This com­pre­hen­sive vo­cal pro­cess­ing tool­box hasn’t seen an up­date for al­most six years, so ma­jor changes and ad­di­tions are ex­pected…

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Launched in 2010 (9/10, 162), and up­dated to ver­sion 2 three years later (9/10, 200), Nectar is a pow­er­ful one-stop vo­cal pro­cess­ing shop. Util­is­ing an ar­ray of re­order­able mod­ules to ap­ply voice-op­ti­mised dy­nam­ics shap­ing, EQ, pitch cor­rec­tion, har­mon­i­sa­tion, de-es­s­ing, dis­tor­tion and ef­fects, it’s be­come a go-to plugin for the pro­fes­sional pro­ducer look­ing to quickly and eas­ily get vo­cals of all kinds – from sung and rapped to di­a­logue and voiceover – sound­ing their best, en­tirely in the box.

Hardy peren­nial

Nectar 3 (VST/AU/AAX/RTAS) re­draws the GUI to achieve ho­mo­gene­ity with re­cently up­dated iZotope sta­ble­mates Neu­tron 2, Ozone 8 and RX 7, and make the var­i­ous dis­plays (spec­trum dis­plays, gain re­duc­tion trace, etc) more vis­ually im­me­di­ate. Nectar 2 was start­ing to look de­cid­edly retro, so the graph­i­cal makeover is a wel­come move, as is the new­found abil­ity to


freely re­size the win­dow by drag­ging the bot­tom right cor­ner. There is one mi­nor snag, though, in that the con­trols for many of the mod­ules (the worst of­fender be­ing Com­pres­sor) can ob­scure a chunk of the waveform or spec­trum view over which they’re sit­u­ated when the win­dow is set small. It’s not a se­ri­ous prob­lem, but we won­der if it might be pos­si­ble to make the con­trol panels float (de­cep­tively, they look like they do al­ready) so that they could be moved out of the way when nec­es­sary.

The next area of ma­jor change is the mod­ules them­selves, which have been added to and re­con­fig­ured, and are now loaded into the top bar ‘rack’ as re­quired, rather than be­ing ac­ti­vated in the old side­bar. Es­sen­tially, you’ve still got ac­cess to ev­ery process and func­tion of Nectar 2, but with a few things moved around. The FX mod­ule is now called Di­men­sion, for ex­am­ple; the Dis­tort and Dec­i­mate op­tions have been shifted to the Sat­u­ra­tion mod­ule, and the De­lay mod­ule’s Im­pulse Re­sponse view and Com­pres­sor’s Spec­tro­gram are no more.

New to the party are the filthy Grunge mode for the De­lay mod­ule, a Close Thresh­old for Gate, eight voices for Har­mony (up from two), bet­ter Pitch track­ing, and son­i­cally im­proved al­go­rithms for De­lay and Di­men­sion’s Cho­rus, Flanger and Phaser ef­fects. The big­gest story in the mod­ules depart­ment, how­ever, is the mas­sive over­haul that’s been made to the EQ – see EQual rights.

“The graph­i­cal makeover is wel­come, as is the abil­ity to freely re­size the win­dow”

All mod­ules now fea­ture dry/wet Mix con­trols in their top bar panels, and, as you’d ex­pect, Nectar 3 shows up in Neu­tron 2 and Ozone 8’s Vis­ual Mixer, Mask­ing Meter and Tonal Bal­ance Con­trol. Oh, and the sep­a­rate Nectar 2 Breath Con­trol plugin has been ousted in favour of the su­pe­rior RX 7 Breath Con­trol – although why it’s not been worked in as a mod­ule is a mys­tery.

Glam­orous as­sis­tant

And so to the main event. Join­ing Neu­tron 2, Ozone 8 and, on rather dif­fer­ent terms, RX 7, Nectar 3 boasts a ma­chine learn­ing-driven sys­tem for set­ting the plugin up au­to­mat­i­cally based on anal­y­sis of the in­put sig­nal. Called Vo­cal As­sis­tant, it might just be the most im­pres­sive im­ple­men­ta­tion of the con­cept yet.

Vo­cal As­sis­tant cre­ates a cus­tom pre­set to make your vo­cal sound ob­jec­tively ‘bet­ter’ and more mix-ready. Hav­ing se­lected As­sist mode and pointed the al­go­rithm in the right di­rec­tion by choos­ing Vin­tage, Mod­ern or Di­a­logue as the source ‘Vibes’, and Light, Mod­er­ate or Ag­gres­sive as the pro­cess­ing ‘In­ten­sity’, the in­put sig­nal is an­a­lysed for a few sec­onds, dur­ing which the mod­ules are set up in the back­ground to cor­rect for dy­namic fluc­tu­a­tions, res­o­nant peaks, sibi­lance, and even ad­just pitch cor­rec­tion and re­verb mix. As with its sim­i­larly equipped sib­lings, the re­sult­ing pre­set is only meant to be a start­ing point, but Nectar 3’s As­sis­tant gets much closer to a fi­nal us­able patch than Neu­tron 2 or Ozone 8’s, due to the less di­verse na­ture of the hu­man voice in com­par­i­son to the in­fi­nite spec­tral and dy­namic vari­a­tions of tracks, buses and full mixes.

In the less tech­no­log­i­cally am­bi­tious Un­mask mode, Vo­cal As­sis­tant uses iZotope’s in­creas­ingly mean­ing­ful In­ter-Plugin Com­mu­ni­ca­tion to clear space for the vo­cal by ap­ply­ing equal­i­sa­tion to any other track that’s fight­ing with it for space. If the mask­ing track isn’t al­ready host­ing an in­stance of Nectar 3 or Neu­tron 2 (both of which sup­port IPC), load the in­cluded Re­lay plugin onto it, then se­lect it in the Un­mask menu and start play­back. Nectar 3 analy­ses it in re­la­tion to the vo­cal and ap­plies a static EQ curve to pull it away from the vo­cal. The process can be re­peated for as many tracks as you like, and the re­sults are in­vari­ably well­judged and thor­oughly ef­fec­tive, giv­ing the vo­cals a per­ceived lift that’s al­most al­ways ben­e­fi­cial. The Un­mask EQ curve is sep­a­rate to the ac­tual EQ mod­ules in the Neu­tron 2 and Nectar 3 plu­g­ins, so while you can’t tweak it, you can re­bal­ance the sig­nal us­ing those mod­ules.

We’ve just got space to wrap up with a quick run-down of the re­main­ing new fea­tures. Auto Level Mode ‘rides’ the in­put level fader for dy­namic con­sis­tency; the Lim­iter is now a but­ton and fader on the out­put level meter; Pan and Width are ad­justable; and Cele­mony’s Melo­dyne 4 es­sen­tial au­dio ed­i­tor is in­cluded.

Sweet Nectar

Nectar 3 sounds in­cred­i­ble and flows beau­ti­fully, and we can’t rec­om­mend it highly enough to any vo­cal-wran­gling pro­ducer. The up­grade for ex­ist­ing users of v2 is rather less clear-cut, though, as at only 50 quid be­low the full price, the £179 up­grade is ex­pen­sive. Whether or not it’s worth that sec­ond/third-time out­lay will boil down pri­mar­ily to how much you feel you need Vo­cal As­sis­tant and the souped-up EQ, both of which are bril­liant but per­haps not, truth be told, all that es­sen­tial.

“Vo­cal As­sis­tant might be the most im­pres­sive im­ple­men­ta­tion of the con­cept yet”

RX 7 Breath Con­trol is in­cluded as a sep­a­rate plugin – but feels like it should be in­te­grated some­how

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