I swear, If I hear another R&B “Hit” with out of time vocals I am gonna go crazy. Look, autotune is fine, even appropriate in some instances. People dig it and I understand why; it’s fun, it’s a gimmick and people are suckers for gimmicks. My beef isn’t with autotune itself, it is the ~20 millisecond delay it creates when you insert it on a track. When this delay isn’t compensated for, you will hear an audible lag in the vocal track that tends to make the lyrics drag ever so slightly (not in a good way) and this definitely needs to be addressed. One would think that people making music getting played on the radio/TV would notice this delay and attempt to correct it, but somehow I continue to hear charted R&B and Hip-Hop singles with a noticeable and uncorrected “autotune” latency. Again, I’m not talking about a relaxed, “behind-the-beat” groove on the vocals, I am talking about a straight up, plug-in induced, 20-25ms lag on the entire track that is super obvious and distracting.
Why does this lag even happen in the first place? Allow me to explain. To get your busted vocal sounding like a drunk robot, autotune needs a little time to think things over and make a plan. This is where the latency, or lag comes in. Because autotune “looks ahead,” it has to delay the track a fraction of a second to do its job. Now Autotune 5 could track in real time with a lower latency than Autotune 6 (Evo) can, which has an updated pitch tracking engine, but you still wanted to correct this latency using either manual shifting or PDC (plug-in delay compensation). It is worth noting that all Antares processors with the EVO engine incur this delay and need to be compensated for.
But what if I want to sound like a robot, but correct for this latency? I’m glad you asked. Basically all you need to do is enable automatic delay compensation in your DAW (DAWs other than Pro Tools usually have this enabled by default so you don’t need to worry about it). If you are using Pro Tools LE/Mpowered (which lacks PDC), simply shift the audio on vocal track BACKWARDS in time by the amount of the delay (1380 samples to be exact). This article here explains the process in detail along with some other options. Be sure to track (record) with Autotune 5 if you want to hear the tuning while recording in real time, even if you are going to switch to Evo after the fact, the lower latency will help the performer reconcile what’s coming back through the headphones a little better. When you purchase Autotune EVO, a free license for Autotune 5 is included for this very reason, just install Autotune 5 and your ilok will take care of the rest.