Best Auto-Tune Plugins of 2020 – Complete Review

This is probably the most controversial plugin that has been ever made. It’s also probably one of the youngest as well and one of the rare that doesn’t rely on the vintage legacy. Still, it manages to be very important for many modern music genres. We’re talking about the Auto-Tune.

Our Top Picks for Autotune Plugins

  • Pro time, pitch correcting
  • User-friendly interface
  • For MacOS, Windows
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  • Note based editing
  • Use with any instrument
  • Chord recognition
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  • Best Waves Plugin
  • Can program settings
  • Very compatible
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Comparison of the Best Autotune Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • World class professional time and pitch correcting
  • User-friendly editing interface for all users
  • Can be used on MacOS and Windows
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  • Audio editing is note based and simple
  • Can be used with any instrument and singing
  • Chord Track is perfect for chord recognition and editing
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  • Best Waves Autotune Plugin
  • Can program and customize settings for individual songs
  • Compatible with Waves SoundGrid apps and eMotion mixers
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  • Best for the Money
  • Auto-Key feature analyzes audio in real time
  • Effective pitch corrector is quick and simple to use
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  • Best Autotune Plugin For Pro Tools
  • 2 new 24-band Dynamic EQs for custom sound
  • 12 modules for vocal-focused production
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  • Best FL Studio Autotune Plugin
  • Is compatible with MacOS and Windows
  • Auto-corrects instruments and vocals live
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  • Best Autotune Plugin For Audacity
  • Helps singers stay in-tune when performing
  • Pitch manipulation is done easily and seamlessly
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What is an Auto-Tune Plugin?

Auto-Tune is an audio processor available as a VST effect that shifts pitches to the nearest true, correct semitone while preserving the original length.

It works the best for monophonic source tracks. Depending on the values and algorithms used it may hit the exact semitone or bring vocals closer to it. 

If it was used in a way it was designed to, the audience won’t detect any significant effect on your vocals. However, when the more extreme values are applied it can synthetically distort the human voice and create completely new harmonic and overtone layers.

Are All Auto-Tune Plugins The Same? 

Auto-Tune plugins vary a lot based on how many parameters they will provide. Some will cover a beginner-friendly audience and go with simplified settings, while others may go in-depth and allow you to be very creative with your vocal tracks. They may even provide you even with the scientific approach so you can control not just vocal lines, but vibrato, trills, and breaths as well.

Also, auto-tune plugins may provide you with much more than just this type of effect. They can come in the bundle with the complete vocal processor so you can have dedicated effect panels and even some technical tools such as de-essing or compressing. It may not be necessary for a proper auto-tuning, but the more you clean up your vocals, the more they can be put in front and shine on your track.

Also, there are Auto-Tune plugins that work only on monophonic sources which are completely fine if you want to apply it on vocals. However, you should know that pitch correction can be applied to the instruments as well and that there are plugins that will allow you to correct the pitch on a complete chord and save you from additional time spent in the studio.

When Would I Use a Auto-Tune Plugin? 

Auto-Tune can be a quite useful plugin in situations like these:

Pitch Correction

Let’s say you have recorded a perfect vocal line with slight out-of-tune parts that aren’t so easily noticeable. So, instead of trying out in the studio probably dozens of times more and probably failing to capture similar performance, you can apply a subtle auto-tune that will correct those parts and save you a lot of time.

Hard Tune

Modern hip-hop performers have turned the dial up to 11 and made out of auto-tuning an effect that doesn’t work as a corrective tool anymore. At these values, auto-tune becomes a creative tool that changes your vocal behavior into something completely digitized but also authentic.

Harmony Creation

There are auto-tune plugins that allow you to use your single voice track and layer it in complete harmony. If you don’t have a backing singer or you don’t know how to record those lines, this option may sound appealing to you.

Instrument Tuning

Auto-Tune plugin is meant for the vocals. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fix the tuning of your electric guitar or all kinds of violins, horns, and woodwinds, too. 

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Auto-Tune Plugins

Auto-Tune is an effect that usually comes with more features, so these are the best bundles we have managed to find:

PROS

  • ARA plugin format supported
  • Unique Throat Modeling module
  • Flex-Tune and Humanize bring vocals into tune
  • Control parameters in real-time on MIDI controller
  • The most advanced auto-tune plugin on the market

CONS

  • It may feel expensive
  • Such a shame it doesn’t come with EFX+ features

Features and Specifications

Auto-Tune Pro with several vocal editing moduli and redesigned user interface in default Auto Mode or Graph Mode where you can edit tracks by using a pitch graph and other tools. It includes a much larger Main Graph with greater zoom resolution.

Speaking of core features, Flex-Tune and Humanize are the key features of this plugin and they can bring vocals into tune while preserving traits that define their character. Retune Speed defines how fast the pitch is corrected while Natural Vibrato will amplify or diminish the vibrato that is already present in the source track.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Antares is a company that made an auto-tune effect, so this should be the first stop where to look at it if you need one. Throat modeling is a wonderful formant shifter that lets you specify the length of the throat. 

Time Correction will help you to nail the timing for your take to perfection and you can also use it to change the speed up to 10 times the original length in both directions.

And in case this plugin feels too expensive, there is an Artist version that comes with slimmed-down features but for basic auto-tune needs, it will work great.

PROS

  • Chord track displayed in the Note Editor
  • The most famous manual pitch correction tool
  • Leveling macro balances the notes used in chords
  • Several algorithms dedicated to different track sources
  • Ability to edit pitched and noise-like components separately

CONS

  • Very steep learning curve
  • Automatic settings would come handy

Features and Specifications

Melodyne 5 comes with several pitch correction algorithms. Melodic is used for vocals and it has been upgraded so it detects unvoiced and voiced consonants. All sibilants are isolated automatically for further editing. A percussive Pitched algorithm is developed for percussion instruments such as tabla while Robust Curve Pitch is ideal for tracks with a lot of reverb

Why it Stands Out to Us

Melodyne has a reputation similar to Leslie, Fender, or Marshall and it’s one of those plugins that simply justifies its price by its quality. Its name is confused with the term to auto-tune so often that people tend to say “let's apply Melodyne”. We hope this tells you a lot about how good this software is.

While Melodyne may be a much more than just an auto-tune editor it has all capabilities to bring your vocals beyond typical auto-tune. And it’s one of the rare plugins that have polyphonic support so you can also apply pitch correction on every instrument.

Best for the Money:
Waves Tune Real-Time

PROS

  • 7 voice registers available
  • Lots of automatization parameters provided
  • Modify any natural vibrato present in the track
  • The largest scale collection and creating user scales available
  • Automatic auto-tune software optimized for live and studio settings 

CONS

  • Graphical editor is missing
  • Harmonies would be welcomed

Features and Specifications

This Waves plugin provides you with the automatic auto-tune effect. Pitch correction is performed automatically with several options that can tailor its behavior.

You have a typical knob for speed displayed in milliseconds while the correction panel determines how much of pitch-correction you want to apply. In between, there is a nice visual display of how far from the center the current note is drifting.

Instead of the gender switch, Tune Real-Time treats formants based on the vocal range so you have 3 female and 3 male vocals and one suitable for both genders.

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you strictly need just an auto-tune effect, there is no more affordable software than this one. This plugin may match with the rest of the competition, especially for those hard tune effects. It provides you with all the parameters you would find in the premium auto-tune software except for graphical editors. 

Having a vocal register selection is a quite neat option to create a realistic output, so, on a blind test, it would be really hard to tell a difference between this software and our favorite. It’s all about the workflow, if the Waves user interface works for you, you won’t go wrong.

Best Auto-Tune Plugin for Audacity:
Antares Auto-Tune Access

PROS

  • Auto-Key add-on supported
  • Hard Tune vocals fully supported
  • Supports real-time live performance
  • A much cheaper version of Auto-Tune Pro
  • Retune Speed and Humanize features included

CONS

  • Doesn’t support 32-bit OS
  • Flex-Tune would be nice if it was included

Features and Specifications

This unit is a light version of the Antares Auto-Tune Pro version. While it shares the same user interface design, it provides you only with the Retune Speed and Humanize features which would be enough for creating the auto-tune effect you’re looking for.

Based on how you dial the Retune Speed knob you can get both hard tune and realistic pitch correction results after you define your project key and scale manually. But, unlike the Pro version, you need to purchase an Auto-Key add-on for this software.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Antares Auto-Tune Access is the most affordable Antares auto-tune plugin. But, regarding this specific effect, it does the job the same way. Retune Speed and Humanize have all the features found in Pro version and they can be used for both live performances and studio work. 

If you’re looking for no other features, then this unit may be the best buy for you. And the best part is that you can start with this version and then upgrade if needed. If you’re tight on a budget this actually may be the best call.

Best Auto-Tune Plugin for Pro Tools:
iZotope Nectar 3

PROS

  • 12 vocal-oriented modules
  • Time-saving Auto Level Mode
  • Dynamic EQ with the Follow EQ Mode provided
  • Machine learning Vocal Assistant one-click technology
  • Melodyne 5 Essential included for time and pitch correction

CONS

  • Not so friendly price
  • We would like more reverb models

Features and Specifications

iZotope Nectar 3 comes with 12 vocal-oriented modules starting from 24-band EQ, De-Essing, Gate, Saturation, Harmony with up to 8 voices, Reverb, Delay, dual Compression and Dimension which covers typical Chorus and Phaser effect

It also provides you with the Melodyne 5 Essential which excels in pitch and time correction and will be suitable for creating any kind of vocal edits.

Besides Melodyne, there is a Pitch module that automatically detects the pitch register and fixes out of tune vocals. By adjusting the speed knob you can get the more extreme effects.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Pro Tools users are usually advanced music producers that know what they are doing and they may utilize advanced features if there are some found within the software. That’s why bundled instances of Melodyne 5 Essential will come extremely useful for any kind of auto-tune effect.

However, bear in mind that this plugin is much more than just a plain auto-tune. It may be your all-in-one solution for vocal editing no matter what type of music you’re about to record, especially because of Unmask and Auto Level features that can save you a lot of manual editing time.

Best FL Studio Auto-Tune Plugin:
Image Line Pitcher

PROS

  • Create up to 4-voice harmonies
  • Vintage and simplified user interface
  • Useful for both vocals and instruments
  • Correct pitch using piano roll or by live playing
  • Real-time pitch correction plugin made for FL Studio users

CONS

  • May lack some in-depth programming
  • Works only under FL Studio environment

Features and Specifications

The user interface is organized plain and simple. On the left, you have a scale and key selection and next to it there are key blocks with the switches beneath so you can define what keys will be included in the scale. 

Speed knob will determine how extreme your auto-tune will sound while Fine Tune will provide additional parameters for natural pitch sounding correction. In the center, there is a formant knob that defines what gender your source track will shift to. On the bottom, there are buttons dedicated to MIDI, Octaves, and Harmonies.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is a special plugin designed for FL Studio only, so, if you’re a fan of this DAW software, we guess that Image Line probably already knows how to approach your workflow the best.

Pitcher works well for either subtle or completely robotic pitch corrections. The pitch correction can be controlled by entering the notes on the MIDI piano roll or by playing in real-time on your MIDI keyboard. This way you can apply Octaves or Harmonies to your source track and get a little bit more than just a plain auto-tune effect, especially if you use it on other instruments.

Editor’s Pick:
iZotope Nectar Elements

PROS

  • Ideal for beginners
  • Intelligent Vocal Assistant feature
  • 6 parameter sliders for further customizing
  • 3 Vibe Modes define the type of vocal you want
  • Affordable and interactive all-in-one vocal editing

CONS

  • Options may be limiting for some users
  • If Reverb is included, Delay wouldn’t be too much to ask for

Features and Specifications

Nectar Elements is a slimmed-down version of the full product and it comes with several features found in the original software such as Pitch, Reverb, EQ, and De-Esser and a very useful Voice Assistant option.

Apart from usual options, the Elements version provides you with the additional Vibe Mode to further define the parameter automatization. You can select between Dialogue, suitable for spoken tracks, and Vintage or Modern vibe presets ideal for singing tracks. There is another selection for automatized compression and you can pick between Light, Moderate and Aggressive options. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

If Nectar 3 caught your attention but it’s out of your price range or you’re not sure if you have the skills to use it properly, consider Elements version then. It was designed for beginners so in case you don't know what you should do with your vocals or you need them to be done fast, you rely a lot on the Vocal Assistant provided with this plugin.

The trade-off is that it lacks advanced vocal editing options. However, you probably won’t need them for the auto-tune effect so we think that the six sliders will provide you with enough control for a while.

Are Auto-Tune Plugins Hard to Learn? 

Many Auto-Tune Plugins come with several different automated presets that make them very easy to use. If this works for you, you will only need to learn how to detect the key of your songs and you’re good to go.

However, if you want to get more into details, it may take some time to understand how to edit it properly. Certain settings won't work on all parts of your singing. Learning how to treat natural falls that occur at the end of your vocal lines is something that is learned by a simple trial and error method only.

Vocoder vs. Auto-Tune - Comparison Overview 

Most people tend to mix those two effects or even treat them like they are the same thing. The reason why they do so is that they both tend to sound artificial, but in quite a different way and applying different techniques.

First of all, auto-tune doesn’t require any additional equipment. You turn the effect on, sing, and the effect is produced based on the parameters you have specified. Depending on how you dial those parameters the result may be quite natural or artificial.

The vocoder is a much older effect and it derives even before World War II. Nowadays it’s being used to create robot-like vocals. It is built from the two parts - your voice as a modulator and the carrier which is usually some analog synthesizer. To put it down as simple as possible, you don’t sing into a vocoder - the melody is generated by the notes you’re holding down. The only part of the melody that you generate with your voice is note length and the vibrato.

The best way to tell a difference is to listen for quick note changes during singing that sounds unnatural. If there are some, you can be sure that auto-tune was applied.

Tips For Using Auto-Tune Plugins

Here are some advises for you:

Don’t Be a Perfectionist

It may be odd, but people love faulty lines. If the vocal lines need the fixing, try not to be surgically precise. It’s completely fine to have small flaws here and there because that’s the part of your singer’s character.

And don’t be so judgmental. We dare you to go out and check any professional singing made before auto-tune was invented and see how many “mistakes” you will find.

Think of the Genre

Remember that certain genres simply ask for organic sound. This means vocal imperfections are not just acceptable, they are mandatory. Jazz, gospel, or blues probably don’t require any kind of auto-tuning. Due to the loudness of the instruments used in hard rock and heavy metal music singers may compensate for monitoring issues with subtle tuning up, while trap and hip-hop or any kind of electronic music may work fine with the extreme values.

Don’t Overdo Hard Tune

If you’re about to record some hard tune lines, try not to imitate the sound you want to achieve. Let the plugin do that for you. The more you sing correctly, the better the effect will be, but, try to avoid any extensive vibrato techniques.

Conclusion 

One day in the future, when the modern music will be studied as a part of the music history, auto-tune will resemble as an effect that defined many genres, just like the groove boxes defined hip-hop of the ’80s. And because it’s still a new effect, who knows where it will evolve eventually?

People Also Ask

Now that you’re a little bit more familiar with the Auto-Tune let’s try and cover some trivia regarding its origin when it was first used and precisely define some glossary terms so you can tell a difference between pitch correction, talkbox and auto-tune. Also, let’s see how Melodyne stands in comparison.

When Was Auto-Tune Invented?

Auto-Tune was introduced in 1997 by Antares Audio Technologies as a way to sort out subtle vocal inaccuracies, but hip hop users changed its purpose to something completely different starting from 2005. Nowadays, trustworthy music producers say that it has been used on every notable record ever made.

Who Used the Auto-Tune First?

Although it got popular with the modern hip-hop artists, it was the legendary Cher that used it first in 1998 for the song Believe. Nevertheless, American artist T-Pain “stole” the “Cher effect” credit to himself and reintroduced this effect to modern hip hop music.

Is Melodyne Better Than Auto-Tune?

It depends on what you need. If you’re looking for a typical modern Auto-Tune, then purchasing Melodyne might be an overkill. But, if you need a pitch correction or advanced editing tool that can work on both instruments and vocals, then Melodyne is an excellent call, especially for studio sessions.

Is Pitch Correction the Same as Auto-Tune?

Pitch correction fine-tunes your vocal performance and fixes slightly off-tune notes. Also, it may require a manual approach. Consider it as a polishing tool. 

Auto-Tune is less precise pitch correction. It moves the singing note singing to the closest one in key automatically and should be considered more as a creative tool.

Is Talkbox the Same as Auto-Tune?

Talkbox is more like Vocoder than Auto-Tune. It also requires a carrier signal, but instead of the microphone, it uses a tube placed into the singer’s mouth. On the carrier part, it uses electric guitar instead of the synthesizers

Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” is probably the most iconic use of the talkbox ever.

Is There Any Hardware for Auto-Tune?

If you’re looking for a reliable and decent auto-tune effect, check TC Helicon products. They may provide you with a couple of pedalboards models and stompboxes capable of creating such an effect. Boss also has some models to offer and Tascam has even made a rack-mount auto-tune effect.