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iZotope's Rachel Alix: "We're The Ears That Hear The Product First"

As a sound designer at iZotope, Rachel Alix is directly responsible for creating and refining some of the most widely-used audio tools in the industry. Here she discusses the important role that she plays at the company, along with some cool new products and features on the horizon...

Having consistently been included in various ‘Top Places to Work’ lists in recent years, it’s no surprise to discover that Alix’ favourite thing about working at iZotope is the people. Yet it wasn’t this factor that drew her to the company in the first place. A budding musician and songwriter in her teens, Alix quickly developed an intense interest in the recording process, eventually taking that passion to Berklee College of Music where she studied contemporary writing and production.

“Through that time, I was performing a lot and getting involved in the electronic music scene at Berklee, which led me to wanting to make the tools for people like me, particularly live vocal production tools,” she recalls. “That’s how I found iZotope - I started as a customer care agent, and got an opportunity to play at a company party really early on.”

Hitting the ground running opened up a world of opportunity at the company:

“I got to do the marquee video for VocalSynth 2, along with a whole bunch of company songs and videos that were played at company meetings,” she adds. “I eventually ended up on a project with Kimbra [a popular New Zealand singer-songwriter] where I mixed one of her songs and talked through the production process with her. That was really cool, and that essentially landed me in sound design.”

I proceed to ask Alix what her role as a sound designer entails working for an industry leader in music production software:

“As a broad description, any sound that the customer can make out of one of our products is something that has been fine tuned by the sound design department,” she explains. “Anything from the presets you’re hearing to the knob that turns your reverb up - we checked every parameter on that knob to make sure it sounded good and had a use case. We’re the ears that hear the product first, and make sure it sounds good before users get to play with it.”

WE’RE THE EARS THAT HEAR THE PRODUCT FIRST, AND MAKE SURE IT SOUNDS GOOD BEFORE USERS GET TO PLAY WITH IT.

And Alix’ work is as varied as it’s interesting. She currently works on three different product teams, the first of which is iZotope’s Spire Studio hardware and app, she reveals:

“We built a platform based on a mobile hardware recording device, and in the last year of the pandemic, we’ve put a lot more effort into making the app a really great experience, and have put a lot of iZotope DSP into it. I’d say we’ve seen a lot more interest in, and interaction with that.”

Alix also works on iZotope’s post production products, as well as some of its more creative tools such as VocalSynth and Nectar.

“On a busy day I’m usually in meetings, hashing out what a feature should be with our product managers and a group of developers,” she continues. “Or sometimes I’ll be creating two hours of audio for our research department to work with. If we weren’t remote, I’d be in the studio with Spire, doing exploratory testing for a feature we’re planning to release, and then sitting down with Ableton making macros with raw DSP to try to make a feature come to life.

“When you say, sound designer, to someone, they think that it’s a very technical job, and I’d say that it is - but a lot of what I do is experimenting and trusting my intuition, or going with my gut, and then making a recommendation based off of that.”

So are there any upcoming developments at iZotope on which Alix can spill the beans?

“Keep an eye out on the Spire Studio front; we’ve been working like crazy to get some really cool FX and processing out to users to make the experience even more like a recording studio, and clean up audio and room noises,” she teases. “Also, if you’re a subscriber to the iZotope Producers Club, keep an eye out for some really cool vocal stuff coming soon.

“We’re really just taking this year to focus on beefing up the subscription model, and giving a lot of cool content and products to users which we hope they’ll love.”