Izotope Alloy ($249 MSRP, $199 street)
Platforms:Windows (XP, x64, Vista, 7),
Mac OS X 10.4 or later (Universal Binary)
Formats: VST, Audio Units, DirectX, MAS
PC, Pro Tools 7+ (RTAS/AudioSuite)
This is one of those products where you want to include a dozen screen shots; we’ll settle for showing
a Macro page.
iZotope’s Ozone has been a favorite
among project mastering engineers, but
as DAWs started using more powerful
computers, people started using this
suite of software processors as a channel
strip. Which is cool, except that’s not
what it was designed for, and it’s not
exactly light on your CPU.
So iZotope added some
features, removed others,
put it on a CPU diet, and
voilà—Alloy, your new best
friend channel strip.
Alloy has eight processors
that connect in series:
EQ, Exciter, multiband Transient Shaper,
two Dynamics processing stages (which
can work in parallel), De-Esser, Phase
Tools, and Limiter. What’s more, you can
put these in any order. It also has a
bunch of presets; these include an extra,
way-cool feature called “MacroFaders.”
When you call up a preset and click on the Macro button, you’ll see a mini-user
interface incorporating multiple modules,
with controls for the most crucial
parameters. Some faders even control
multiple parameters to produce a particular
Now let’s check out the highlights
of individual modules.
This 8-band EQ has the expected features—
choice of filter response,
boost/cut, etc. What keeps it from
being boring is the excellent spectrum
analyzer display, with my favorite feature
being the option to average the
response from real time to infinite. This
gives a really good indication if there
are frequency response anomalies
(e.g., room resonances) that might not
be discernible with a realtime display.
It’s easy to go for fine-resolution
curves, as you can change the x-axis
amplitude readout from +5dB to
+15dB. Furthermore, you can even
throw in saturation, and “audition” part
of the spectrum without actually having
to change EQ settings.
Speaking of spectrum analysis,
Alloy can show a “mini-spectrum” as
part of every effect display (other than
limiting, which has its own, more
appropriate display). However, the
spectrum options are global, so you
can’t see a different resolution with
one effect compared to another.
The meters can read the overall input
and output, or the signal going into
and coming out of individual modules.
Meter resolution is editable, too.
This is one of those effects you didn’t
realize how badly you needed it until
you have it. What it can do with drums
is mind-boggling: Sharpen the lowermid
kick beater click, while adding
body to the kick’s bass range via sustain.
You can also do the reverse, and
soften percussion transients on signals
like synth bass if it’s too “aggressive.”
You’ll love this module.
By the way, the “multiband” aspect of
all multiband modules is optional—you can
remove bands to have a one- or two-band
processor, or go for the full three bands.
Here’s another winner. It combines
parts of Ozone’s Harmonic Exciter and
Multiband Stereo Imaging, but folds in
a variable distortion/enhancement
algorithm controlled by a virtual x-y
controller, allowing you to customize
the harmonic distribution. The spectrum
display really comes in handy for
seeing how the bands are affected;
each band also has a width control, but
this can narrow as well as widen. I use
narrowing a lot in the bass range to
pull the bass toward the center.
There are two dynamics sections, each
with a Gate/Expander and Compressor,
that you can place anywhere in the
signal chain; this is good news for
those who prefer using two gentle
compressors instead of a more drastic
single stage. Otherwise, the parameters
are pretty much what you’d expect
to find in a dynamics processor—ratio,
attack, release, knee, auto gain, threshold,
etc.—with the exception of “Vintage”
mode, which adds character and
some program-dependent characteristics
compared to the “Digital” mode.
One limitation: The number of
bands you choose applies to both sections,
but that’s because you can put
the two compressors in parallel—yes,
parallel compression within a single,
Okay, it’s a de-esser, but I’ve also used it
to rid of an annoying percussion sound
in an otherwise really good drum loop.
It also has a multiband/broadband
option, which basically means it can
affect only a particular frequency range,
or changes in that frequency range can
apply to the entire signal.
This is like the one in Ozone, without
the “intelligent” mode to eliminate
inter-sample distortion. Why? Because
with almost all DAWs, individual channels
have gobs of headroom, whereas
a master out that feeds a hardware
output does not. The Phase Tools section
hangs out with the Limiter section,
and lets you flip phase on
individual channels or both channels,
as well as “rotate” phase to correct for
asymmetries. This section can also
filter DC offset.
There’s plenty more, like multiband
sidechaining support (really) from
other tracks for the Dynamics section.
Or try “crosschaining,” which
filters out part of the input being
processed through the dynamics
stage for use as the control signal.
Parameter automation? Yup. And the
user interface is outstanding, with
clean, readable controls and readouts,
as well as a sweet graphic look and
These days, quality plug-ins are the
norm rather than the exception, so
you might not think you need Alloy.
But for all-around native processing,
Alloy is the channel strip to beat. It
does everything you want, but what
makes Alloy unique is that it does a
whole lot more you didn’t know you
wanted. Download the demo, and
you’ll be convinced.
TIP: THE MAGIC OF THE MUTE
Don’t try to mix your way out of a cluttered arrangement—enable automation for the mute button, then mute anything
that doesn’t contribute to a cohesive mix.
TIP: DO YOU REALLY NEED TO WATCH?
If you have a good control surface, turn off your monitor screen, and mix with your ears. This isn’t just about “don’t
mix with your eyes;” dividing your concentration between two different senses diminishes each of them.