The Graphic screen provides detailed control over all elements of pitch data, and the new Notes mode enables piano-roll-style editing for fast and accurate adjustments.
It's hard to find a studio that doesn't have Auto-Tune somewhere in its bag of tricks. This ubiquitous plug-in, initially released in the mid-'90s, has long been the big kid on the block when it comes to pitch correction. Competing technologies from Melodyne, TC Electronic, Roland and others have all vied for Auto-Tune's crown with varying degrees of success, but the folks at Antares have given their flagship product a fresh overhaul to carry the technology they pioneered into the next decade. Dubbed Auto-Tune Evo ($399, $649 TDM), the upgrade offers significant improvements over earlier versions, and both newcomers and upgraders will find plenty to like about the latest iteration of Antares' legendary software.
Getting Auto-Tune Evo installed is simple and straightforward, but as with previous versions, you'll need an iLok dongle to run the software. Evo doesn't come with one, so if you haven't already equipped your studio with an iLok, be prepared to shell out an additional $40 or so before you are up and running.
Auto-Tune's Automatic mode looks largely unchanged from earlier versions. There are a few new options, including a formant processor that preserves some of the original timbre of radically pitch-shifted audio and a global transpose control that provides a two-octave range for baseline transposition of all audio passing through the plug-in. Longtime users whose feathers were ruffled when Antares buried the Tracking control in the Options menu will be happy to find it back where it belongs in the primary Automatic and Graphic workspaces.
I was particularly pleased to see an option to resize the GUI, and while three preset sizes are offered by default, Evo lets you enter arbitrary resolutions up to 1600×1200 — a lifesaver when using a wide-screen monitor to edit long takes in Graphic mode (see Web Clips 1, 3, 3, 4, 5 and 6).
The real meat of Evo's updates is evident in Graphic mode, where a Melodyne-style Notes mode is now available (see Web Clips 7, 8 and 9). Clicking the Notes mode button drops piano-roll-style bars that track incoming audio into the Edit window, providing a quick and easy way to move or resize events. In practice, I found Notes mode easiest for making large changes of a semitone or more, or for smoothing out sustained notes over time.
For detailed microtonal edits, Curve and Line modes are still supported, and a particularly welcome addition to all three modes is the object-based retune speeds. Previous versions of Auto-Tune used a global retune speed setting that affected the entire plug-in. Evo enables individual settings on every single object in Graphic mode so you can customize retune speeds as required at a very granular level. It's a major leap ahead in detailed editing and thankfully does away with the need to automate retune speed settings in the VST host.
Another outstanding workflow improvement is the real-time pitch output display. In addition to the note objects and red lines representing tracked pitch, Evo adds a line that visually previews the modified pitch of each object. Adjusting the retune speed updates this line's shape in real time so you can assess what degree of impact your adjustments will have visually rather than looping short audio segments to fine-tune settings.
Evo brings a smattering of additional conveniences to the table: You can cut and paste correction objects into other parts of the project; you can use all 10 number keys for keyboard shortcuts; you can set custom retune speeds for each object type; and you get nudge controls for pixel-level movements of selected objects. Taken individually, these seem like small or subtle improvements, but from a workflow standpoint the whole of these new features is far more than the sum of their parts, and dealing with Auto-Tune is less laborious and more enjoyable than ever.
Antares has produced a compelling update with Auto-Tune Evo, improving ease of use and providing new features such as note-based pitch processing that make working with this industry-standard pitch-processing tool even easier. The revamped core algorithm that drives Auto-Tune consistently produces better results than previous versions while keeping the application's processor footprint down to a negligible level. New users thinking of taking the plunge into Auto-Tune are coming in at the right time as the improvements bring it up to par with competitors, and upgraders will appreciate the nips, tucks and overall improvements to this indispensable application.
Overall rating (1 through 5): 4