Welcome to a new edition of This Thing Rules! This time we’ll be taking a quick look at iZotope’s Neutron… One of many pieces of software I’ve been meaning to review for some time now.
Before we get into the actual review, or even check out the demo, I wanted to give you a little back-story. I was recently looking for a certain older track I needed to go back to and edit for a project, and in the process, I found a remix I had started of my own song “Into The Black” from An Unseen Sky. On the companion album, Another Sky I did my first ever remix of my own work, “Forgotten (I Almost Remember Remix).” But I had completely forgotten (get it) that before creating that remix, I had already started on a remix for “Into The Black.” So when I found it just recently, it was a total surprise… And especially a surprise because it was pretty good! Then I had the idea of using it as the demo for iZotope’s Neutron mixing plugin, since it’s not an instrument and is something that needs to be added in the mixing phase, and voila! We’ve got ourselves a new This Thing Rules blog and demo! Here’s the track, “Into The Black (Undiscovered Remix).”
I’d imagine for those of you who actually listen to my albums, that was a pretty cool thing to hear. I know it was for me haha… A long lost remix of one of my more popular older tracks.
So since Neutron is a mixing plugin, we’re not going to go into the creation of the song much, except to say that when I first started the original version of “Into The Black,” it actually started life as a demo for iZotope’s Breaktweaker drum synth. Pretty cool how it’s all come around.
Every DAW comes with a suite of effects for mixing, and if you’ve been making music for a while, you no doubt have a ton of other software that you’ve added to your arsenal over time… Maybe even some of it from iZotope themselves… So why would you want yet another option? Well the promise of Neutron is basically a virtual mixing assistant. The real question is whether or not that virtual assistant works… The answer? Well, I’m not 100% sure yet.
At its core, Neutron is a plugin you can add to an instrument track or a bus and then click a button to make it start “listening” to your music. It will then decide what kind of instrument or music is being played and what should be done to make it sound its best and fit better into the rest of the mix. Surprisingly, it usually not only gets its right, but has some rather impressive results. There are times where it’s way off base, but for the most part, it’s really on point.
Now, that doesn’t mean it’s time to quit your music production school just yet. While some people may look at this as a way of lazily letting the computer do all the work, that’s not at all how I see it. For me, it’s more of a great starting point. Like any preset in a synth, this is like a preset for mixing. Sure, experience might be able to tell me to cut certain frequencies on a guitar with EQ or add some compression on a kick drum… But this is progress and technology creating a new way of doing things, and doing them faster. Not only that, but in my mind, you’re getting the most out of Neutron if you don’t just settle for what it decides to do.
Using Neutron’s decisions as a starting point can be incredibly helpful. Not just in the process of making your music sound its best, but in teaching you where you should be looking to do it yourself. EQ is EQ no matter what software you’re using, and if Neutron decides to adjust your piano in a way that ends up being a really good idea… You’re going to look and say “Oh… THAT’S how you make it sound like that” and remember it for next time whether you’re using Neutron next time or not. And of course, anything Neutron does, you can then adjust from there all within the software with a full featured set of tools.
Now like I said towards the beginning… I’m not quite 100% sure yet whether Neutron as an idea completely works. Partially, that’s because I’m not the best mixer in the world (or composer or masterer or player for that matter, but that’s another story haha)! But even without the wild virtual assistant options, just as a mixing tool, it’s quite full featured and can get you great manual results. What I can tell you for sure though, is that Neutron’s tricks are impressive and I believe definitely a sign of things to come in the future.
Neutron is available from iZotope for $249 and an advanced version that lets you break out each of the separate Equalizer, Compressor, Transient Shaper and Exciter effects as their own plug-ins is available for $349.
David Rosen is an award-winning music composer. He composes original music for films, commercials, jingles, video-games and all other kinds of media projects. He has a vast music library of original tracks available for licensing and is also available for custom compositions. Contact him on theABOUT page for pricing and availability for your next project.