By Mitch Gallagher
When last we visited the world of Antares Auto-Tune (my review in the January 2002 issue), the plug-in had hit version 3. That version introduced some very useful additions such as voice-specific algorithms (soprano, low male, etc.), as well as a bass mode for use with bass guitar and other low-end instruments. Support for sample rates increased to 96kHz, and there was more as well.
Now Antares has upped the pitch-correction ante again, this time with version 4 of Auto-Tune. Seeing that we’ve covered earlier versions of Auto-Tune before, this review will focus on the new developments in v4.
The new version includes numerous enhancements in all areas of the plug-in: Auto mode, Graphical mode, and the user interface.
• Support for 192kHz sample rate (if the host software supports it).
• Greatly improved vibrato functions. You can set the vibrato shape, rate, depth, add amplitude modulation (which makes a surprising difference in how real the vibrato sounds), randomization, and more.
• Better pitch tracking due to a feature called “Improved Targeting,” which allows Auto-Tune to more accurately find pitch despite vibrato in the source audio. You can still fool it with a wide vibrato, but it tracks much better on “normal” vibrato.
• Octaves As Played/All Octaves —
when you’re using MIDI to control notes, you can specify whether the MIDI notes affect a note in all octaves or just the octave the MIDI note is actually played in.
• The Scale Edit Window now has Set All, Remove All, and Bypass All controls for affecting how notes in a scale are treated across all octaves.
• The Virtual Keyboard displays which notes are being played via MIDI, as well as the pitch of the audio coming into the plug-in. It can also be used to set which notes will be removed or bypassed. There’s a “momentary” mode that let’s you “manually” deal with a single event in a track by clicking on a key, the return of cursor pitch display, and more.
• Graphic mode has been improved with new tools (the arrow can add and remove BREAK points, and there’s a scissors for cutting correcting curves apart), up to 20 levels of undo/redo, etc.
• Other user interface niceties include selectable color schemes for Graphic Editing mode, and knob control — choose whether vertical, horizontal, or radial mouse movement will turn the knob.
A lot of improvements, but all with ultimately one purpose:
to make the plug-in as transparent sounding as possible. This is mostly done by manually or automatically bypassing the pitch processing when it isn’t needed, whether using the Edit Scale display, Graphic mode, Virtual Keyboard, Improved Targeting, or MIDI control.
And it works, if you take the time to tweak things into shape. If you just drop the plug-in on a track and accept the defaults, you’re going to get results: The track will be more in tune when you’re finished. But if you take the time to set up which pitches are being processed, or if you dig into Graphical mode and automate all the pitch corrections, you can get remarkably transparent tuning results. As with earlier versions, the biggest problem is resisting the temptation to tune everything. . . .
MORE THAN A TUNER
I rarely encounter people who are using Auto-Tune for more than simple pitch correction of vocals. It can do so much more if you’re creative with it. One example: I had a song where I had created a “pad” from three E-bowed fretless bass tracks. The three parts were in constant motion, intertwining with each other. First, I used Auto-Tune in Bass Instrument mode to bring the three parts into better tune, and to add subtle vibrato. Next, I bussed the three bass tracks to new tracks, through Auto-Tune. The plug-in was set up constrained to one pitch for each new track. I then added multitap delay and reverb to the new tracks, creating a rich, tonal ambient background. With the new Edit Scale display, this kind of thing is simple: Just remove all the pitches except for the one you want to “resonate” in the background.
WORTH THE BUCKS?
So is Auto-Tune 4 worth the bucks to buy or upgrade? It's a tremendously powerful and advanced pitch correction tool — if getting things in tune is something you must do, Auto-Tune 4 offers an easy and elegant way to do it. And all the new features are powerful incentive to move to the new version. The plug-in sounds more natural than ever thanks to Improved Targeting and the new vibrato features. The new user interface is better, and offers more control possibilities. If you’re working with scales — especially non-major/minor/chromatic — the improved Edit Scale display is a godsend.
Auto-Tune 4 is a worthy step forward for pitch correction. But don’t take too narrow of a view; Auto-Tune 4 can be used for track doubling, chorus effects, to create tuned ambience, and more. As I said in my v3 review — and it’s even more true now — “If you can’t get in tune with this, you’ve got serious problems.”