In multitrack recordings, the sounds of each track interact with the sounds of other tracks; in other words, hearing two tracks in combination is an entirely different experience than hearing each track individually. Here are just a few scenarios where that’s true:
The frequencies of a guitar overlaps with a background vocal, either complementing it or drowning it out entirely
In a room full of acoustic instruments, each instrument physically interacts with others. The sound from a violin resonates in the body of a nearby timpani
In an ensemble, each player responds to how the other players are playing
The push-and-pull between a drummer and a rhythm guitarist in a funk band forms the groove of a whole song
Since music is so interactive, it makes sense that plug-ins should be too, so that musicians and audio engineers can craft the best listening experiences possible. This one of the main reasons for developing inter-plugin communication at iZotope.
A Short History of Inter-plugin Communication at iZotope
At iZotope, we first dipped our toes into the inter-plugin communication waters with Ozone 5's Meter Bridge feature, which let you see a complete picture of your mix by placing "Meter Taps" on each of your tracks. These Meter Taps sent audio data to Ozone, where you could see a spectrogram representing how each track inhabited your frequency spectrum. Seeing this data from individual tracks side-by-side with information about your master track sought to help identify the origin of problems in the master. This suite of inter-plugin and master track metering features was later expanded into its own product, named Insight.
Inter-plugin communication took two major steps forward with the release of Neutron's Masking Meter: psychoacoustic analysis and inter-plugin control. Rather than simply displaying where frequencies overlap, the Masking Meter used research into the science of hearing to display how the ear perceives two tracks sounding together. For example, without leaving a single plug-in window, you could understand how and where your lead vocal is being masked by each of your guitar tracks.
Here’s quick video on how the new and improved Masking Meter works in Neutron 2: