The 'Cher' effect. The 'T-Pain' effect. The 'Kanye' effect. Regardless of how it's known in the vernacular, Auto-Tune is a staple plug-in for producers who either use a DAW without native pitch correction or prefer the sound and/or performance of Auto-Tune. The Access version sells for only $99.00, while the Pro version at $399.00 costs more than some DAW programs. Artist now provides some of the Pro mojo for $299.00, so let's explore for whom the middle-child of Auto-Tune is made.
Best, Better, And Good
It's easier to describe the differences between all three versions in reverse. Pro has all the Auto-Tune features. Rather than going through all of them, I'll refer you to our review. However, Artist does not come with the graphical editor, nor does it come with the Auto-Key plug-in (available separately for $49.00.) Also, while Pro requires an iLok, Artist uses a software-based protection scheme. That could save the user from having to invest in an iLok dongle. Some producers will be using Auto-Tune on their laptop, desktop, or a variety of different computers. The iLok makes the Auto-Tune license easy to transport for Pro users. But others may only use one or two computers, and Artist won't need the iLok. The Access version offers Basic correction mode for real-time processing (no Advanced mode) and also doesn't require an iLok.
With all that in mind, it's easy to determine which version of Auto-Tune is best for you. If you need Graphic mode, Auto-Key, and license transportability, get Pro. Need Basic and Advanced modes on a couple of computers? Get Artist. Need Basic correction? Access is for you.
Antares makes it easy to upgrade users who start with a lower level of Auto-Tune, then later find themselves wanting more features and power. Just log into your user account at antarestech.com to view your current products and upgrade pricing.
Once you have A-T Artist installed as an insert on an audio-based track, you'll see the new and sultry-dark user interface.
Basic view is by far the easiest way to get quick tuning results. Before you start adjusting any knobs, it's better to set the Input Type (Soprano, Alto/Tenor, Low Male, Instrument, or Bass Inst [Instrument]) based on the audio material you'll be feeding it. You'll also need to set the Key and Scale based on the key signature of your song. For gentle overall tuning, you can choose Chromatic. That, along with Major and Minor scales, are but a few of the choices found in the Scales menu including microtunings like Arabic, Meantone, Just Major, Pythagor (Pythagorean), the list has 29 from which to choose. While many users have a keyboard or other musical instrument within reach, playing some notes thereon to find the key signature is easy. If you're not a musician and the key is unknown, you may want to invest in the Auto-Key plug-in (available separately) that does a great job of analyzing your audio and setting the proper key.
Then it's a matter of programming the plug-in to apply the kinds of correction you want to achieve. If you want the Cher or T-Pain effect, crank the Retune control up to 0, the Flex-Tune down to 0, and the Humanize to 0, and the Natural Vibrato to -12. Boom! Instant Kanye. But if you want more natural-sounding retuning, double-click all four large knobs to return them to default settings. Then adjust the Retune Speed knob until the tuning allows the initial pitch to pass through unaffected, while the sustained notes that follow are pushed or pulled into pitch.
For even more gentle results, increase the Flex-Tune control. The best way to think of Flex-Tune is how you’d tune a young Bob Dylan who needs some pitch correction without losing his trademark entrance glissandi. The Humanize control can make sustained notes sound more natural, and the Natural Vibrato allows you to keep or remove the vibrato recorded on the source track. A large pitch display will show how many cents (+/- 100) the audio is being retuned. The Hold button will freeze the display to provide an instantaneous report of the retuning amount.
Beyond those four core settings, there's a Classic setting that provides the retuning characteristics of Auto-Tune version 5. It's subtle, and you'll lose the Flex-Tune feature, but many longtime users like the audio flavor of AT5.
There's also a Formant enable button and, when used in conjunction with the Throat control, you can change the length of the singer's throat. The Formant effect can be subtle, but more extreme settings can sound more monster-like. The master Transpose, Detune, and Tracking controls allow you to set a different core pitch for the entire plug-in.
You'll find all the Basic settings in Advanced view, along with many more ways to craft the tuning. A lot of them have to do with how vibrato is either processed or generated. Targeting Ignores Vibrato will help the pitch fluttering associated with tuning wide vibratos. For adding vibrato to vocals (or other monophonic instruments) that are a little too straight, check out all the controls in the Create Vibrato section. You can choose the vibrato shape and rate, as well as how the vibrato sounds over time.
The Edit Scale display allows you to create your own scales because each note can be retuned (or ignored) individually. The easiest way to get started is to load a microtonal scale (like Valotti) and look at the pitch amounts (in cents) for each note. You can then edit those parameters to create your own scale.
The Keyboard is only active when certain Scales are selected. For example, it will be grayed out when Major, Minor, and Arabic 1 are selected. That's because the intervals of the scale are preset. But that's not the case of Scales like Chromatic and Arabic 2. When using those Scales, you'll see the pitches in blue on the keyboard during playback. The Keyboard Edit setting determines whether clicking a note will remove (black) or bypass (orange) a note. Latch mode keeps the notes selected (either bypassed or removed) after you click them, whereas Momentary will only select them as you click on them.
Be aware that to use the MIDI functions, you'll need to create a track in your DAW and route the MIDI signal into the desired instance of Auto-Tune. In Advanced view, you can use a MIDI keyboard to Target Notes for the tuning, or you can play the notes in the desired scale with the Learn Scale button enabled. The All Octaves button applies the tuning to like notes in the scale, regardless of which octave the MIDI notes are in.
You can control many of the parameters in Auto-Tune from MIDI. To make those assignments, click the Settings button ('gear' icon) and choose Preferences. The MIDI tab allows you to assign different MIDI control numbers to various parameters.
While we're in the Preferences, click the General tab. There you'll find the Use OpenGL option. Usually, Auto-Tune uses the CPU to generate its graphics. But if you have a GPU that's OpenGL-compatible, Auto-Tune will tap your GPU instead. That can keep more of your CPU power for instruments and effects, especially if you use many instances of Auto-Tune in the same song. But if you notice performance issues, you may need to disable OpenGL.
Do You Need Auto-Tune?
As I mentioned before, many DAWs come with their own pitch correction. However, not all of them sound as good or work as well as Auto-Tune. Plus, not many of them have all the Auto-Tune microtonal scale possibilities. So what it comes down to are three things: Performance, sonic characteristics, and breadth of tuning options. To find out if Auto-Tune Artist is right for you, download their free trial at antarestech.com. At the time of writing this review, the trial version of Artist was not available. But you can try Auto-Tune Pro, but don't use the Graphical mode or Auto-Key because Artist won't come with those features.
Price: $299 USD
Pros: Basic and Advanced views serve the pitch correction needs of most users, Classic mode, many microtuning presets and possibilities.
Cons: Choosing the key without Auto-Key may be challenging for non-musicians, still costs as much or more than some DAWs.
Learn more about pitch correction and vocals: https://ask.audio/academy?nleloc=category/audio/topic/vocaltuning