager.  I find myself using it all the time.  The fact that it’s full-multiband is a huge help as I almost never want anything under 200Hz widened, but the top end is something I need pulled from the center quite often.

The “Stereoize” button for mono tracks was a HUGE help when I was stuck with a fun mono synth tracks.  Even extreme settings in the Imager appear to be mono compatible.

Compressor
The built-in compressor starts out as a 4-band multiband compressor (with separate compression and limiter for each band….pretty cool).  As a multi-band compressor it’s great.   What I found is the compressor, when set to a single band, is freakin’ GREAT on drums.  I LOVE it on drum bus.  If they’d sell this compressor for $100, people would be raving about it on drum bus.  It adds that thuuuuuWHACK that I have trouble getting with my UAD stuff.

For the hyper-surgery limiting it would have been nice if I could have used narrower bands.  I’m not complaining, necessarily, but random peaks at X frequency of the high Q (narrow) variety are something I wish i could contain more with the multi-band.  I was kinda surprised that this compressor is quite similar to the UAD Precision Multi-band (which I use all the time) in that it’s a hair old school in being a “conventional” multi-band compressor.  I was hoping iZotope would be a hair more on the cutting edge side of the fence with this one.  This doesn’t make the multi-band compressor bad, it just means it’s fairly typical.

Spectrograph
I’m using my eyes a lot more as that’s how my brain likes it.  When [URL="http://www.voxengo.com/product/span/"]SPAN[/URL]  (free VST) doesn’t give me any clues, I’ve found that the Spectrograph has been  HUGE help.  I believe it’s only available in the MUCH more expensive version of Ozone.   It it were me, I’d run out and find a spectrograph NOW.   Highly useful!

I was particularly impressed with the Meter Taps feature.  I tossed on a Meter Taps plugin instance on anything that I thought I’d need to see in the Spectrograph.  Even with Ozone 5 on the 2bus I was able to click on “bass”, for example, and see what just my bass track was doing.  I could also do things like look at both bass and kick together with individual colors for both.  This kind of visual was VERY useful for pinning down problems my ears were hearing an issue but didn’t necessarily know how to solve.

I should have bought a spectrograph years ago.

Alt-Click Alternative to Sweeping
The ability to solo a frequency band is an interesting alternative to the Sweep Technique I’m so huge on.  This represents the kind of forward-thinking I respect so much in iZotope.  I wish more companies were interested in new features like this as opposed to making 1176 clone #52335.

M/S Processing
I really liked Ozone 5.  Then I took a few hours and read the manual while taking notes.  When I realized that most features had a standard mode AND THEN a mid-side mode I fell in love with it.  I don’t get too wound up about “space ship” type crazy features most of the time, but what I do love is when a company has put a lot of work into making March 23, 2014 a lot easier for me.  What’s happening that day?  Not sure, but I’ve got a feeling it’ll be a pain in the ass and Ozone 5 already has features to help me deal with it.

What Was Handy?

Reverb
The built in Reverb doesn’t have the wow factor of my UAD EMT 140 or EMT 250.  However, it does have a thing it does very well.  I’ve never gotten into the 2bus reverb thing in the past, but I found I liked it.

Multi-band Exciter
The multi-band Exciter is another VERY fun tool in Ozone 5.  It’s easy to use too much.  I like that, but then I hate it.  I found myself using too much and then backing way off and not using enough.  It’s a tricky tool that I’d need to get used to.  Each mode sounds completely different which I highly appreciate.

There are a handful of modes that obviously do different things.  Each mode has enough character that they can solve different problems and are even bold enough to cause a few.  I dig that very much.  ;)

EQ Matching

You may remember products like Har-bal and such that promise to let you match pro mixes via EQ.  I found these to cause more problems than they helped.  If you’ve got a Zach Galafanakis mix, it’s sometimes better to leave it as Zach Galafanakis.  Forcing that mix into a Van Wilder-guy mix isn’t always the best route.

I found the EQ matching thing helpful.   It’s an interesting clue for what your mix may need.  In the manual they tell you right off the bat that this thing, by definition, can’t be perfect in many cases.  As expected, Mr. Matcher, reminded me of my tendency to mix with a bit too much 5k.

I’m glad the feature is there, but it’s not something I’m going ot use every month.   I find it a better research tool than anything….which is just as important as prime time work.

MID Side Meter
This is something I’ve wanted for a while and now I’m glad I have.  I need to put it through its paces.  The theory is there is a ratio of mid-level to side-level that is ideal.  Too much of either and you’ve got a problem.  I’ll have to get back to you on this one.  The good news is I was looking for one when the theory was presented in our home recording forum.Now I have it.

EQ Clean / Vintage Modes
The EQ has two different modes that definitely do sound different.  One is intended to be 100% clean and this EQ I found to be comparable to just about every other clean style EQ.  (By definition if done right it shouldn’t stand out.)  The Vintage EQ has a thing.  I seldom get wound up about EQ one way or another, but the Vintage Mode definitely has a sound worth looking into.

Down Sides

CPU Usage
Ozone 5 makes no bones about it.  They are chewing through some serious 2 plus 2 with each and every module.  For guys who aren’t on Quad core processors yet this could be an issue if wanted to use Ozone as you mix (which is the only way I roll anymore. On my AMD 1090T 6-core I usually had no trouble with CPU power unless I had a VERY crazy mix.  I’d expect Intel users with a Quad core will be in a similar boat.

You can turn on only the modules you need and that does seem to help when using multiple instances of Ozone 5, however, it’s clear that they didn’t intend for users to slap it on 19 channels when they designed it.  I’d check out iZoptope Alloy for that (which I consider a home run product….see my review here. )

High Latency
The other pain in the neck with Ozone 5 is its plugins are relatively high in latency.  This is a problem anytime I switch from direct monitoring to monitoring within Cubase like when using soft synths or guitar emulators.  I like to have a brickwall limiter on even when tracking but too often I had to remove the Ozone 5 brickwall limiter during this phase.  A huge issue?  Not really.  An annoyance that distracted me from my work a few times?  Yes.

Bottom Line

Every single feature in Ozone 5 has been incredibly thought out by forward-thinking dudes.  Most of us are conditioned to like the look of Pultec or 1176s when choosing audio gear, but in blind tests Ozone 5 holds up VERY well.  I imagine a cool, black actor with a gun and a badass hair cut and jacket saying, “I’ll take the f’ing Pepsi challenge, mo fo.”  :D

If they offered a vintage “skin” (much like the Zebra 2 synth does) that looked like something from an Apollo Program control room, I’ve got a feeling these products would gain tremendous popularity in the “serious audio” community where eyes could very well be more important than ears.

It’s hard NOT to somehow think the tool you are using isn’t quite as good because the GUI looks incapable of “magic”.  It doesn’t take much experimentation to conclude that there ISN’T any magic in most plugins and even hardware boxes.

For those who aren’t afraid of black cats or walking under ladders, Ozone 5 is a winner that will help you become a better engineer.  It has more tools than you will conquer this month.  For me, that’s a huge strength.  Some will see it as a downfall, unfortunately.  This thing is NOT Waves “One Knob”, fortunately.

By definition, most of the Ozone 5’s intended tasks are not intended to be absurd.  There are no Decapitator-like sounds in Ozone 5.  That’s not really what it’s doing.  I don’t expect to do my first backflip for a clean EQ any time soon.  In most cases what you are paying for is highly thought out features that allow you access to the heart of problems quickly and easily.  THAT is what Ozone 5 does extremely well.

Is An Upgrade Required?
As a first major plugin upgrade, Ozone 5 gives you plethora of features (some of them highly advanced) that are a very big deal.  For a guy who already has a slew of UAD or Waves plugins….this gets a hair tricky.  I don’t have any tools in my UAD plugins collection that offer anywhere near the Mid-side processing in Ozone 5 and I’ve got $3k wrapped up in my UAD toys.  The Imager and Exciter do things that none of my UAD plugins do, particularly when you factor in Multi-band capability.  UAD is looking backward with their tools and I consider iZotope line to be more on the forward-thinking side of the fence.

It comes down to whether a person needs a multi-band exciter, multi-band imager, and things of that sort.  For me that answer is yes.  I probably use them more on individual tracks than on the entire mix, but I can’t think of a better and less expensive way of getting those than with Ozone 5 at the moment.  The fact that the brickwall limiter and multi-band compressor are right on par with the other prime time plugins at the price of most competing brickwall limiters makes the iZotope Ozone 5 about as good of value as you are going to find…particularly for anyone who doesn’t already have 5 other expensive brickwall limiters.

Brandon

Saved Comments


shackman – 08-14-2012, 08:56 AM
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Reading this made me wonder about something. You say you never got the 2 bus reverb thing. Nor did I. But as I read that, I ralised that in mixing, I DO something similar to a 2-bus reverb.

I usually (90 % of the time) place an extra aux bus on my mix and choose one of about 3 of my favourite reverbs on it and call it “The Room”.

Then, no matter what other verbs/delays/FX have been added to individual tracks, I bleed small low level feeds into the aux from MOST on the tracks in the mix.

I find, if done right, it just adds a little sheen, to the mix and I like to think that’s because almost everything on the mix is “in the same room” via that aux bus.

So why dion’t I just put that verb on the 2-bus?

Don’t know. But maybe I’ll try it.

In guess I answer my own question – because almost everything BUT NOT VOX, not fill guitars or lead guitars, go on there.

Nice review. Too many pennies!

m24p’s Avatar
m24p – 08-14-2012, 09:24 AM
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On reason I don’t like 2-bus reverb is you can’t vary the pre-delay times, panning, and level. Little tweaks to stuff like that keeps the reverb from just smearing the mix, IMO.

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garageband – 08-14-2012, 09:33 AM
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The best reviews are the ones where you get actual information about the care and feeding of a product. Even better are ones that give you actual insight into a product you are familiar with. So many reviews get stuck at the “This part was awesome, this part sucked, I wish it did this, though” level. Sure, that’s an element of successful criticism, but that should be just the beginning. The next is how it feels in your hands. Uh-oh. Already most are out of their depth here. The last one is how it might fit into the broadest context and how your brain understands the nature of the thing and how it fits into the overall sense of its employment.

Most stop at the first step due to some sort of misplaced value on objectivity. Hey, I can get objectivity reading the manual and have no use for reviews that stop there. Historically, this where most magazine gear reviews live. Tell about how it makes your eyes water, reminds you of My Little Pony or inspires you to either take a nap or duck into the nearest phone booth, donning your cape and leotard. Even better if you realize squares may be more usefully conceived of as equilateral rectangles. That’s where a high-octane review should go.

I liked this one a lot.

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alexmcginness – 08-14-2012, 10:04 AM
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Liked the review. One thing stuck out though QUOTE:” EQ Matching
You may remember products like Har-bal and such that promise to let you match pro mixes via EQ. I found these to cause more problems than they helped. If you’ve got a Zach Galafanakis mix, it’s sometimes better to leave it as Zach Galafanakis. Forcing that mix into a Van Wilder-guy mix isn’t always the best route. ”

Its obvious you never learned to use Harbal. Most guys get on it, click on a few buttons and go “this sucks” as they never “get” its primary function. Sad. Im definately gonna try Ozone for the plugin part of it.
Thanks for the review.

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shackman – 08-14-2012, 10:38 AM
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“EQ Matching
You may remember products like Har-bal and such that promise to let you match pro mixes via EQ. I found these to cause more problems than they helped. If you’ve got a Zach Galafanakis mix, it’s sometimes better to leave it as Zach Galafanakis. Forcing that mix into a Van Wilder-guy mix isn’t always the best route.
I have EQ matching in my Melda Eq and it’s a Godsend. I agree with you about the failings of trying match a pro mix, but I never even considered that was what it was for.

My main use is this. Acoiustic guitar takes on day 1. Seem ok. Back to studio next day and whaddya know, there’s a bad patch in there.

I PROMISE that, even if you haven’t moved mics, changed levels, anything, when you retake that section the next day, you’ll be able to hear an audio difference between the two – don’t know why or how, but you will.

EQ matching is a Godsend. I get Melda to listen to the early takes and rwad the eq, then tell it to match the second takes to the first ones. And nine times out of ten, with a bit of tweaking, you’re there.

I think, Brandon, it’s sad that VST folks have to sell their gear on such silly notions as matching pro mixes, when a real useful use for a tool they’ve made is ignored.

Mind, it begs the question, as you did, about why this is marketed as a mastering tool. I’d never use EQ matchingf on the 2 bus.

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brandondrury – 08-14-2012, 01:24 PM
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Its obvious you never learned to use Harbal.
I never tried Harbal, actually. I did try the other brand. (I don’t remember the name.) I think my critique was with the promise these tools at least implied. If you make ‘em work, that’s great. The other brand didn’t for me and that could have very well been a skill / knowledge / execution issue.

Most guys get on it, click on a few buttons and go “this sucks” as they never “get” its primary function. Sad.
Again, I wish I knew the name of the other brand. I remember it being fully sold as an auto-matcher. The “auto” part indicates it should do its thing automatically and if an automatic tool requires a lot of work (work that I have better tools than 31-band EQs to solve) it isn’t really doing what is promised.

The problem is no everyone feels they were promised the same thing.

What I like about this similar feature in Ozone is they don’t make any huge promises. It’s a tool that has some great uses, however.

If you feel that Harbal really does deserve a thorough investment of my time I’m all in. I never like to judge a tool before I use it, but I was under the impression that Harbal and the other thing were the exact same. That mis perception is the real sad part.

I PROMISE that, even if you haven’t moved mics, changed levels, anything, when you retake that section the next day, you’ll be able to hear an audio difference between the two – don’t know why or how, but you will.

EQ matching is a Godsend. I get Melda to listen to the early takes and rwad the eq, then tell it to match the second takes to the first ones. And nine times out of ten, with a bit of tweaking, you’re there.
Awesome. Thanks of the info!!!

I think, Brandon, it’s sad that VST folks have to sell their gear on such silly notions as matching pro mixes, when a real useful use for a tool they’ve made is ignored.
To be honest, I never even thought off your “day matching” technique. I can think of less silly notions than dramatically improving my work.

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alexmcginness – 08-14-2012, 02:02 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by brandondrury View Post
I remember it being fully sold as an auto-matcher. The “auto” part indicates it should do its thing automatically and if an automatic tool requires a lot of work (work that I have better tools than 31-band EQs to solve) it isn’t really doing what is promised. The problem is no everyone feels they were promised the same thing.
What I like about this similar feature in Ozone is they don’t make any huge promises. It’s a tool that has some great uses, however.If you feel that Harbal really does deserve a thorough investment of my time I’m all in. I never like to judge a tool before I use it, but I was under the impression that Harbal and the other thing were the exact same. That mis perception is the real sad part.
The giant mis perception for most people with harbal is that its an automatic matching or that its supposed to “match” period. Its not. Its a mastering EQ and a dam good one. Take a pro track in the same genere as a refrence and yours into Harbal . Grab the parametric eq tool and place it in the middle of the screen left click and hold…then move the cursor to the right across the screen until it selects the whole wave. Position your wave on top of the refrence. Hit control + m to match the volume….Now…heres where you get harbal to perform it magic. You should be able to see if your track lacks or has too much bass or trebel by visually comparing your wave with the refrence wave. Lets say its not as bright as the refrence. Grab the high shelf cursor and select a point ( youll get to know where after some practice ) and lift the treble up. Now heres where you do youre “matching”. The whole idea of this amazing eq is to give you an instant comparrison between your track and the refrence by being able to hear, by “listening” to the playback of your track and the refrence, by hitting the toggle refrence button! “THAT IS THE MATCHING” you dont give it the exact same curve as the refrence by hitting the auto buttons! Sometimes the curve may be very different. The idea of this eq is to allow you to hear how your track would sit on the same CD with the refrence. When you get one of your tunes done, then that becomes the refrence for the rest of your project, and all the other songs youve recorded will spectrally sit well on the same project, and be well in the ballpark with the big boys tunes. The only tools you need to master are Harbal and the slate digital FGX. The slate plug is far better than the dynamics processor in Har Bal. Harbal it first and then FGX it.

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earsnfingers – 08-14-2012, 02:41 PM
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I have Ozone 4 and I like it. and it’s strange that the price of 5 is close to what I paid for it. And many of the modules seem similar, though there are obvious benefits to going with 5. My finances will never allow me to get up to speed with the big boys, though. Even if I wasn’t happy with 4, I’m still stuck with it.

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byter – 08-14-2012, 07:14 PM
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For the hyper-surgery limiting it would have been nice if I could have used narrower bands.
Perhaps i don’t understand what your issue is but in Ozone, in all the multiband tools, you can change the bandwidth of each band by simply dragging the vertical line separating the bands. Same in Alloy. Good review BTW, and i too really like working with Ozone and Alloy.

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briguy1960 – 08-14-2012, 10:24 PM
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I bought four and jumped in on the early upgrade price to 5. Debated between 5 and 5 advanced, the differences are not huge and the price is a big difference but ultimately the extra features in advanced were too irresistible . Its replaced most of my waves stuff and no WUP. It IS a resource hog though although you can audiosuite tracks once they are done

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kakeux – 08-15-2012, 05:08 AM
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Nice review Brandon, makes me want to upgrade now

For the hyper-surgery limiting it would have been nice if I could have used narrower bands.
Ozone 4 allows to adjust the multiband by sliding the band delimiters. So that you can easily narrow bands. I bet it’s the same in 5.

brandondrury’s Avatar
brandondrury – 08-15-2012, 03:34 PM
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Perhaps i don’t understand what your issue is but in Ozone, in all the multiband tools, you can change the bandwidth of each band by simply dragging the vertical line separating the bands. Same in Alloy
I think we have different definitions for the word “narrow” in this case. Take a look at the Soniformer. I’ve not used it yet, but it appears to get DEVASTATINGLY narrow. This is what I’m looking for. I’d imagine a Q in the 100 ballpark, give or take. I could never get anywhere near that thin with Ozone.

Brandon

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dudermn – 08-16-2012, 08:15 PM
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If that green was replaced with a blue or an orange… I could understand the 200 plus dollars.

I have used specto-graphs for the past 2 years. Their pretty and they help keen in your ears….. Though last time I mentioned using those thingies I almost got lynched for mentioning it…..

Do not forget about those uv meters (winky face).

I tested out those Alloys as well. Glad to see you guys giving up on the waves monarchy !

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brandondrury – 08-20-2012, 03:33 PM
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Though last time I mentioned using those thingies I almost got lynched for mentioning it…..
Where did that happen?

Brandon

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Impulse921 – 08-24-2012, 09:40 AM
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Nice review, I’m excited for a good all in one plugin. I’d love to try it out but the plugin won’t open after being inserted on a track in Cubase LE 5 32 bit WinXP (Service pack 3). It displays some sort of Cubase error then messes up the whole project. Anyone else having that issue?

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brandondrury – 08-25-2012, 01:28 AM
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What error are you getting specifically?

Brandon

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Impulse921 – 08-29-2012, 02:53 PM
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Quote Originally Posted by brandondrury View Post
What error are you getting specifically?

Brandon
I just upgraded to Cubase 5 from LE 5 and now I get a runtime error. On LE 5 it was a different error. Now it will successfully open about 1 out 3 times and it definitely won’t open 2 instance of ozone at a time. Maybe my pc is lacking? 4 gb RAM and an Intel Quad Core 2.6 ghz but since it’s 32 bit I suppose it’s only using 2.75 gb of ram.

brandondrury’s Avatar
brandondrury – 09-07-2012, 11:43 PM
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I’d definitely try starting with a brand new Cubase project with your latency cranked up nicely (1024 samples or so) and then seeing how many instances of Ozone 5 you can get. Your rig is sufficient to run Ozone 5, but it will chew up a healthy dose of CPU power. It wasn’t designed to be nearly as efficient as Alloy.

The Runtime Error suggests problems beyond mere performance BUT overloading a recording computer is the best way to kill reliability.

Brandon

 

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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