How Do I Set Optimum Output Level When Mastering?

Hi folks

I’ve got a mastering plugin called Ozone iZotope. It has a function to normalise the audio output to an optimum level. What you do is play the song through it (or at least the highest level part) and specify the maximum output (say just below 0dB), then it adjusts (normalises) it’s input/output accordingly non-destructively. So the idea is you have that as the last piece in the chain and setup an ideal mix level.

Now I assumed I should just insert this plugin on the Stereo Out bus in Cubase 5, which I did. However I notice that the final output level of the track from the audio mixdown is determined by the Cubase Stereo Out fader level. So my iZotope mastering fader level is somewhat superfluous.

Am I doing something wrong? Is there a preferred way to set the final output level? Is there a way to get the final mix out to come from iZotope’s faders? Do you just have to set Cubase’s Stereo Out level to not go over 0dB?

Any help much appreciated. Cheers!

If I read you correctly then it sounds like you should set the master output fader on Cubase to the 0dB mark, that is hold Ctrl down and click on the fader and it’ll jump to the corret setting. Then use your mastering plugin to set the overall level.

Thanks for your reply Split. I have tried what you said previously, and yet I noticed that the red “CLIP” indication had been triggered sometimes. So this seems to suggest that whatever I set the mastering plugin level at, it may be increased by the Cubase master level, so my dilemma remains and I cannot be sure of the actual level I am outputting?

In the maximiser section in ozone check the ‘prevent inter sample clippping’ box, set the ‘margin’ to 0db and adjust the threshold to taste… don’t over do it though or you’ll sound like every crappy dance ‘choon’ that’s been peak limited to #@%$£!! i usually aim for about 1-2db gain reduction in the loudest parts.
Take some time to READ THE MANUAL too! Ozone is a pretty sophisticated piece of software and it takes a while to get your head around it properly… i LOVE it! the M/S EQ is fantastic! again takes a while to get your head round but the results can be quite spectacular!

Depending on the type of music you produce, many folks use a
‘brickwall’ limiter “LAST” in the chain.

By using this type of plug, nothing gets past a certain level.
You can get your music right up to ‘0’ and nothing will get past that point.

But like most things, there is a trade off.
As you approach that ‘0’ point, (and depending on the plug)
you will find that the sound starts to change.

This change can be good or not so good. Let your ears decide.

Many people find that this works great for some music. rock,hip,metal,dance etc.
Works poorly for other music. jazz,classical, dynamic speech etc


IIRC Cubase will trigger the clip light at 0dB so maybe try setting the peak level at the master limiter to just below 0dB, say… -0.2dB

It’s essential to insert the Ozone Plugin (Or any similar Dithering plug-in) in slot 8 of the Master output. This ensures it’s last in the chain and post-fader. “The reason is that any master gain change applied AFTER dithering would bring the signal back to the internal 32 FP, rendering the dithering useless.” (Manual P161).

Also it will help to set the max output in Ozone to say -0.5db and leave the Cubase master out set at 0db.

This is true, but if you leave the master fader at 0dB then unnecessary but probably best to get into the habit of using insert 7 or 8 for such things.