Today we bring you a rundown on the very best Autotune Plugins (VSTs) available right now in 2020 for your DAW or Beat Maker. We will review their cost, which ones are free Autotune VST plugins, their pros and cons, pricing and our recommendations for purchase.
Before we get started, let’s clarify what Autotune is and how this is different to a Vocoder.
What is Autotune (aka Audio Tuning or Auto Tuning)? The Autotune definition is an Autotune program that corrects any pitch issues either in post-production or in real-time whether you’re in the recording studio or performing live.
This auto tune effect is widely used by many studio personnel and usually comes standard as part of the production workflow in modern music no matter the vocalists’ natural abilities.
So how does autotune work? Well, in simple terms it takes any audio file and measures it’s pitch and key through a software audio processor device and measures it against a specific key and pitch, altering it (correction) so that the pitch of a vocal or auto tune voice is matched to an instrumental music recording or performance.
How to use Autotune? Whether you’re using it to subtly fit slightly off-tune vocals into place or using it to achieve the obvious autotune software effect used in many popular records and trap songs heard on the radio today, you’ll be sure to learn a lot in our rundown of the best pitch correcting plug-ins on the market.
How is an Autotune device different from a vocoder?
Vocoders and the vocoder effect, on the other hand, are techniques used primarily in electronic popular music and Hip Hop, to give the voice a synthetic fine tuning sound by setting an instrument such as a synthesizer as the input to a filter bank and this being blended with the vocal recording.
There are many plug-ins on the market that can achieve this effect and many daws come with stock plug-ins that have a vocoder preset available such as Logic’s classic EVOC 20 synth.
1. ANTARES AUTOTUNE PRO by Antares Audio Technologies
Pricing – $399 | Standalone Plug-in
Considered by many to be the best auto tune and pitch correction software, Antares has been at the top of the game for decades. Their software is used as the standard go-to when it comes to the big leagues in many of the top recording studios worldwide due to its ease of use and trusted reputation, Afterall, Antares do own the trademark “Autotune”.
It all started with them back in the mid-’90s after it was launched by Andy Hildebrand, a PhD specialist in digital signal processing and it became an instant hit. It quickly grew to fame & notability after it was used on Cher’s 1998 classic “Believe”. And has since been the go-to plug-in for many producers & recording artists.
– User-friendly interface
One of the best features of the auto tune program is its ease of use and how simple it is to figure out while achieving a super high level of accuracy and a natural tone. It’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye but beneath the surface, it’s a machine.
– Autokey included for faster workflow
Trying to figure out the key of a song can be a time-consuming challenge for the many artists who haven’t yet developed knowledge of music theory or those who lack the skill to tell by ear.
With this challenge is eradicated as the software comes with Antares Autokey which automatically detects the key of the song with high accuracy and sends it to the processor for a streamlined workflow.
– Has the option to switch to classic mode
Some of us just like to stick with what we know when it comes to the way something functions, it makes things easier as its muscle memory.
The OG users can switch to the classic auto mode they’re used to all while reaping the benefits and high-quality processing Pro has to offer.
As with anything, quality comes at a price. At almost double the price of Logic Pro X, $399 is steep for a standalone plugin, but you can rest assured it will get the job done with no hiccups.
2. WAVES TUNE REAL-TIME
Pricing – $69.99 | Standalone Plug-in & Bundle
Although not quite as notable as Antares Autotune, Waves Tune Real-Time is still one of the classics and is used primarily for live vocal performances due to its accuracy, precision, and ultra-low latency.
It boasts the ability to achieve studio-quality, pitched vocals in a live setting without the need for manual post-editing and is the go-to for many singers on tour.
– Super-low latency ideal for live use
Great for live performances on tour, this plug-in has super-low latency and can deliver an outstanding result. You can also set your own presets for different songs, or for different parts in the same song.
Hey, you can even fall offstage in like Travis Scott if that’s your thing, although, please don’t actually do this, a far too extreme auto tune EFX.
– High-quality audio processing for natural sound
Set your retune speed to 0.1 milliseconds or have it slow, however harsh you want your effect you can be sure to always have pristine human-like sound with no artificial artefacts getting in the way of the performance.
– Requires low latency computer system for live settings
Although the plug-in itself causes little to no latency issues, it does require a low latency set up to achieve its full potential. If you or your labels budget allows, It’s worth having a separate MacBook for live audio & production purposes only.
– The interface can be hard to learn
You’ll want to make sure you’re aware of how the plug-in operates and what the parameters actually do to be able to get the most out of the software, it’s not as simple as just pressing one button and it doing the job for you, but this can also be a good thing as it allows further manipulation of sound.
Pricing – €99 – €699 | Standalone plug-in
This plug-in is used by many studio engineers and producers due to its advanced capabilities such as being able to create superb background vocals from a single vocal take, along with its melody building & time stretching functionalities.
It’s highly advanced direct note access feature also allows for singular manipulation of individual notes within chords and polyphonic recordings.
– Multiple Algorithms
Choose from a selection of advanced algorithms designed for different instruments and types of audio including percussive, melodic or polyphonic to fit your recording and enable the best possible editing experience for whatever you’re working with.
– Ability to adjust timbre and shape sound
Use the “formant” tool and sound editor to colour the tone and adjust the characteristics of your recording while maintaining an authentic sound.
– Most of the best features only available in full version
If you’re paying the lowest price for the basic version, you’re gonna get the most basic version. There are no free rides with Melodyne and if you want the best features and updates you’re going to need to splash out. Is it worth the investment? We certainly think so.
4. REAPER REATUNE
Pricing – $60 | DAW
Not a standalone plugin, but a great feature for those on a budget looking to increase the quality of a take and achieve a more professional sound. Whilst it isn’t a free autotune plugin, it’s the cheapest one available.
If you’re new to this software it may be worth reading our beginners’ guide to Reaper for an easy to understand but a detailed rundown of what this daw has to offer.
Reaper Reatune can be used to create harmonies as well as fix out of tune vocals. This is a great alternative to Antares Harmony Engine for those on a budget who want big-sounding harmonies and choruses without needing to spend $100 and upwards for a stand-alone plug-in to do the job.
– Low CPU load
Another CPU friendly option for those with busy sessions and a lot of heavy processing. This is great for the low price Reaper comes at, not to mention all the other amazing features the daw has to offer.
– Good for users on a budget
What you’re getting for the price is impressive, not to mention you get to trial the full version of reaper for 60 days to see if it’s a good fit for your needs and how you work.
– More noticeable tonality
The biggest downside to Reaper’s Reatune feature is the audibly noticeable artefacts that start to pop up when pitch correction is applied. This is okay for beginners diving into audio production who just want to get good at what they’re doing on a mechanical level but not so great for audio engineers looking to achieve pristine, natural-sounding vocal effects or instruments.
– Lacks more advanced features
Again, you get what you pay for. Sure you can do what it says on the tin and knock off-tune vocals where they’re meant to be but you can’t go all out with gain, tonality, vibrato and pitch drift edits the same as you can with some of the more high-end plug-ins.
Pricing – $199.99 | DAW
One of Logic Pro’s most popular features is its flex tune mode, capable of advanced audio manipulation. It has many different algorithms for different types of audio signals and instruments.
For vocals, this is flex pitch. Visual representations of notes can be moved into place, cut, glued and time-stretched. There’s also the option to smooth or increase vibrato in the voice or change the drift from each word in or out of one another as well as the gain.
For a tool this advanced that comes with logic, it’s well worth the price for the entire daw.
The only downside is it’s processing abilities and tonality. It’s great for changing a few problem areas in a take but once you start moving things around too much you start to notice the decrease in audio quality. If you require a plug-in or tool that has better processing abilities it may be better to go with a standalone option.
– Great for the price
As opposed to Reatune, what Flex Pitch has to offer is actually far greater in terms of how far you can go with sonic manipulation. You can also use Logic’s Flex tool to time-stretch using separate algorithms for different types of audio, similar to what Melodyne offers but on a more basic level.
– Noticeable audio artefacts
Flex Pitch has been prone to bugs and glitches in the audio, especially in earlier versions of the software that have since been mostly smoothed out. Logic has since come a long way but if you do too much editing or lower the vibrato any lower than 60% the audio still starts to develop a robotic tone (robot voice).
The algorithm is less advanced and can mistake breaths for words or splits single words into two causing a pop sound.
If you want to make the most of Flex Pitch correction plugin, make sure to have a dry and clear of a recording to work with from the offset as possible, although this should go for all recording in general.
Ultimately, whatever option you choose to go with really comes down to your budget, what your set up looks like and your requirements.
With this being said, Waves Tune Real-Time really does give you the best value for money and is a good option for both those starting out in music as well as experienced studio professionals and experienced artists.
Some notable artists that have had big hits through the use of the VST are Kanye West, Ili Wayne, Black Eyed Peas, and Cher’s 1998 hit “Beleive”.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post and that it has given you some indication as to what plug-in or DAW to go with for getting you or your artist’s vocals to sound their best.