This article will discuss the best time-stretching plugins and software in 2023.
A lot of times, you may need to change the length or tempo of a sample, recording, or any audio in a session. Normally, when you do that in a DAW or video editing software, the pitch changes. Time stretching is an audio processing technique used to change the duration of an audio signal without altering its pitch.
It allows you to stretch or compress audio faster or slower while maintaining the same musical pitch. Time stretching is commonly used in music production, sound design, and audio editing to match the tempo of a track, create dramatic effects, or adjust the timing of audio elements within a composition. It can be achieved using various software tools and plugins designed for this purpose.
The quality of algorithms and technology employed in time stretching is pivotal in audio production, profoundly impacting sound integrity and the overall auditory experience. Some algorithms may be best for transient-based sounds/drum or percussion loops, others may be best for monophonic melodic, and some may be more suitable for polyphonic sounds.
When adjusting the tempo of audio, high-quality algorithms ensure that the audio maintains its original clarity, intricacy, and freedom from undesirable artifacts like glitches, warbles, or noise. Furthermore, they excel in artifact reduction, mitigating issues such as phase distortion, transient smearing, and pitch-shifting artifacts, resulting in a more natural and enjoyable listening experience.
In music production, where time stretching is frequently employed to align audio elements with specific tempos or musical contexts, these algorithms uphold the musicality of the source material. In addition to the underlying algorithm, the interface is also important, so you can easily use these tools. Hence, it’s important to choose high-quality tools for this job. Whether you’re a music producer, audio engineer, video editor, or content creator, we have listed the best software and plugins, some that you can use within your DAW and some outside, for high-quality time stretching. Now, let’s dive right into the list.
6 Best Time Stretching Plugins/Software 2023
1. Waves SoundShifter
SoundShifter allows you to time-stretch your audio flexibly and easily with its high-quality under-the-hood algorithms.
That is extremely useful for synchronizing audio to video, adjusting the timing of vocals, or aligning sound effects with specific visual events. The plugin provides sample-accurate control over time shifting, ensuring that your edits are precise. This level of accuracy is essential for tasks like tightening drum tracks, aligning multi-microphone recordings, or making seamless crossfades.
- Real-Time Processing
SoundShifter works in real-time, so you can audition and adjust the time shift on the fly. This is particularly valuable when working on audio in a live recording or mixing environment, where quick adjustments are necessary.
You can automate the time-shifting parameter in your digital audio workstation (DAW), enabling dynamic changes over time. This is useful for creative effects, transitions, or intricate audio manipulation.
- Time-stretching algorithms
Waves SoundShifter offers remarkable flexibility by allowing you to define time-stretch lengths through various units of measurement, including SMPTE timecode, tempo, bars, or samples. This versatile feature empowers audio professionals to adapt and manipulate audio content according to specific project requirements.
Whether it’s synchronizing audio with video by using SMPTE timecode, maintaining musical tempo consistency, aligning audio to a specific musical bar structure, or precisely stretching audio by a defined sample count, SoundShifter ensures that time-stretching operations are executed with accuracy and control.
- Preservation of Pitch
SoundShifter is designed to preserve the original pitch of the audio when adjusting the timing. This feature is crucial in scenarios where maintaining the natural pitch of a vocal performance or musical instrument is essential.
- Quantization Options
SoundShifter offers quantization options, allowing you to snap the time-shifted audio to specific rhythmic divisions. This is beneficial when working on music to ensure precise timing alignment with other elements.
- Graphic SoundShifter
Graphic SoundShifter provides you with separate graphical curves, each dedicated to precisely manipulating pitch and time. This means you can independently craft nuanced transformations in both aspects of your audio, tailoring your sound to your creative vision.
- Easily tweakable Parameters
Waves SoundShifter boasts a comprehensive suite of parameters, enabling precise time and pitch manipulation. Key parameters include “Start Time,” facilitating precise editing initiation; “Source Time,” defining the original audio duration; “Destination Time,” specifying the desired duration for time compression or expansion; “Cents,” for nuanced pitch adjustments; “Input,” controlling adjustment intensity, and “Output,” managing post-adjustment volume levels to ensure audio consistency during editing.
Soundshifter has a wide range of compatibility as it is available in AAX, VST, and AU plugin formats, making it compatible with most popular DAWs on Mac and Windows OS.
One of the standout features of SoundShifter is the ability to bypass or enable pitch and time adjustments independently of each other. That means you can choose to modify only the timing of an audio segment while leaving the pitch unaffected or vice versa.
For instance, if you want to preserve the pitch of a vocal performance but need to align it with a different part of your project, you can adjust the time without affecting the vocal’s pitch. This dual functionality allows for precise and versatile control over your audio editing, making SoundShifter a valuable tool in audio production, post-production, and sound design, where both time and pitch may require independent adjustments to achieve the desired results.
2. Zynaptiq Time Factor II (only Mac OS)
TIME FACTORY II is an advanced Mac OS X application for top-notch time manipulation and pitch-changing capabilities.
It incorporates renowned ClearScale, ZTX® Pro, and MPEX algorithms, offering unparalleled precision when adjusting the duration and pitch of audio files across an extensive range of stretch ratios. This professional tool supports phase-synchronized processing for mono, stereo, and multi-channel files up to 384kHz sample rate, compatible with various audio file formats while preserving metadata. It excels in batch processing and provides formant shifting and correction capabilities.
- Adaptive Wavelet Technology
ZTX harnesses the adaptive wavelet technology, which precisely targets specific time and frequency components, surpassing conventional methods like PSOLA and phase-vocoder in terms of audio quality, versatility, and user-friendliness.
- Advanced Algorithms
You can choose from the available algorithms based on their preferences, signal type, and desired outcomes, ensuring optimal results for various audio processing tasks. The software incorporates five high-quality algorithms, including ZTX, MPEX 3, MPEX 2, ClearScale, and quickStretch, offering flexibility in achieving the desired audio adjustments.
TIME FACTORY II maintains timing precision, even with lengthy audio tracks, ensuring lip sync and drum timing remain accurate without common artifacts associated with time stretching.
- Multi-Channel Support
It supports phase-synced processing for mono, stereo, and surround (5.1-7.1- N.1 channel layouts), making it suitable for cinematic and broadcast content.
- High Compatibility
The software handles various audio file formats, including AIFF, MBWF/RF64, WAV, WAVE64, AAC, BWF (with metadata preservation), MP3, CoreAudio, and SoundDesigner II. It accommodates sample rates up to 384kHz and bit depths up to 32 bits.
- Various Stretching Options
TIME FACTORY II allows you to specify stretching factors in different units, such as target duration, percentage of length change, BPM, FPS, pitch transposition, or sample frames, offering flexibility in audio adjustments.
- Efficient Batch Processing
The software incorporates an industrial-grade batch-processing engine, allowing you to set parameters, initiate processing, and focus on other tasks while your audio files are efficiently processed.
TIME FACTORY II includes factory presets for common tasks like frame rate conversion (PAL<->NTSC) and the ability to save custom settings for quicker workflow optimization.
TIME FACTORY II is available only on the Mac Operating system and works as a standalone software.
In essence, TIME FACTORY II is a versatile audio processing tool for Mac OS X, offering precise and efficient time stretching, pitch shifting, and formant shifting capabilities across a wide range of audio formats and scenarios. It offers flexible stretching options, advanced algorithms, and efficient batch processing. You can also select from available algorithms based on their preferences, making it ideal for various audio tasks.
3. Celemony Melodyne
Celemony Melodyne is a powerful audio editing software known for its advanced pitch and time manipulation capabilities.
Regarding time stretching, Melodyne offers several features that allow you to manipulate the timing and tempo of audio recordings in a highly flexible and precise manner. It provides various time-stretching algorithms, including the well-regarded “Melodic” and “Percussive” algorithms. These algorithms are designed to work optimally for different types of audio material, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your needs.
- Tempo Mapping
Melodyne can detect and analyze the tempo of audio recordings. You can use this information to create tempo maps and align your audio to a specific tempo grid. That is particularly useful when working on music projects requiring synchronized timing between multiple tracks.
Melodyne offers an Auto-Stretch feature when importing additional audio files into a project with an established tempo map. With Auto Stretch enabled, imported files are automatically adjusted to match the tempo map, replicating any changes they contain. When Auto Stretch is disabled, imported files playback at their original speed, giving you the flexibility to manually edit and adjust the tempo as needed. The initial position of the imported file on the Time Grid depends on the import procedure used.
- Formant Correction and other editing options
Melodyne allows formant correction with options to adjust formants Up, Down, or modify Formant Characters. The plugin also offers Playback Time settings, including Complex, Tonal, and Tonal (High), along with Character adjustments such as Crisp and Smooth. There are also Transients sliders for additional control. Melodyne also provides precise control over Tempo, Pitch, and Formant, allowing for detailed manipulation of audio properties.
- Grid and Time-Grid Editing
The plugin allows you to place audio notes on a grid and adjust their timing by stretching or compressing them. This grid-based editing makes it easy to quantify or humanize individual notes’ timing within a recording.
- Time Handle
You get a “time handle” feature that lets you select a portion of audio and stretch or compress it in time while preserving its pitch. This is useful for correcting timing issues or achieving specific rhythmic effects.
- Multi-track Time Stretching
Melodyne Studio, the more advanced version of the software, offers the ability to time-stretch multiple tracks simultaneously. This is particularly valuable for projects with multiple audio elements that must be synchronized.
- Pitch and Time Separation
The plugin’s unique DNA (Direct Note Access) technology lets you separate pitch and time information within audio recordings. This means you can adjust the timing of individual notes or phrases without affecting their pitch, providing granular control over the time-stretching process.
Melodyne is available as a standalone software in AAX, VST, and AU plugin formats, making it compatible with the most popular DAWs like FL Studio, Logic Pro, Pro Tools, Ableton, Cubase, etc.
Melodyne allows you to audition the results of your time-stretching and tempo adjustments in real time, making it easier to fine-tune your edits. You can automate time-stretching parameters over time, enabling dynamic changes in timing and tempo throughout a song or audio clip. Melodyne’s time-stretching capabilities are highly versatile and suitable for a wide range of audio editing tasks, from fixing timing issues in recordings to creatively manipulating tempo and rhythm.
4. Serato Pitch ‘n Time (only Pro Tools)
Pitch ‘n Time employs advanced algorithms to stretch audio with minimal artifacts, maintaining the original audio quality even at extreme stretch ratios.
The plugin also allows for precise pitch adjustments, enabling you to transpose audio up or down by semitones or cents while preserving timing accuracy. It also supports time compression and expansion, making it valuable for synchronizing audio to video and creating tempo variations in music. Pitch ‘n Time Pro provides the ability to adjust the audio speed independently from its pitch, ranging from as slow as 1/8 of the original speed to as fast as 8 times the original speed.
Similarly, it offers pitch-shifting capabilities of up to 36 semitones without affecting the tempo. The plugin offers three interchangeable panels for both time-stretching and pitch-shifting, accommodating various needs. These panels allow for straightforward fixed adjustments and more intricate alterations that change over time. Additionally, you can manipulate the timing of your audio samples by adding and repositioning markers.
Furthermore, you can combine and match the tempo and pitch panels to fit your specific requirements while previewing the results in real-time.
- Tempo Control
Pitch ‘n Time Pro offers versatile tempo control options, including fixed, variable, and morphing modes, allowing you to adapt audio playback speed to your specific needs or creative preferences.
- Precise Time Stretching
You can set precise time stretching by specifying the desired tempo in BPM (beats per minute) and adjusting the stretch percentage, offering fine-grained control over audio duration.
- Length Management
The plugin provides comprehensive length management tools, enabling you to define timecode values for both the source and target audio, including start, end, and overall length adjustments.
- Pitch Manipulation
Pitch ‘n’ Time Pro offers various pitch manipulation options, including fixed, variable, and varispeed modes. Pitch adjustments can also be made using percentage values, ensuring flexibility in altering audio pitch without affecting tempo.
- Linear and Logarithmic
The plugin provides options for both linear and logarithmic scaling. Linear scaling maintains a consistent change in pitch or time over the adjustment range. Logarithmic scaling, on the other hand, results in a more gradual change at the extremes, which can be useful for achieving subtle variations in pitch or time.
- Ranges: 2x, 4x, and 8x
Pitch ‘n Time Pro offers three distinct ranges for time compression and expansion. You can choose between 2x (doubling speed), 4x (quadrupling speed), or 8x (octupling speed) range options, depending on the desired level of audio manipulation.
- Specialized algorithms: Harmonic, Transients, and Voice
The Harmonic Algorithm prioritizes preserving harmonic content, ideal for instruments and vocals, maintaining the tonal qualities of the original audio. The Transient Algorithm focuses on preserving impactful sound events, beneficial for punchy percussion and dynamic audio. Lastly, the Voice Algorithm optimizes vocal processing, retaining natural tonality and clarity, making it perfect for vocal tuning and harmonization.
The plugin is available in two versions: Pro and Lite. The Pro version is compatible with only Pro Tools (both Mac and Windows), while the Lite version is compatible with Logic Pro and Pro Tools.
Overall, Pitch n Time is a versatile tool with scaling options, adjustment ranges, and specialized algorithms that empower you to achieve precise and nuanced control over time and pitch modifications. Pitch ‘n Time Pro is a versatile tool for audio manipulation in various creative and professional contexts.
5. iZotope RX 9 – Radius (in Time & Pitch) / RX 10 – Variable Time
iZotope RX 9 Time & Pitch (or RX 10 Variable Time) is a powerful audio processing plugin that provides a wide range of tools for editing and enhancing audio.
iZotope is renowned for its audio processing algorithms, and the Time & Pitch module is no exception. It employs advanced algorithms to ensure that time-stretched or pitch-shifted audio retains the highest possible quality with minimal artifacts. The plugin provides a user-friendly interface, allowing precise control over time and pitch adjustments. You can set parameters such as stretch ratio, pitch shift amount, and more, ensuring fine-grained adjustments to meet their specific needs.
- iZotope Radius Algorithm
Featuring the renowned iZotope Radius algorithm (Variable Time in RX-10), this plugin allows you to change the pitch of instruments, vocals, or entire ensembles while preserving the original recording’s timing and acoustic characteristics. iZotope Radius maintains the natural timbral qualities, even during extreme pitch shifts.
- Algorithm Selection
You can choose from three algorithms: Radius (ideal for polyphonic material and non-harmonic audio), Radius RT (offers good quality and speed), and Solo Instrument (optimized for monophonic pitched material like vocals and stringed instruments). This selection ensures optimal results for different audio sources.
- Formant Correction
The plugin offers Formant Correction capabilities, letting you adjust formant frequencies independently of pitch and time processing. You can fine-tune the formant correction filter’s strength, shift, and width for precise control over audio quality.
- Stretch Ratio
You can determine the degree of time stretching with the Stretch Ratio parameter, accommodating speed-up and slow-down effects without affecting pitch.
- Transient Sensitivity
The plugin includes a Transient Sensitivity control, which is particularly useful for maintaining the integrity of transients in percussive material. You can adjust this parameter to balance transient preservation and processing intensity.
RX 10 offers broad compatibility with various digital audio workstations (DAWs) and recording environments through several plugin formats, including AU (Audio Units), AAX (Avid Audio eXtension), AAX Audiosuite, VST3 (Virtual Studio Technology 3), and AU ARA (Audio Random Access, specifically compatible with Logic Pro).
With RX 10’s Variable Time module, you can precisely control the amount of time stretching applied. In conclusion, Izotope RX 9’s Time Stretching feature enhances flexibility in audio editing, ensuring seamless integration into various post-production and music production workflows. Also note that if you want a similar feature in the latest RX-10, you can use “variable time” in RX-10.
6. Cableguys TimeShaper 3
Cableguys TimeShaper 3 is a versatile audio plugin designed for creative time manipulation and shaping of audio signals.
It allows you to manipulate audio timing in real-time, making creating stuttering effects, rhythmic patterns, and time-warped sounds easy. You can draw, curve, and reshape timing patterns directly on the plugin’s interface, providing precise control over time adjustments.
- Multiband Processing
TimeShaper 3 allows you to apply different time-based effects to various frequency ranges within an audio signal. This means you can precisely control how time manipulation affects different parts of your audio spectrum. For example, you can apply time-stretching to the high frequencies while maintaining the original timing of the bass frequencies, allowing for creative and detailed sound design.
- Presets and Templates
The plugin includes a library of presets and templates. These serve as starting points for you, offering a range of pre-configured time-based effects that can be applied to audio. Whether looking for stuttering effects, glitchy patterns, or subtle time-warping, these presets can save time and inspire creativity. Furthermore, you can save your own custom presets, enabling them to reuse your favorite settings in future projects and ensuring consistency in your sound design.
- MIDI Triggering
MIDI triggering is a powerful feature that allows you to synchronize TimeShaper 2’s time-based effects with the tempo of your music projects. This feature ensures that your time-based effects stay perfectly in sync with other elements of your composition. Additionally, MIDI input can trigger specific time effects, enhancing your music production’s dynamic control and automation possibilities.
- Spectral Processing
TimeShaper 3 goes beyond traditional time manipulation by incorporating spectral processing capabilities. That means you can adjust the audio’s timing and manipulate its frequency content. For example, you can create evolving filter sweeps, complex spectral transformations, or unique audio textures by combining time and spectral processing. It opens up endless possibilities for sound experimentation and design.
- User-Friendly Interface
TimeShaper 2 prides itself on its user-friendly interface. The intuitive design allows you to interact with the plugin effortlessly. Visual feedback is responsive and provides real-time information on the applied effects, making it easy to experiment and adjust. The interface encourages creativity by removing barriers and letting you focus on crafting unique time-based effects for your music or audio projects.
- Waveform editing
You get to experience effortless waveform editing tools that simplify the creation of precise time-bending patterns, allowing you to effortlessly transition from rhythmic repetitions to dynamic pitch-altering transformations with just a few clicks.
- Lock your rhythms
You can align your patterns with beats and bars, ensuring they remain tightly locked to your track, and explore a wide range of possibilities, from half-bar reverses to intricate 8-bar stutter effects and more, all with sample-accurate precision.
The algorithms comprise resampling interpolation, enabling extreme audio speed modulation while maintaining minimal aliasing and artifacts. The Smooth Step Mode further enhances the experience by reducing unwanted clicks and crackles that can impact the output quality of other time manipulation plugins.
TimeShaper 3 offers versatile compatibility across both Windows and Mac operating systems. It is compatible with Windows 7, 8, 10, and 11 and operates exclusively in 64-bit mode, ensuring optimal performance and processing capabilities. It seamlessly integrates into host digital audio workstations (DAWs) supporting VST 2, VST 3, or AAX formats. For Mac users, TimeShaper 2 is compatible with Mac OS X 10.13 and later, catering to a broad Mac user base. It functions on both Intel and Apple Silicon processors.
Overall, Cableguys TimeShaper 3 is a powerful audio plugin designed for real-time creative time manipulation of audio signals. It provides precise control over timing, allowing you to easily create stuttering effects, rhythmic patterns, and unique time-warped sounds. With multiband processing, it offers the flexibility to apply distinct time-based effects to different frequency ranges within the audio spectrum, enabling detailed sound design.
The plugin includes a library of presets and templates for inspiration, and you can save custom presets for consistency. MIDI triggering ensures perfect synchronization with project tempo, while spectral processing adds depth by manipulating time and frequency content.
1. PaulXStretch by Xenakios (for Linux users)
PaulXStretch is a time-stretching and pitch-shifting audio processing plugin created by Xenakios.
It’s known for its extreme stretching capabilities and is often used for creative sound design and audio manipulation. PaulXStretch can stretch audio to extreme lengths, making it useful for creating ambient textures, soundscapes, and experimental music. This plugin can be used to slow down or speed up audio without affecting the pitch, or it can be used to change the pitch of audio without altering its duration.
- High-Quality Algorithms
The plugin uses high-quality algorithms to ensure stretched or pitch-shifted audio sounds as clean and artifact-free as possible.
- FFT Size adjustment
PaulXStretch can adjust the FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) size, allowing for precise control over the time-stretching process. Larger FFT sizes enable extreme time stretching while maintaining audio quality, making it possible to create elongated soundscapes and ambient textures without significant artifacts.
- Tonal and Noise Separation
The plugin provides a parameter to control the bandwidth separation between tonal and noise components in the audio signal. This feature is valuable for separating harmonic content from noisy elements, making isolating and manipulating specific aspects of the sound easier.
- Pitch Shifting and Preservations
PaulXStretch allows real-time audio pitch shifting, making it versatile for musical applications. You can adjust the pitch both in octaves and semitones, making it useful for harmonization, transposition, and creative pitch effects while preserving the original audio’s tonal characteristics. The tonal vs. noise preservation options help maintain the integrity of the sound during pitch adjustments.
PaulXStretch is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS and in VST, AAX, IAA, AU, and CLAP plugin formats.
PaulXStretch can be used in real-time for live performances or applied as an effect in your digital audio workstation (DAW) during the mixing and production process. The plugin often comes with various presets to get you started, but it also allows for in-depth parameter tweaking for custom sound manipulation.
2. ToneCarver tcStretch (Free Plugin)
ToneCarver’s tcStretch allows for extreme time stretching, with the capability to slow down the audio to an incredibly slow pace, up to 1 million times slower.
Additionally, it offers pitch-shifting functionality. tcStretch has been available as a free version for Windows-based systems. With its advanced algorithms, tcStretch can stretch or compress audio files by up to 10 times their original length without causing audible distortion or artifacts. You can use it to speed up a vocal track, slow down a drum loop, or create otherworldly soundscapes.
tcStretch also offers a blurring effect. While the exact details of this feature may require exploration within the plugin’s interface, blurring typically involves creating a smoother transition between time-stretched audio segments. That can help reduce artifacts and create a more natural and cohesive result when manipulating audio.
- Wander Controls
Version 0.4 of tcStretch introduces Wander controls, which provide additional flexibility and randomness in time stretching and pitch shifting, allowing for more experimental and evolving audio effects.
- Transport Integration
tcStretch integrates with the transport controls of your digital audio workstation (DAW) or software. That ensures that the plugin can be synchronized with your project’s timeline and tempo, making it easier to apply time stretching and pitch shifting accurately within your compositions.
- Sample File Management
The plugin includes features related to sample file management. For example, version 0.3c restores sample files properly when reloading saved projects, ensuring that your audio data remains intact and consistent across sessions.
- Waveform Selection
tcStretch may offer the ability to select specific waveform sections for processing. This feature lets you focus on particular portions of your audio, making it ideal for isolating and manipulating specific musical phrases or sound elements within a track.
- Comprehensive parameters
The plugin offers a range of parameters that significantly enhance audio processing. Some of the essential parameters include Playback Rate Nominal, allowing precise control over playback speed; Transient controls for shaping dynamic characteristics; Contour adjustments for modifying time-stretched audio’s shape and timbre; and intuitive Start/Stop/Pause Buttons, facilitating real-time control over playback within the plugin, simplifying audio auditioning and fine-tuning in context.
tcStretch is available in VST format only and is only compatible with Windows systems and DAWs.
To summarise, tcStretch, available as a free VST for Windows, is a versatile time-stretching plugin with many features. It offers pitch-shifting capabilities and can stretch audio files up to 10 times their original length without distortion. The blurring effect ensures smooth transitions in time-stretched audio, reducing artifacts. Wander controls in version 0.4 introduce flexibility and randomness, enhancing experimentation. Transport integration synchronizes with your DAW, facilitating accurate time stretching and pitch shifting.
Shaurya Bhatia, is an Indian Music Producer, Composer, Rapper & Performer, who goes by the stage name MC SNUB, and is also 1/2 of the Indian pop music duo, called “babyface”. A certified Audio Engineer & Music Producer, and a practicing musician & rapper for more than 6 years, Shaurya has worked on projects of various genres and has also been a teaching faculty at Spin Gurus DJ Academy.