Ever since Cher dropped “Believe” in 1998, autotune has been in the pop music spotlight. But with singer T-Pain’s extensive use of this voice-altering technology, autotune took off.
All through the 2000s, the use of this effect grew and grew. So that now it’s used in almost every pop song you can imagine. And, it’s not just pop. Artists from Shania Twain to Radiohead have used it.
If you’re producing your own tracks, you will probably want an auto-tuning effect to manipulate vocals or other instruments. So what are the best autotune VST plugins? I’ll point you towards some of the best free and paid auto-tune effects out there to help you expand your production capabilities.
What Does Autotune Do?
Well, there are two main uses for Autotune. First, correcting off notes in musical performances, and second, adding a weird effect to vocals.
Correcting off-notes is done either automatically or manually using an autotune plugin. The idea is to smooth out slightly sharp/flat notes so that they sound like the singer is hitting perfect pitches. With this in mind, the goal is to correct notes smoothly and with no noticeable weirdness (sound artifacts). Everything should sound real and natural, and perfectly in tune.
Just about every major singer is using autotune to enhance their voice these days.
The T-Pain Effect, that weird jump between notes that sounds more like a synthesizer than a human, is the other thing autotune is used for. You’ve probably heard this in all sorts of tracks like Cher’s Believe, Daft Punk’s One More Time, the Black Eyed Peas’ Boom Boom Pow, and Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak album.
The Best Autotune VST Plugins
If you want to start using Autotune, these are the top VST plugins I recommend based on the quality of their output and their ease of use.
Your DAW’s Native Tuning Options
Most Digital Audio Workstations these days have a tuning option built right in. They aren’t always going to be the best options to use for autotuning, but at least they’re free with your DAW.
That means you don’t have to pay anything to use them or spend time importing plugins to your setup. You can also use them to practice using autotuning features to decide if you like the effect and if you’re willing to put in the effort to apply them.
Logic Pro X, FI Studio, and Cubase are just a few of the major DAWs that have built-in tuning correction options. However, if you want something more powerful and designed specifically for this, try an Autotune VST plug-in instead.
Auto-tune by Antares – Best Classic Autotune VST Plugin
Antares is the company that started it all. While engineers had decades of experience with manually correcting off notes in recorded performances, this was incredibly difficult and time-consuming. Autotune changed all of that when it came out and hit the music world like a storm.
Autotune can be had for anywhere between $99 to $399 depending on the version that you want (Pro, Artist, Access, or EFX+). They also have a free version you can try to see how good it is.
Because it is very, very good
You get a very easy-to-use interface that gives you some simple controls. You can set your retune speed, natural vibrato, flex tune, and level of humanization to achieve different effects. In this way, you can choose if you want smooth, undetectable note correction or the extreme T-Pain effect.
This is an automatic, and therefore, very easy-to-use plugin. However, you can enter Graph mode to do manual manipulations if you pick up Pro mode. It may be one of the more expensive Autotune VSTs out there, but it’s the original, and it works, and that makes it worth it.
Melodyne by Celemony – Best Premium Autotune VST Plugin
Melodyne is another of the most popular autotune VSTs out there. Priced at between $99 and $699 depending on the version, it doesn’t come cheap. But, this VST is the first plugin to introduce graph editing. This method is different from Auto-tune’s automatic effect and can be used for extremely fined-tuned, surgical tuning corrections.
The program analyses the graph of your track and recognizes keys, chords, and tempos automatically. The algorithm it uses takes all notes into account and adjusts them in an extremely accurate yet natural way. This works to prevent sound artifacts from popping up.
It may take a bit of work to get started using this program because it’s far from intuitive. But once you do get a handle on how things work, you’ll find out just how powerful this plugin is. It can work directly in most any DAW or be used as a standalone. Melodyne makes it possible to make your music sound perfect even if it wasn’t performed perfectly.
Little Alterboy by Soundtoys – Most Creative Autotune VST Plugin
Something a bit cheaper but not strictly autotune is the Little Alterboy VST plugin by Soundtoys. This VST comes in at less than $100 and can do a few cool tricks that your DAW may be missing.
With a truly easy user interface, you can shift pitch and format on vocals, create harmonies (hence the Little Alterboy name), and create vocoder-like effects. You can also lock vocals to a set pitch to produce a flat robot voice effect.
If you use the quantize function, you can achieve the hard autotune that I’ve been calling the T-Pain effect. There’s not a lot of autotune control here, and it’s certainly not for surgical tone repairs. But this affordable autotune plugin can be a heck of a lot of fun for vocal effects.
Tune Real-Time by Waves – Best Cheap Autotune VST Plugin
The best budget autotune VST plugin on our list is Tune Real-Time by Waves. This plugin is normally priced at $65 but can sometimes be picked up on sale for less than $50, so it’s a heck of a deal.
An automatic autotuner
Designed to clean up vocal tracks in real-time with zero or near-zero latency. You can set it to hard tune if you want that T-Pain effect. But, in general, it’s used for helping a vocalist get to perfect pitch by cleaning up any off-notes.
Furthermore, you can mark any notes you hear in the performance for cleaning up in pre-production. You can also use a MIDI controller to key in the pitches you want the vocals set to, and the plugin will do the rest.
What I like the best about this easy plugin is that you can adjust speed and note transition independently. This helps give you much better control over the effect you’re going for. Sure it’s not as in-depth as Auto-tune and Melodyne. But I think that for an inexpensive autotune VST; you can’t really do a whole lot better.
MAutoPitch by Melda Production – Best Sounding Free Autotune VST Plugin
For my last two recommendations, I’m going to dip into the world of free autotune VST plugins. Ever since Antarea dropped Auto-tune in 1997, engineers have been trying to copy it, and many have shared their work via open-source shareware.
That means that pretty much anybody with a bit of coding experience can now produce a basic autotune VST. But are any of them worth using? MAutoPitch by Melda Production is one that I think is worth trying out.
A basic automatic autotuner and vocal effects generator in one
While it’s pretty basic, you can set the key you want for auto-detection, then adjust depth, speed, detune, and your base frequency to either smooth out vocal errors or else go crazy and put on hard effects. It works well and produces almost no sound artifacts.
The vocal effects it includes mimic Little Alterboy. You can mess with formant shifts, wet/dry sound, and width to get some great vocal sounds you hear in EDM and deep house these days. And anyway, it’s free, so why not try it out?
GNAP by CVST – Best Basic Free Autotune VST Plugin
My last autotune VST plugin recommendation is GNAP by CVST. This is a fun little automatic tuner that produces OK results. It’s not the greatest, but if you want to practice using autotune before you buy an expensive plugin, this is a good place to start. The UI is super easy to use, and the controls are basic and simple.
You can use MIDI to map out a melody you want it to map your vocal track to, if you’re cleaning up off-notes. Otherwise, you can get that hard-tuned T-Pain Effect easily by cranking the dials. Once again, it’s free, so why not pick it up and plug it in to learn what autotuning is all about?
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So, what are the Best Autotune VST Plugins?
While there’s no one size fits all answer, the ones are those that are easy to use and give you the level of control you need. If you’re looking for hard tuning and the T-Pain effect, almost any plugin these days can do that.
However, if you want to be more careful and specific on where you’re using the effect, pick up a quality automatic tuner. For example, Auto-tune itself to give you the control you need.
That all being said
If you’re looking to smooth over vocal performances and make them sound pitch-perfect, you will want to look at a graph editor. Melodyne is probably your best bet for detailed, surgical repairs with zero artifacts; that’s why it is used on more chart hits than any other auto-tune software.
And if you’re just looking for a cheap, fun way to mess with vocal sounds, try a free VST plugin. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Autotune can indeed be overdone, but tastefully used in the hands of the right producer, it can convert a track into a hit.
Until next time, let your music play.