Disclaimer: I waxed a little crazy on the details and wordage for this user review, but it's real and sincere. I could have trimmed this down, but I giggled and left most of it. ;-)
INTRO Auto-Tune Pro is the latest version of Antares' world-famous pitch correction/vocal processing software, and it does not disappoint!* This update is significant and sophisticated, yet sleek and easier to use than it's predecessors. It boasts a redesigned/reorganized interface as well as several feature additions, re-additions, and enhancements that will surely allure new users and excite experienced pros.
GETTING GOIN' The purchase, download, and authorization process is straightforward via an iLok activation. AU validation in Logic was successful (MacBook Pro), and I'm sure it works fine in other formats with other DAWs. Upon launch, the interface reveals the two modes — Automatic and Graphical (more manual). Automatic mode now has a two layer view:
Basic contains the most frequently used parameters • Retune Speed (subtle pitch correction to total FX a la Cher, T-Pain, Kesha, etc.) • Flex-Tune (adjusts reactivity/threshold in relation to pitch quantization of selected note(s). • Humanize (helps to preserve performance of sustained notes and corrects robotic bends of shorter notes). Note: Formant button and Retune Speed in Graphical Mode can be utilized globally or on specific notes to help reduce artifacts and preserve a natural sound. • Natural Vibrato (from smooth to a rapid quiver).
The advanced mode uncovers all the other cool parameters, many of which were found on the launch page of previous versions • Create and tweak vibrato (rate, onset, etc.). • Bypass (skips targeted notes) and Remove notes (correct targeted note). • Create scales. • Advanced MIDI stuff.
NOTEWORTHY STUFF • GUI: The new redesigned interface is intuitive, fast, and looks great. The dual layer approach contributes to a smoother work-flow; it makes perfect sense and is inviting. The big stuff is all right there, neatly arranged, while the fine tuning and deeper programming features are easily accessible. Experienced users will undoubtedly find the new layout faster and more fun to use, and new users will enjoy diving-in without being overwhelmed. Note: Some features and functions have been relocated to the preference section and are customizable. This is especially useful in adjusting the Graphical Editing view and workflow.
• AUTO-KEY: Straight-away I was impressed with this sub plugin, which automatically detects the song key. It's a small sub-plugin that can placed on a track to detects the key and transmits the info to the Auto-Tune session. Music theorists might poo-poo this feature (then secretly use it), but the likes of me will be extremely grateful. I can quickly create sweet melodies and then spend a lifetime trying to decipher the key and chords. Auto-Key instantly gets me the info I need to determine my chord progression and modes, speeding up my creative process. It's accurate and extremely useful. At the very least it provides excellent info. Whether to adjust, tune, or preserve performance is up to the user. Note: Auto-Key might go between two detected keys, but those are usually just the relative major or minor, which share the same scale notes, so either is valid.
• GRAPHICAL EDITING: This page is customizable, cleaner, and easier to use for micro and macro note manipulation. It's visual for those who like to edit audio with their eyeballs; however, there are automatic features built-in to assist users. It does pitch, pitch-n-time, etc. The Make Notes feature provides a nice guide for adjusting the captured notes. The original and corrected pitch are color-coded. Number of Notes helps users determine the breadth of adjustment. In action, I noticed Pro has smoother scrolling than version 8, and the new zooming tools rock.
• CLASSIC MODE: The Auto-Tune v5 "sound" has been brought back. Many users were upset that v6 and beyond abandoned this feature. I've heard a producer say, "A.T. 5 was better than 8." According to an online forum poster blayz2002, "For me, v5 coming back is a game changer — v5 had a sound that people, including myself, fell in love with. After v6 (EVO) the code was improved but also lost some of the magic. The way it snapped into notes and cut through a mix." Well, good news, the quintessential Auto-Tune vibe is back and includes all the newer generation algorithmic improvements along with lower latency.
• ARA (Audio Random Access) support for superior integration in Studio One (I don't have S.O., but it's probably a cool feature if you do).
• SAMPLE RATE: Auto-Tune Pro now supports higher sample rates up to 192kHz.
• LATENCY: Super low when tracking a melody line.
• BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY: Auto-Tune Pro is compatible with v8.1, but not earlier versions.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND TIPS • Requires iLok — some users prefer this added security; some not so much. • Pitch correction is an essential production tool for anyone working with singers. Hey, there's no need to be ashamed. ;-) The end result is what matters, right? Pitch correction actually helps me to improve my singing in the same way that spell-checkers have improved my spelling. Besides, rarely has any singer in the studio nailed a track in one take. Producers have spent days comping, tuning, bouncing, punching, spicing and dicing to improve a vocal track. Using tricks of the trade is not new. The only thing that's changed are the tools. • Real-time re-pitching via Advanced Mode > Target Notes > Side-chain (then select a function from drop-down menu). In vivo performances can be captured in Logic and probably other DAWs. • Specific notes can be bypassed to preserve unique performances. Note: Notes can also be removed completely from processing, if/when needed. • Auto-Tune is NOT limited to vocals. It can help create interesting, perfectly tuned instrument tracks. I recently rescued a solo violin performance. ;-) • Results are most transparent and free of artifacts when the singer's performance is reasonably close to being in tune. The more out of tune, the more the results will sound "effected." Vibrato and slow slurs and slides between notes/phrases also present a natural sound challenge. Note: The vibrato seems cleaner and more accurate than before to my ears. • Flex Tune certainly helps preserve a natural sound. • I found it better to use Auto-Tune as the first insert (especially for vocals), followed by other FX. This way all the additional processing is in tune. Imagine an off-key delay beneath the pitch-corrected vocals. ;-0 • Choose the correct input type to increase pitch correction accuracy, i.e., Soprano, Alto/Tenor, Low Male (Baritone/Bass), Instrument and Bass Instrument. • Set key and scale of the song for better accuracy. If not sure, get some help from the Auto Key sub plugin that comes with Auto-Tune.
FEATURE REQUEST • AAX DSP support and compatible with hosts that only support VST-2. • Polyphony.
THE GREAT DEBATE: AUTO-TUNE vs MELODYNE Auto-Tune or Melodyne? This is a likely question many will ask, and it's a bit like asking which DAW is best. Which should you buy? Well, most pro studios answer this question by having both on hand. Two of my producer friends use Auto-Tune regularly and Melodyne for complicated corrections, wobbly vibrato, and transitions. If you can swing it, I highly recommend you do the same. However, if you're on a budget like most of us starving electronic musicians, you'll need to choose one or the other.. .
Sorry, I had a lot of info/suggestion about which to get, but I ran over the 10,000 character limit. ;-(.
SUMMARY I highly recommend Auto-Tune Pro for anyone who works with digital notes and has a little money to spare. Antares clearly listened to users' feedback and responded by creating this slick, snappy new version that streamlines the tuning process and brings back the classic Auto-Tune sound as an option. I have a good friend who just updated and emailed me, "I used Auto-Tune on and off for years, but the workflow never quite clicked until now!" Other users complained about the previous version (v8) being a bit sluggish. I didn't think so until I spend a couple hours with Pro. It is faster and easier to use thanks to the Basic and Advanced modes. In addition, the Graphical Editing page is much neater and cleaner with more responsive zooming tools and viewing options. Antares has successfully managed to incorporate complexity and features without the bloat. BRAVO!! All-in-all, Auto-Tune Pro is well worth the initial purchase of $399 and is an upgrade no-brainer at $129.00.
*For the few who don't know, Antares are the cats who began the pitch correction obsession back in '97.
INTRO AVOX-4 by Antares is an inspiring vocal pitch-processing effects plug-in bundle featuring 11 creative modules. The modules are eye-pleasing, well organized, easy to use, and perhaps more importantly — fun to use.
IMPRESSIONS (after a little experimentation, research, and tracking) This collection is capable of a wide variety of vocal effects, ranging from slight hair-splitting adjustments to full-blown otherworldly madness and everything in between. There's a great deal of musicality to AVOX-4, which is rare for audio effects software. Some of the modules work within the vocals, some wrap around, and some work along side as an instrument.
As with most AVOX-4 modules (Warm being a possible exception), users must use wisely and sparingly if they are after a realistic vocal expression for mainstream genres. However, alternative music maniacs will have plenty of freedom to twist, turn, and slide parameters into gut-wrenching vocal mayhem. In addition to cutting edge FX, this collection offers cool vintage options like Mic Mod EFX and Warm. Antares' analog tube modeling has been considered one of the best for years, and this module features that technology. I could see myself using a little of this on every track. It provides just enough rich saturation without the unwanted artifacts. Harmony Engine Evo is capable of realistic harmony generation and arrangement. This module is not surprisingly a bit more complex than the others. There are some useful presets to work from that feature basic chords and inversions. It's very possible to ascertain a convincing harmony that sits well in a mix; yet, I wouldn't recommend using it up front for most genres. Mutator Evo is capable of all kinds of special FX and creative sound designing. It's extreme! Articulator Evo cleverly imposes syllables on sound, yielding the robotic voices that have found a common place in many forms of EDM. Note: Talk Box is not a vocoder. Vocoders use a number of envelope-following bandpass filters in which the voice or other instrument acts as a modulator signal that is then filtered by a carrier like a synth — full of voice-like harmonics. Talk boxes, in general, are more basic, but nevertheless sound cool. Articulator Evo sounds very cool. I need to fight the urge to squeeze it into each track. Aspire Evo and Throat Evo modules are good for micro adjustments of breathiness and raspiness. The presets offer start-points for a variety of voices and vocal styles. Throat Evo is a bit more complex than most of the other modules, and I've had mixed results so far. Yet, I'm not discouraged as it shows promise. Duo Evo doubles vocal parts. I need to spend more time with this. It's my hope that this will serve as an ADT a la John Lennon/Abbey Road. In addition to doubling, Duo has other controls that adjust pitch, timing, vibrato, etc. It's an intriguing and potentially useful module. It may not replace a perfectly sung double track, but it can certainly replace a less-than-perfect one! So far, I've discovered a range from extends from a tight echo to a two singers and everything in between. I quickly realized that Choir Evo isn't a chorus effect. It's a choir generator. What was I thinking? Choir Evo turns a single voice into many. I need to experiment more with this module as it's capable of producing four-part harmonies. So far, it seems a bit tricky to get the combination of these voices to sound realistic, but it's certainly worth additional noodling. This particular module has received high praise from several online bloggers, reviewers, and friends. One buddy of mine swears by it and emphasizes the importance of placing it in the appropriate reverb space to maximize the effect and realism. Punch Evo is a simple, yet powerful compressor combined with an enhancer. It helps vocals to cut a bit more through the mix by increasing dynamics. Sybil Evo is a time-tested, straight-forward compression-side chain freq-based de-esser. Like most of the modules in this set, if used wisely produces great results.
BEWARNED! With great power and freedom comes great responsibility. It's very easy to become seduced by a cool effect (or suite of effects) and overdo it. I have countless yesteryear recordings of my original tracks that sound like the aural equivalent of Elvis sideburns, shag carpeting, and mullet hairdos — dated and embarrassing. I wish I could go back in time and minimize some of the little tricks that I thought were so clever at the time. Please forgive my preaching. In short, what I'm trying to say is this. .. with AVOX-4, less is more, and more could be annoying unless of course that's your goal.
FAVORITEFEATURES • Neat, clean interfaces. • User-friendly with shallow learning curves. • Versatile, inspiring, and sometimes even musical at times. • CPU friendly.
FAVORITEMODULES • Articulator Evo digital talk box • Warm tube saturation generator • Duo Evo vocal modeling auto-doubler • Punch Evo vocal impact enhancer.
OTHERTHOUGHTS • iLok is a security plus for some and an inconvenient minus others. • Not limited to vocals.
AVOX-4 is a fantastic suite of vocal manipulation tools that has three great uses:
1. Subtle adjustments to clean-up and sweeten vocal tracks. 2. Special vocal FX. 3. Sound Designing for vocals and anything and everything else.
They work smoothly on my system; They suit my workflow; They breathe life into my projects; Is this set of plugins right for you? I believe there are modules in the collection that would suit anyone working with vocals. The question is. .. would you love at least one or two enough to make it a worthwhile. In my case, the answer was yes! My overall production benefits from launching these babies. If you work with vocals of any genre, I highly suggest that you check out the online tutorials and download the demo. This just might be the secret weapon you've been looking for! I give AVOX-4 a big fat pair of thumbs up. Thank you, Antares, for creating such a creative vocal effects package.
SoundSoap-3 by Soundness is superb audio noise reduction software that comes in both application and plugin (VST, component, and RTS) form. Upon launching, I was immediately struck by a visually pleasing interface. The next thing I discovered was how straightforward, user-friendly, and intuitive it is to use this software. This is one of the rare audio editing tools that are easy to use, yet powerful. It does everything it claims to do, and it does it really well. There's plenty of control without any of the bloat that is often associated with editing software, i.e., you won't find a ton of unheard of features that make you scratch your head and ask,"What the?" SoundSoap-3 is easier, faster, and way more effective at removing noise than the filters and EQs that I've tried. It's a great product that is a pleasure to use. I no longer cringe when I discover audio noise on my tracks.
Slick, clean GUI.
Also useful with video files.
Hiss and Buzz — SOAPED.
Hum and Rumble — SOAPED.
Clicks and Crackles — SOAPED.
Background noise and unwanted voices — SOAPED.
Next time I record I just might turn up the amps, turn on a fluorescent lights, and crank the A/C just so I can soap them clean before mixing.
Users can throw out the dirty bathwater and keep the baby.
My old sample library will soon be made clean.
I'm a clean freak, and nothing bothers me more than dirty audio tracks. SoundSoap is my mop; it's my broom; it's my sponge; it's my. .. you get the idea! Best of all is the price. It's a super value for what it does and how well it does it. If I only used it on a couple tracks I would feel compensated for my investment. If you are a well-paid pro, working in a top-notch studio, I'm sure there are more powerful options that do more; yet, for everyone else, this probably does what you need for a fraction of the cost and without the headaches. I highly recommend this software to any pros or hobbyist, who is working with recorded audio and needs fast and effective results. Tommy Zai gives SoundSoap-3 two squeaky clean thumbs up. Thank you, Soundness, for developing such a useful, rewarding, and satisfying audio noise reduction software.
VERSION 4 RELEASE USER REVIEW THOUGHTS
Soundness just released a significant update to SoundSoap. Without hesitation I upgraded to the new version v4, and I have no regrets. The latest release adds some cool features. The Loudness Maximizer is sweet — the perceived auto signal is boosted without any added noise, distortion, or other goop. This is very nice. The Declipper is a feature that makes me wonder how I got along without it. I've had countless tracks along the way that suffered from a distorted spike or two. In the past, my options were limited. I either used SoundSoap to remove some of the unwanted stuff and then normalized the peak and lived with that rough segment of audio. Whatever algorithm they are using to declip is top notch (pun intended) and effortlessly corrects nasty spikes. The update/changes list includes several other improvements and fixes that I'm sure I will uncover as I soap up additional dirty tracks. Yet, the Loudness Maximizer and Declipper feature were enough to make me smile and increase my user review rating. Fanstastic! SoundSoap is evolving. I can't wait to see what v5 looks and sounds like!
Update Conclusion: SoundSoap v4 remains user-friendly and will continue to appeal to home studio musicians, and with the new features, seasoned professionals will find it hard to resist.
VERSION 5 RELEASE USER REVIEW THOUGHTS
This latest release boasts some serious new features, most notably Automatic Noise Detection. Users are no longer required to manually scan for the best noise location to build a profile. This can now be accomplished automatically. The A.N.D. is used to find the noise and the users can visually adjust it. The algorithms are top-notch, and my experimentations have led to great results. I was a little apprehensive at first as I apparently have some audio control issues. I usually prefer diving in and doing the work myself, but after a few rounds I gained trust and let SoundSoap do the work for me.
MP3 support has been added, which is very sweet. I have a ton of low-fi audio files that I use for various projects. I no longer have to convert them into .AIF or .WAV for cleaning. I also dig the new metering. I tend to use my eyes when working with audio, and this makes it easier and more fun. The new and improved hum removal goes beyond an add-on feature. It's now a powerful element of the larger whole.
In the end, I went with SoundSoap+, which offers much more control for not much more money. I've heard great things about the Broadband Range control feature. I need to spend more time noodling with it. I also look forward to uncovering the coolness of the other bonus features found in the + version (Downward Expander, Enhanced Enhance, control over the threshold setting used in the Track control, etc.).
Comparisons: I have less experience with the other noise reducers on the market, but I did a great deal of research, demoing, noodling demo versions, and checking-out friends' copies before going with SoundSoap. I chose SoundSoap for the following reasons:
Interface is simple, yet powerful.
Shallow learning curve. I like to work fast and furious without getting bogged down by what's under the hood.
This all began with the developer, BIAS. Their app called Peak was my favorite software of all time. The original SoundSoap was a bit of a cool add-on, but since being taken over by Soundness, it's become a serious force.
Why didn't I buy iZotope RX? Their Spectral Analysis remain a great feature — spectral "replace" function is very cool. Yet, I couldn't afford it, steep learning curve, stability concerns, and some features are more complicated and difficult to use, i.e., the denoiser.
Why didn't I buy Waves Z-Noise? More complicated and requires more fiddling to get results. Unable to scrub away enough noise. X-Click and X-Crackle are easier to use, but they are more specialized.
Why didn't I buy Sony's SpectraLayers? It's a very serious application, and I was not able to quickly dive in and get anywhere. Having a manual for this beast is a must.
Update Conclusion: SoundSoap v5 offers several excellent improvements. In my opinion it's well worth the initial purchase or an upgrade. There is still nothing comparable at this price. The floating soap bubbles on the transport section of the interface still make me smile each time I launch — fun stuff. Tommy Zai continues to highly recommend this upstanding audio app to anyone working with audio files, whether he/she be an amateur or professional.