New Gear/New Toy Review: iZotope Nectar 3

Nectar 3 is a complete suite of easy-to-use audio tools that includes a built-in Vocal Assistant and is bundled with RX 7 Breath Control. It's one of three new plug-in/bundles from iZotope; the other two soon to be reviewed here are the Vocal Chain Bundle and an updated Music Production Bundle. iZotope Nectar 3 maybe the ultimate track and vocal processor plug-in--especially for fixing problematic vocal recordings or experimenting with elaborate and complicated effect chains.

I'm just starting to use and understand its full potential in my Pro Tools music mixing sessions.

Nectar 3 has 10 easy-to-setup processors available that starts with Melodyne 4 Essential pitch correction module locked in the first position of the processing chain. After Melodyne you can place any of the nine other processor modules in any order including two instances of a redesigned EQ module that supports up to 24 bands of EQ. The EQ has Analog, Baxandall, Resonant and Vintage style/curves with any of the 24 bands switchable between bell, low or high shelves, and low and high pass shapes. You may use all nine processors and rearrange their order by drag n' drop--already deployed processors in the chain are "gray-out" in the pull-down menu.

Most interesting to me is the ability of either EQ to switch to a simplified dynamic EQ mode where any selected band of frequencies will compress downward as they become louder. Clicking on the "Freq" button and the equalizer section changes to a "Follow" EQ mode where it tracks the vocal's changing pitch and harmonics to apply however you have the equalizer set. With 24 bands possible, I found taking care of resonant peaks or stridently sung moments well handled by this equalizer in dynamic mode. I can brighten a vocal to any amount for most of a vocal performance but when the singer got overly loud by pushing out certain notes exacerbated by my added EQ, I could selectively lower them in a musical way. This sounds better than just "squashing" the overall vocal track and is faster than to manually automate those louder sections.

Vocal Assistant

It is interesting to use Vocal Assistant and there is a bit of learning curve for setting it up effectively. Vocal Assistant has two automatic analysis utilities that use machine learning to derive starting presets for vocal tracks. In addition, I liked that it has a list of cleanup presets for fixing typical problematic vocal and dialogue recordings as well as musical instruments. Time-consuming fixes like: improving boxy vocals, wild dynamics, easy enhancer, smoothing harshness or reducing muddiness, hiss and rumble are all addressed here.

Like iZotope's Neutron plug-in, Vocal Assistant has an Assist subpage that will "carve" the vocal according to one of three, user-settable "Vibes" preferences with Vintage, Modern and for voice-overs, there is Dialogue. You then would select "Intensity" with Light, Moderate, Aggressive characters. After allowing the software to sample a short section of the vocal track, Assist inserts processor sections with settings based upon the vocal content, voice register, subtractive EQ to increase clarity, a de-esser if necessary, and dynamic control. Vocal Assistant finishes with adding a subtle reverb.

The Unmask page has these same choices as the Assist page (although you can set them differently) and takes a look as competing frequencies from other elements in your mix that you select from a pull-down list. You may select the whole mix, an instrument or vocal track that maybe masking the clarity of your vocal track. It automatically adds or subtracts those frequencies from the vocal track--again all subject to your personal modification afterwards. Nectar 3 has the ability to connect to compatible iZotope plug-ins across your mix using the included Relay utility.

Lastly Nectar 3 has Auto Level Mode that adjusts or "rides" vocal tracks in real-time. Like real-time normalization, ALM offers a good start towards placing vocal tracks within your mixes perfectly

iZotope Nectar 3 is a great all-around system for music songwriters, producers, and engineers--any one concerned with getting solid vocal performances recorded and mixed. It automates otherwise tedious work in your DAW that are always subject to your overview and I can easily recommend it to all! It sells for $199 MSRP.


Barry Rudolph is a recording engineer/mixer who has worked on over 30 gold and platinum records. He has recorded and/or mixed Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hall & Oates, Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, the Corrs and more. Barry has his own futuristic music mixing facility and loves teaching audio engineering at Musician’s Institute, Hollywood, CA. He is a lifetime Grammy-voting member of NARAS and a contributing editor for Mix Magazine. barryrudolph.com