We really do live in an age were plug-ins seem to grow on trees. Not a month goes by without another “must have” being released and the paypal account takes yet another heavy beating. iZotope is one of a few companies where, whatever they release, I am always tempted to insta-buy. They just always bring out really well thought-through tools and Neutron is no exception.
The USP of Neutron, or the way iZotope market it reads: “Achieve unprecedented focus and clarity in your mixes with Neutron. This new mixing plug-in combines the latest innovations in analysis and metering with award-winning audio processing.”
After watching all the videos and reading through their descriptions my first impression was, that this is a great tool for mixing music, especially with the “track-assistant” feature, which can look at different instrument tracks, like vocals, guitar, bass and drums. After analysing the audio signal, the EQ nodes are placed according to the previous scan which eliminates some of the EQ guess work. That’s obviously a nice feature but not really that relevant for my sound design purposes. I almost dismissed Neutron for the reason that I thought it’s rather a music tool than a sound effects one, but blimey was I wrong:
It wasn’t until I downloaded Neutron that I saw that all the functions inside Neutron come as their own separate modules as well. Those are the ones I want to focus my review on as I really think there are some absolute gems among them.
You probably ask yourself, “do I really need another compressor?” Let me put it this way, you’d definitely take it as part of the whole bundle, as it’s doing what it’s supposed to do (compress) and it also features three different bands with adjustable crossover points, so one can effectively compress three different bands in different intensities. Great for impacts where you just want to compress the bass and don’t want to effect mid- and high frequencies.
You probably ask yourself, “do I really need another EQ?” If you’re missing an active EQ in your current collection, you probably want to pay close attention to the Neutron Equalizer as well. Apart from the fact that it’s a perfectly clinical EQ (High cut down up to 48db band shape) it also lets you set a threshold for every EQ node, so the processing just starts when a certain threshold is reached. Perfect for gun shots where you just want to take a little bit of the harshness away once you put them through your “biganizing™ chain” (intellectual property of David Farmer and Charles Deenen).
This module contains yet again three bands which can be adjusted separately from each other. What I like about it is the little crossfade section where you can blend between retro, tape, warm and tube characteristics. It’s nice to see they have also included a mix parameter, so one can dial in just a small amount of processing to “excite” your audio.
The transient shaper had the biggest impact on me (no pun intended). It impressed me so much I use it in almost every single high-impact BOOM Library sound at the moment. Three bands, separate control over attack and sustain, wet/dry adjustment and a built-in analyser graph which visually represents the changes you are making. Here’s a workflow I currently use a lot for my cinematic sound effects or anything else which requires a big and heavy initial impact. I spot in a gun-shot or cannon sound effect from Soundminer and put it on one of my design tracks. I start with the low band, adjust the attack gain to taste and decide which slope I want to use. I also have a look at the sustain, especially in the low band as I don’t want the bass tail to “ring out” for too long. Then I start on the middle band and adjust it to taste again. I usually try and stay away from using the high band too much as I don’t want my sound to get too harsh in the end. Have a listen to the video and judge yourself.
As you can see from my review I didn’t exactly use Neutron as an intended “one-plug-in-mixes-all” solution. Although it does that job as well (very well indeed actually) I’d rather have full control over the different modules. The great thing about Neutron is, that in addition to the wholesale solution, it also gives you the freedom to use the standalone modules. I can highly recommend this bundle, biggest selling point for me is the Transient Shaper which allows me to really produce more impact in my layers while also controlling the sustain and other sensitive frequencies at the same time. Once again, job well done iZotope.