Best Pitch Shift Plugins of 2020 – Ultimate Round-up

Modern technology allowed us to alter audio tracks in so many ways that were almost a science fiction 30 years ago. This technology breakthrough affected music production a lot, so that producers are using pitch shifting plugins on a regular basis nowadays as a part of creative tools.

Our Top Picks for Pitch Shift Plugins

  • 6 vocal processor modules
  • Real-time pitch shifting
  • Up to 4 modules per preset
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  • Granular vocal transformer
  • 10 different effects
  • Create melodies on the fly
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  • Based on Eventide hardware
  • Vintage, Clean, Granular models
  • Basic FX panel provided
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Comparison of the Best Pitch Shift Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Complete vocal processor with 6 modules
  • Real-time pitch & formant shift with throat model
  • Up to 4 modules per preset
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  • Granular vocal transformer
  • 10 different FX including pitch and formant shift
  • Create new melodies on the fly
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  • Based on Eventide H910 and H949
  • Vintage, Clean and Granular models
  • Basic FX panel provided
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  • Vocal formant and pitch shifting
  • Capable of Hard Tune and Vocoding
  • Control pitch by MIDI keyboard
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  • Top quality time stretching plugin
  • Tempo and pitch scale from 50% up to 200%
  • Includes pitch-shifting of same quality
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  • Wonderful élastiquePro v3 engine
  • Pitch and Formant Shifting ±1 Octave
  • Supports up to 8 audio channels
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What is a Pitch Shift Plugin?

Remember the sound of the audio cassette when the battery drains out from your walkman? Or maybe removing a turntable thread during play? That’s more or less the effect pitch shifting is creating intentionally.

Pitch shifting is an audio technique of raising or dropping the original pitch of a sound. Usually, every pitch shift results in time change as well so pitch increase results in audio playing faster while decrease will lead to playing slower. 

However, modern software has developed algorithms that are able to preserve the original sound duration so that modified audio sounds like it was originally recorded at a certain pitch.

When Would I Use a Pitch Shift Plugin?

Let us provide you with some ideas about the proper use of pitch-shifting:

Animated Movie Characters

Chip and Dale, or the infamous The Chipmunks are probably the best example of applying this kind of effect to the movie industry. This kind of voice is made by applying a pitch shift up to one or two octaves

On the other hand, turning the pitch down may create a certain sinister vibe around your vocal ideal for casting a villain.

Singing

If you want to make a distinctive vocal track, pitch shifting may be at use even with extreme values. Take a Scooter - Logical Song or Akon - Lonely for an example.

But, pitch shifting may also lead to formant shifting instead so that female singers may sound even like Chuck Berry. It’s all about being extreme!

Transpose

It may happen that a song you have written is made for a male singer, but all of sudden, it appears that you have a female singer interested in that specific song, but the key is very low for her. Instead of composing everything from scratch, you can apply pitch shift and record her vocals first and then work on the backing tracks later.

Are All Pitch Shift Plugins The Same?

Pitch Shift plugins are the same regarding what they do in general - alter the pitch of your source track while remaining quite natural regarding sound quality. But, what else they may provide you with is quite a different story. 

Some will cover extended key range, others may provide you with several pitch-shifting algorithms. Some will also extend their features towards vocoding, chromatic auto-tuning, and harmonizing features with additional support for MIDI Keyboard control and there are those that will allow you to speed up or slow down your source track in a very usable way.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Pitch Shift Plugins

Here are some of the best Pitch Shift Plugins we’ve found in stores:

PROS

  • Up to 4 modules per preset
  • Auto Motion voice arpeggiator
  • Complete vocal processor with 6 modules
  • Duet, Tube Amp, Mutate & Vocoding effects
  • Real-time pitch and formant shifting with realistic throat modeling

CONS

  • Doesn’t support 32-bit version
  • Can’t stack modules on your own

Features and Specifications

Auto-Tune EFX+ is a vocal processing unit that comes with six modules along with auto-tuning features packed into pre-made patches that cover extensive sound range.

Pitch and Throat is organized so that the X parameter models the throat length (formant) while Y alters the pitch shift.

Duet might be useful for micro pitch-shifting and for creating more dense vocal mix while the Vocoder will change your voice into robotic one.

Auto-Motion feature generates pitch-shifting melodic patterns. Think of it like an arpeggiator for the vocals.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Auto-Tune EFX+ is more than just a regular pitch shifter and it might be an overkill if the pitch shifting is the only thing you’re looking for. But, for the price given, it’s very hard for us to not recommend it as it can do a lot more.

You get one of the best pitch shifter on the market and a useful vocoder, doubler and vocal processor capable of excellent formant shifting and the best auto-tune engine. This plugin can sound both realistic and artificial, depending on your needs.

On top of that, it works with instrument tracks as well.

PROS

  • 4 modulation controls
  • Granular vocal transformer
  • Change melodies on the fly
  • Create harmonies with up to 4 voices
  • 10 Different effects including pitch and formant shifting

CONS

  • Basic reverb and delay would be great
  • Steep learning curve for getting most from it

Features and Specifications

Manipulator uses granular algorithms to change the timbre and pitch of the source track. It is capable of more than just a usual pitch shifting.

It comes with 10 effects including two octaves of pitch and formant shifting with additional smoothing options. The user interface is organized in form of 7 big knobs for options such as pitch, formant, alternator, octave and harmonics while the bottom part contains a programmable Meta Knob that controls more features at once, MIDI controller panel, Sequencer, and Amp envelope.

Also, you can create polyphonic harmonies by stacking up to 4 voices.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Polyverse is a modern brand that always takes a step further with their products. Manipulator is much more than a plain pitch shifter. It simply asks you to think outside the box and create something completely new and original.

Sure, you can go “safe” and fix a vocal line you have just recorded by playing a MIDI from your MIDI keyboard and that’s a wonderful feature. But, you can also change vocals into lead synth thanks to the parameters it provides.

And the best part is that it supports real-time performing so it can work for your live performances as well.

Best for the Money:
Audio Damage Discord4

PROS

  • Basic FX panel provided
  • Versatile pair of modulation
  • 3 pitch-shifting algorithms provided
  • Pitch shift range up to 6 octaves in total
  • Based on the Eventide H910 and H949 hardware

CONS

  • Windows 7 not officially supported
  • Reverb and LFOs can’t be set individually to left or right channel

Features and Specifications

Discord4 is a pitch shifter plugin that contains three different pitch-shifting algorithms. Vintage model (P1) is based upon Eventide H910 and H949 hardware, and there are available Clean (P2) and Granular pitch-shifting algorithms. Vintage and Clean models also have a Buffer Size control that ranges from 32 to 2048 samples.

User interface is vector based and it’s fully resizable. It’s made from dual Shifter, Delay and Filter panels along with stereo Reverb module. Two LFO units can be assigned to every panel and can be synced to tempo with numerous modulation shapes.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is a very affordable pitch-shifting tool that comes with multiple pitch-shifting algorithms. We find this price to be a no-brainer in case you need a plain pitch shifting plugin.

Every model has its own strengths so it’s up to you to decide which one suits your song the best. It also provides you with the true stereo option allowing you to edit left and right independently or to link it all together.

Also, its user interface is vector based which means it can be fully resizable so you don’t have to worry about new resolutions that may become a standard at some point.

Best Formant Shift:
Soundtoys Little AlterBoy

PROS

  • Vocal formant and pitch shifting
  • Control vocals pitch by MIDI keyboard
  • Simplified user interface, very easy to use
  • Mix control allows you to create basic harmonies
  • Capable of Hard Tune, Robot and Vocoder modes

CONS

  • Works with 64-bit OS only
  • Scale input would be great for harmonizing

Features and Specifications

Little Alterboy comes with a very basic user interface. Pitch Knob allows you to shift one octave above and below, Formant knob changes the vocal character while Drive will add analog-modeled tube saturation to your track. The mix will balance the original and altered sound so it can be a handy way to create a basic harmony.

It also provides you with three modes. Transpose is a default mode, Quantize will lock your voice to the nearest chromatic note and Robot will lock voice to a single note depending on the Pitch knob position.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Soundtoys founders have a huge history of creating pitch-shifting plugins, so they summed all the prior experience in making this software. They made it user-friendly while delivering high-quality results for any kind of vocal modulation you may have in mind.

Pitch shifting will be clear without any artifact no matter how hard you turn it up or down, while you may also be able to create a hard tune effect for your hip-hop project with the Quantized mode.

Also, you can use your MIDI Keyboard to control the pitch values or as a vocoder effect if you set it to Robot mode.

Best Time Shift Plugin:
Serato Pitch ‘N Time LE

PROS

  • Top-quality time-stretching plugin
  • Very straightforward user interface
  • Includes pitch-shifting of same quality
  • Option to link tempo and pitch changes
  • Change tempo and pitch from 50% up to 200%

CONS

  • Might be expensive for some users
  • Stand-alone version would come nice

Features and Specifications

User interface is organized in five basic panels. Once you determine the Input BPM Calculator based on the number of the bars and track length you get to apply a Tempo slider ranging from 50% up to 200%. In the same manner, Pitch can be assigned from -12 to +12 semitones and it can be linked to follow tempo change or maintain original pitch.

Once you have completed the shifts, the Key Shift panel will display your current key and the Output Length will display a time for a track you’re about to render.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Time Shifting is related to the tempo change and isn’t strictly related to the pitch shifting. But, the rule of the thumb says that if time-shifting works well, then pitch shifting won’t fail behind. And luckily for us, Serato provided us with both features in this software. Actually, this algorithm made Serato famous back in the late 90s.

If you need a high-quality sample manipulation, where no one would even detect that you have applied it at all, then this is your unit. While you can use it on individual tracks, it works the best if applied on completed stereo tracks.

PROS

  • 3 display views
  • Presets suitable for movies
  • Supports up to 8 audio channels
  • Pitch and Formant Shifting ±1 Octave
  • Based on wonderful élastiquePro v3 engine

CONS

  • Time stretching done by this engine is not included
  • With this quality, we would prefer unlimited key range

Features and Specifications

Élastique Pitch 2 is based on the élastiquePro v3 engine that comes with feedback delay and the infiniSTRETCH function. You can change the pitch and timbre (formant) up to one octave up and down and it supports up to eight channels with real-time processing.

User interface has three display modes depending on how much in-depth you want to go with the editing. Normal and Advanced displays are organized in the form of an XY pad where the X-axis controls the timbre and the Y-axis handles the pitch value.

Why it Stands Out to Us

ÉlastiquePro v3 is probably the best pitch shifting engine currently on the market. It’s simply amazing how this algorithm alters both pitch and formants without damaging the original source. It works well for both single tracks and complete songs within the reasonable pitch shifting.

For spoken vocals, it works even better and it’s only up to you to tailor it to your taste.

The transposed sound is so good that in case you have decided to change the key all of sudden we would even dare to leave transposed tracks in the final mix.

Pitch Shift Plugin Tips, Tricks, and Hacks For Success

Here is some advice about how to apply pitch shift properly:

Exaggerate

If you want to drop the pitch down, talk more laid-back. For pitched up sounds, set your recording it a little bit upbeat. Simply, try to imitate the character of a person you want to create, not the voice. Emphasize vowels because that will be the most audible part of the processed track. But, try not to overdo it.

Also, try to sound “normal”. We know it may be hard if you monitor yourself with the pitch shift effect, so if you’re struggling, maybe the fastest way to do it is to record a normal track and apply a pitch shift effect later.

Stay in Key

If you’re editing a singing or instrument part, always remember to stay in tune. This means that the key shift should be applied in octaves (12 or 24 semitones) up or down. If you want to create a harmony, intervals such as fourth (+5 and -7) and fifths (+7 and -5) will work in any key.

Formants Are Your ​Friend

If your vocal doesn’t sound very realistic, play around with the formants. This way you’re changing the size of the vocal tract and can alter between male and female voice. 

Conclusion

Pitch Shift is a very interesting effect that it’s very hard to miss in modern music due to the reason it’s always used in extreme values. If you’re having a hard time working on some pop song, it may sound funny at first, but maybe this effect will make a difference eventually!