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Elastique Pitch is a real time pitch shifting plugin (VST/AU/RTAS formats, for both OS X and Windows platforms), developed by zplane, a German company. It claims to be ‘the optimal pitch shifting plug-in for film and video conversion applications, for sound design and for adjusting pitch ranges in recording and rehearsal sessions.’
Why using a plug-in instead of your DAW’s pitch shifting?
Elastique Pitch, uses the zplane Elastique Pro pitch shifting engine which is used by millions of end users around the world (they licensed it to Ableton, Reaper, Peak, among others) to ensure the highest, program independent pitch shifting quality and has an interface has been designed to allow quick and intuitive interaction with all parameters for maximum control. The key features are:
- multi channel: support for synchronous pitching of up to 8 audio channels
- real time: no offline pre-analysis required
- program independence: high pitch shifting quality for all audio types (speech, monophonic instruments, complete mixes, etc.)
- phase coherence: absolute phase stability between all input channels
- MIDI input: for pitch control
- formant shifting: shift formants independently from pitch
- factory presets: for typical film pull-ups/pull-downs
This makes Elastique an instant hot potato in the time-stretching world in my opinion due to the fact that
- it is real-time
- no offline pre-analysis required
- phase coherent across channel
- MIDI control.
It has to be said that the attraction and main appeal is now clear as to why I would use this over the in-built plug-ins of my DAW. The other great thing I liked about this plug-in as soon as I opened it was the interface. Clean and simple with nothing really more than an XY pad. Surrounding the XY pad, we have a two slides which we use to depict the required pitch and timbre of the audio we are effecting.
Pitch Shift Slider
Move up or down to change the pitch of the signal and the current setting is displayed in either percentage (%) or semitones (st). The range is from 50% (or -12 Semitones) of its original pitch to 200% (or 12 Semitones), which is twice the original pitch. Values can be typed in for ease too and to change between % and semitones, just click on the value and hey presto!
Timbre Shift Slider
Move left or right to change the timbre – i.e. the formants – of the signal. Right is up (Mickey Mouse) and left is down (Darth Vader). Again this is within the same range as the Pitch Shift slider. The great thing about the Timbre is that you can select the proper fundamental frequency range of your audio with a button simply labelled ‘input’. To ensure best timbre shifting quality for different types of input signals, adjust the dominant frequency region of the input signal with this control.
This setting has no impact on the pitch shifting quality, only the formant shifting quality. The decimal values in the popup menu indicate the internal value for each setting.This make a huge difference to the sound of the audio and with a little abuse by not setting it correctly, you can get some very strange and diverse outcomes.
Timbre and pitch can be adjusted independently from one another or linked so that a relationship is maintained between both. To adjust the pitch independently from the timbre, just simply click ‘disable’ on the link between pitch and timbre shift factors. Pitch and timbre factors are linked by default with this switch. That means that the formants are shifted in accordance with the pitch factor. If the link button is activated when pitch and timbre have the same values (for example when both pitch and timbre equal 100%), then the plugin output is shifted without preserving the formats. If the sliders have non-equal values when the button is activated,formants will always be shifted by a constant amount. When the link is disabled, pitch and timbre can be controlled independently. To preserve the original formants, set the timbre slider to the middle position (100.00% or ±0.00st).
Not a fan of sliders and correct values? That’s fine, just grab the small dot on the XY pad and move it around to your hearts content, freely and smoothly to explore the more extreme possibilities of the Elastique. Remember to disable the link between pitch and timbre shift factors should you want them to move independently.
Note : When automating both Pitch and Timbre via the host, the link switch will automatically be disabled.
Control Pitch by MIDI Input
The pitch factor can also be controlled by MIDI note input or the MIDI pitch wheel controller. Route the MIDI input from a keyboard or controller to Elastique and play! The pitch factor 100.00% (±0.00st) corresponds to a MIDI pitch of 60 (C3). MIDI pitches in the octave below will shift down, higher MIDI pitches will shift up. The shift factor is calculated by the semi- tone distance from pitch C3.
Additionally, you can use the Pitch Wheel controller to smoothly change the pitch factor in a range of ±2 semi-tones.
How does it sound?
I guess this is the big one. Ultimately with all this great and simple to use functionality and the real time control, the plug-in is not likely to take over from those I already use if it sounds weak.
Truthfully I found this to work well on most things I threw at it. Drum loops which contained a large amount of information such as hi-hats, kicks and snares were no problem when tuning them to the track I was working on. I found using the Timbre slider alone without affecting the pitch was often enough to get it where I wanted it. Being able to change the dominant frequency then brought in any strange artifacts into line better. For example the cymbals felt slightly sharp of the overall loop and the transients sounded stretched and smeared until I chose the fundamental frequency for the plug-in to calculate on.
Bass synths, guitars, keys and one shot hits were the best. Perhaps because they have less information ultimately and they felt solid with no strange artifacts once the fundamental was chosen to suite! Vocals again were smooth and the ability to choose the fundamental frequency really showed its power here. Choosing the ‘wrong’ frequency really allowed me to create some strange, alien and doubled vocals.
Obviously taking the pitch and timbre to far extremism created some less usable solutions to pitch shifting but definitely had a place in the ‘sound design’ toolkit.
So yes, this one is going to stay in my arsenal of tools for now at least. As someone who works with mainstream and more abstract music this is going to fit right in whatever my needs. Creating harmonies, overall pitching of instruments or notes to running monophonic synths through it and altering the fundamental frequency to create diverse voices is exactly what this plug-in can do, and it does it very simply and without a cluttered user interface. The MIDI control is really a great part too should you want to ‘perform’ along with the audio you are effecting.
Price: $199 USD/149 Euro (+ VAT)
A demo version is available.
I found this to work well on most things I threw at it
- MIDI Realtime Control
- Fundamental frequency option for audio
- Simple GUI
LOVE-IT OR HATE-IT
- Abuse it, to produce extreme results – great for Sound design!
- Quite expensive (but for its main target, post-pro studios, etc. is money well spent)