The Recording Guitarist: Is Neutron the Bomb?
Ex: 1 — Neutron analyzes audio and suggests adjustments.

A new plug-in aims to do some of the mixing for you.

If you spend much time reading pro audio magazines and websites, you’ve probably heard about Neutron, a new mixing plug-in from iZotope. Neutron is not only powerful, but also smart—it aspires to perform a number of mixing tasks automatically.

That sound you hear is the collective grumble of 10,000 audio professionals muttering, “Yeah, right.”

How well does it work? After several days of experimentation, I agree with many other early commentators: No, it doesn’t replace good ears and good mixing technique, yet Neutron’s results can be shockingly good.

Mixing and Masking
Neutron assembles several mixing tools in a single UI (Ex. 1). There’s 12-band EQ, two multiband compression stages, an exciter, and a transient shaper. So far, it sounds a lot like iZotope’s splendid Ozone, a set of mastering tools in a single integrated channel strip.

But two superpowers distinguish Neutron: First, when you add it to a track, a “track assistant” can analyze your audio and propose settings using some or all of Neutron’s tools. These suggestions are unfailingly relevant to the material. (To read how this works, visit iZotope’s product page.) The results aren’t always right, but they inevitably make sense. From there you can adjust the effect globally, or make function-by-function tweaks.

The results aren’t always right, but they inevitably make sense.

Track assistant is designed for individual tracks, not entire mixes. Which brings us to Neutron’s other singular talent: With multiple Neutron instances in a DAW session, a pull-down menu lets you compare the current track’s EQ settings to those of any other Neutron-armed track within a single window, with light gray bands indicating potential frequency conflicts (Ex. 2). You can correct the EQ for both tracks from the single UI.

The First Taste is Free
Neutronsells for $249. A $349 advanced version provides the individual processers as stand-alone plugins and adds surround support. (If you’re intrigued, download Neutrino, a free “light” version that provides a good introduction to track assistant’s talents.)

But hey, enough of my yakking. Let’s hear it!

Clip 1 is an unprocessed guitar performance. For Clip 2,Idialed in quickie EQ and compression settings, while Clip 3 adds plate reverb and output-bus tape simulation.

How do Neutron’s auto settings compare? Clip 4 is what track assistant coughed up in less than 10 seconds. In Ex. 5, I’ve reinstated the reverb and tape simulation.

Comparing Clip 3 and Clip 5 is subjective. But to my ear track assistant wins on several fronts. While I rarely use exciters, Neutron’s moderate exciter setting brings out the highs without cranking the treble as I’d done, yielding a less fatiguing sound. Meanwhile, the multiband compression corsets the lows without neutering them.

Ex: 2 — Comparing two tracks in a search of masking issues, the light gray bands indicate potential trouble spots.

Impressive—though I might be less wowed if I was a great mix engineer. Perhaps it’s like computer chess: A grandmaster can usually beat the machine, but most of us get our asses kicked.

Take It From Here
Auto-settings are best viewed as starting points rather than destinations. In Clip 6 I dialed back the compression by adjusting the wet/dry blend. The subtler results sound better to me than my manually created Clip 3.

Another example using band tracks with a 1979 flavor: Clip 7 features isolated bass and drums with no mix EQ or compression. Clip 8 applies automatic track assistant settings, and I used the masking tool to correct some clashing frequencies in the 100Hz range. Big difference!

Finally, just for fun, I applied track assistant settings to every channel in the session (with no other mix EQ or compression). The chaotic result is far from final, but there are many helpful adjustments I probably wouldn’t have stumbled upon myself.

I can imagine a mix workflow that uses Neutron as a diagnostic first step, after which you refine track by track. I need to spend more time with Neutron to wrap my head and ears around it. But so far, color me impressed!

Has anyone else tried Neutron or the freeware Neutrino? Your impressions, if you please.

A modern take on Fullerton shapes and a blend of Fender and Gibson attributes strikes a sweet middle ground.

A stylish alternative to classic Fender profiles that delivers sonic versatility. Great playability.

Split-coil sounds are a little on the thin side. Be sure to place it on the stand carefully!


Fender Player Plus Meteora HH


After many decades of sticking with flagship body shapes, Fender spent the last several years getting more playful via their Parallel Universe collection. The Meteora, however, is one of the more significant departures from those vintage profiles. The offset, more-angular profile was created by Fender designer Josh Hurst and first saw light of day as part of the Parallel Universe Collection in 2018. Since then, it has headed in both upscale and affordable directions within the Fender lineup—reaching the heights of master-built Custom Shop quality in the hands of Ron Thorn, and now in this much more egalitarian guise as the Player Plus Meteora HH.

Read MoreShow less

We polled our readers to find the coolest guitar shops in the US, and here are the first half of the results, in no particular order.

The 20 Coolest Guitar Shops in the US, Vol. 1
"We asked PG readers what is the coolest guitar shop they've been to in the US. And while long-gone favorites like Manny's Music (New York) and Black Market Music (San Francisco) came up again and again, there were even more current shops topping readers' favorites list. We compiled the 20 most mentioned stores and quickly realized there were too many great photos we'd have to cut in order to get them all in one gallery. So here's the first installment in no particular order. If you're wondering where your favorite is, it may be coming next time, or we might not be aware of it, so feel free to leave your faves in the comments section."

A recreation of George Harrison's '61 Sonic Blue Strat, hand-painted in psychedelic Day-Glo colors and affectionately named “Rocky.”

Read MoreShow less