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electronic MUSICIAN

zplane Elastique Pitch

By Craig Anderton | June 1, 2010

elastiqueTHE SPECS

Operating system: Minimum OS Windows XP/2000, Mac OS X 10.4
Formats: VST, RTAS (Pro Tools TDM/LE 7.4 or higher), AU
Copy protection: Serial number and authorization code
Trial version: Mutes audio periodically
Website: www.zplane.de
Street price: $199, available from online store

THE CONTEXT

Pitch shifting digital audio is hard to do, but can accomplish tasks such as transposing an instrumental track so it fits a vocalist’s range to creating crazy special effects by transposing a signal beyond any rational amount. zplane has specialized in high-quality pitch-shifting algorithms, and licensed those algorithms to various manufacturers. But now zplane’s élastique algorithms are available as a plug-in for VST, AU, and RTAS. Note that this is about pitch shifting only— not time-stretching.


OVERVIEW

Here are the main Elastique Pitch components.

Pitch/Timbre XY graphical control.
This is the interface’s main part, with sliders for pitch shift and formant (both up to ±12 semitones). Linking them causes formant changes to track pitch; I usually start off with them linked, then unlink and tweak the formant control for the desired timbre. Like most pitch shifters, the quality deteriorates with greater transposition; unlike most, the sound quality is extremely good with trans positions of a few semitones or less. With maximum transpositions, the sound quality is sufficient for great special effects—mixing it with straight guitar gave some good 12- string emulations.

MIDI. If inserted as an instrument, Elastique Pitch can respond to MIDI notes to change pitch and formant (these parameters are also automatable). However, recalculation isn’t instant; if you shift pitch on a sustained note, you’ll hear a short portamento effect. Also, the note doesn’t latch—as soon as you release the key, the pitch slides back to 0 pitch and formant, regardless of whether you’ve set a different initial value. But you can indeed take a single note and pitch it, and an Arpeggio MIDI plug-in can be a lot of fun.

Input. This restricts the input to certain frequency ranges, which improves performance by simplifying Elastique Pitch’s analysis process.

Presets. There are presets for common scenarios where pitch may have been altered, such as when a 44.1kHz signal was re-sampled to 48kHz without suitable conversion.

IN USE

Elastique Pitch works in near-real time rather than having to do offline processing, which is convenient. However, the delay through it is significant— so if your host uses path delay compensation, playing through Elastique Pitch in real time is difficult—if not impossible—due to the delay.

Interestingly, a single instance (when inserted as an effect, not an instrument) can process four stereo or eight mono signals simultaneously. It does this by exposing its inputs as if it was a standard host output, so you can send a track to this input. This feature is handy for when you want the same amount of transposition applied to several streams at the same time, like transposing guitar, bass, and vocals while leaving drums untouched.

CONCLUSIONS

While suitable for multitrack hosts, Elastique Pitch is also ideal for stereo digital audio editors (or surround, if the editor accommodates multiple channels) when you want to raise or lower the pitch of program material by a few semitones. I’ve also used it on voice for narration to give a slightly different timbre, and it can also give truly freakazoid alien voices.

Although most host programs include some kind of pitch-shifting option, the quality can be iffy. Elastique Pitch gives pitch shifting with solid fidelity at a reasonable price, and while zplane hasn’t quite figured out how to beat the laws of physics, the company certainly knows how to bend them.


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