Zplane Development Elastique Pitch (Mac/Win) Quick Pick Review

Elastique Pitch is a pitch-shifting plug-in suitable for processing speech, an individual music track, or a complete mix. Delivered in VST, AU, and RTAS formats, it uses the Zplane Elastique Pro pitch-shifting engine to process as many as eight audio channels synchronously and in real time. In other words, offline pre-analysis is not required, and phase coherence between all input channels is maintained.
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Clicking on Elastique''s Pitch Input button produces a menu of frequency-region presets used to preserve quality when shifting formants.

Elastique Pitch is a pitch-shifting plug-in suitable for processing speech, an individual music track, or a complete mix. Delivered in VST, AU, and RTAS formats, it uses the Zplane Elastique Pro pitch-shifting engine to process as many as eight audio channels synchronously and in real time. In other words, offline pre-analysis is not required, and phase coherence between all input channels is maintained. You can choose to preserve a track''s formants (leaving its timbre unchanged) while shifting its pitch. You can also shift formants independently of pitch, which is useful for gender-bending voice-over processing and other applications. I tested Version 1.1 of Elastique Pitch in Digital Performer 7.21 (DP), using an 8-core Mac Pro running Mac OS X 10.5.8.

STRETCH MARKS
Elastique Pitch''s GUI is sparse. You can resize it and choose between a light or dark skin. Two sliders adjust the pitch and timbre (formants), respectively, of the audio input signal and can be linked for simultaneous adjustment. Associated displays for each control show the extent of your adjustments in either percentage or semitone-and-cents change from the input signal. You can adjust both pitch and timbre up or down as much as 12 semitones, or from 50 to 200 percent.

To optimize the quality of timbre-shifting operations, click on the Input button and select the dominant frequency region for the input signal. The menu''s presets are notated somewhat cryptically. Use trial and error to find the preset that sounds the best. The wrong setting will produce an obvious change of timbre or possibly even artifacts. The Input setting only has an effect when the timbre and pitch parameter values are not exactly the same.

If the Link button is disabled, you can simultaneously adjust pitch and timbre by dragging a small circular handle around an X/Y plane. You can also use MIDI Notes and pitch bend to control pitch. Inputting MIDI Note 60 (C3) creates no pitch change. Playing notes above or below C3 will shift the plug-in''s audio by an equivalent number of semitones. Using the pitch-bend controller on your MIDI keyboard, you can make Elastique Pitch shift the pitch up or down by as much as two semitones.

Sound designers and re-recording mixers for film and TV will appreciate the plug-in''s factory presets, which implement standard pull-up/down frame-rate conversions. The plug-in''s interface and internal math can operate at all sampling rates between 32 and 192kHz.

HERE COMES THE PITCH
Elastique Pitch''s processing was more transparent when shifting pitch up than when shifting down by the same amount. By disabling the Link button and setting the timbre slider to its middle position (100 percent or ±0 semitones), I could preserve a lead vocal''s formants while shifting its pitch up two semitones using the pitch slider. This prevented the Mickey Mouse effect. I heard mild and slightly unnatural-sounding modulation of formants when shifting lead vocals or voice-over (VO) tracks up three semitones or down even slightly. The trade-off was sometimes worth it. Lowering my voice-over track''s pitch 1.5 semitones and timbre 0.38 semitone made my voice sound deeper than any EQ ever could. It sounded like I''d gained 30 pounds (see Web Clips 1 and 2)!

Some instruments gave me greater processing latitude than voice. I got good results pitching pedal-steel and electric guitars up three or four semitones or down two. Even distorted guitar chords were processed quite transparently (see Web Clip 3). When pitching down, slightly nudging up the timbre control helped reverse mild alterations of formants. I got surprisingly good results when shifting an entire mix up as much as three semitones or down one. Although there was a significant loss of depth, the sound quality was still acceptable for critical demo purposes (such as when presenting songs for publishing).

HOME STRETCH
Unfortunately, I found that merely opening and closing the presets menu (without making a selection) nulled my pitch and timbre settings. Clicking anywhere in Elastique Pitch''s GUI or adjusting any of its controls robbed control of DP''s transport using keyboard shortcuts. I''ve seen this issue occasionally in DP with other third-party plug-ins. You must click anywhere on DP''s turf to restore keyboard control.

But I love Elastique Pitch despite this inconvenience. Although it''s not always completely artifact-free, Elastique Pitch is currently the highest-quality pitch-shifting plug-in I''ve heard in AU format. At $179, it''s a must-have for music, voice-over, and multimedia work.

Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4
Elastique Pitch Product Page