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.