We have scoured the web to find and review the best pitch shifter plugins for you in 2021. We will also answer what the pitch shifter is and how it works.
What is A Pitch Shifter?
Pitch Shifter is a digital effect that generates notes that differ in pitch from the ones you have already recorded or programmed. It’s an effect that can change both the pitch of your sound as well as the timbre. Also, It is a great tool that can achieve a multitude of different nuanced effects.
The Pitch Shifter itself is the audio modulating effect in pedal and plugin form. In its purest form, this is the effect that achieves its desired sound by slicing your audio into an enormous amount of concise sound snippets. Whether in the stompbox form, or a plugin format, it is an effect that shifts your pitch down by extending the sliced audio and shifts the pitch up by shortening it.
Very often, professionals use it in the audio-for-video, film, and broadcast areas. It is an effect that can allow you to change the speed and timbre without changing the pitch. This feat makes the Pitch Shifter a main staple of the video industry as well. You can also use it very effectively in various music styles like electronic music, rock, and metal.
How does a pitch shifter work?
Pitch shifters work by changing the pitch of an audio signal. The pitch can be both raised and lowered. There are two ways in which this effect works, which gives us two main types of pitch shifters: monophonic and polyphonic. The monophonic ones can only affect one note at a given time. If the musician plays more notes, the program can easily overload. Polyphonic types can treat more notes, which allows you to play whole chords at a desired shifted pitch.
Pitch alterations are possible on all tuned instruments. Still, in the case of the pitch shifter effect, it’s an electrical occurrence that manipulates an audio signal for it to vary in pitch. You can do the most basic form of pitch-shifting by changing the speed of the recorded audio. However, that will also alter its duration. The pitch shifting effect only affects the input signal’s pitch, which results in a pitch-shifted output signal with the same time duration.
Some pitch shifters work by producing only the altered sound. On the other hand, other types of shifters can produce a blend of the original and the manipulated signal and let you mix the two, so you can create a harmony of your choice.
Where does a pitch shifter go in a chain?
Pitch shifters typically go at the beginning of the signal chain. The reason for that is you want all the other added effects to process your pitch-altered signal. However, you should not take this as an unbreakable rule. There are many creative ways of using your pitch shifter by changing its position in the signal chain.
The 6 Best Pitch Shifter Plugins 2021
1. Devious Machines Pitch Monster
Create stacks of harmonies or pitch-shift beyond recognition with this versatile plugin.
Despite a simplistic interface, Pitch Monster lives up to its name with features beyond what you’d expect from similar plugins. Furthermore, even what other plugins perform, Pitch Monster often sounds better thanks to its granular pitch-shifting engine.
- Highly Capable
The plugin can change pitch up to 6 octaves from the original key. This flexibility makes Pitch Monster an unbeatable tool for sound designing. Similarly, it can create 8-voice harmony, with each voice capable of 8 unison voices. That makes 64 voices in total.
The plugin features three pitch-shifting engines: Granular, Formant, and Vocode. The Granular Engine is suitable for any kind of audio, and you can even adjust the granule size. The latter two engines are better suited for solo vocals; Formant changes the pitch of the vowel and the consonant separately, whereas Vocode flattens vibrato.
Pitch Monster also features three modes of performance: Normal, Midi, and Chord. The normal mode is merely a pitch shifter, whereas the Midi mode allows you to control the pitch using midi input with an optional glide feature. And Chord mode lets you play multiple notes simultaneously, and a Chord Memory feature lets you save up to 8 chords. You can perform the chords using automation.
The plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10.9 to higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you tend to need a pitch shifter often, you can’t go wrong with this plugin. It even handles vocal pitch correction to an extent via its Midi mode. If you only ever need a simple pitch shifting plugin, though, Pitch Monster may be overkill and overpriced. However, feature-wise, the plugin is excellent.
2. Boz Digital Labs ProVocative Review
ProVocative, by Boz Digital Labs, is a lightweight micro pitch shifter designed to give you total control.
Its user-friendly interface consists of three principal and three supporting parameters. The pitch modulation is measured in cents and goes from one to twenty. Once you set this parameter, ProVocative splits the signal into two modulations measured by the chosen amount. By default, the highest pitch goes to the right and the lowest to the left. You can change their positions with the Width knob.
Built-in delay with adjustable time. This adjustable delay plays a crucial role in getting the desired fattening of the vocal sound.
You can find both High-pass and Low-pass filter here in the whole spectrum of frequencies. Adjustable wet-dry ratio.
With the ‘‘pitch” and ”width” controls, you can adjust the effect’s intensity and manipulate the processed audio position. You can automate these controls.
Character and Sound:
Boz Digital designed this plugin to provide you with the software form of the famous 80s vocal treatment technique of adding thickness and width to your voice recordings. This plugin does justice to the famous effect, with the adjustable delay time, which gives you the widening effect if set at a low time discrepancy. If you set it at a higher time margin, you can also achieve the slapback delay sound.
You can also choose in which frequency range you want this plugin to take effect. For example, you can choose to add it to your bass guitar in the mid frequencies without touching the low end and therefore muddying it.
Compatible with Windows and macOS. Available in the RTAS, VST, AU, and AAX formats.
You are guaranteed to have no clipping at the output – courtesy of the 64-bit floating-point signal path with this plugin. Since latency showing up is an issue with some plugins, Boz Digital Labs made sure that this plugin has no taxing over your system resources. Therefore the 0-latency performance is guaranteed.
Using pitch shifters and delays used to come with many sub-effects in the times of the big hardware machines. This plugin ensures the same desired effects without the annoying artifacts of times passed.
3. Audio Damage Discord 4 Review
Audio Damage’s Discord 4 is a pitch-shifter, delay, and reverb plugin based on early 1980’s pitch-shifting hardware.
First, the input signal crosses the pitch shifters. Then it hits the delays and the adjustable-width filters. After that, the signal falls into the reverb algorithm. From the reverb, the signal is fed back into the pitch shifters for glorious effects. With options like Reverb Freeze and Low-Frequency Oscillators, this plugin goes from soft to chaotic pitch-shifting.
- Algorithmic variety
There are three pitch-shifting algorithms available: Vintage, Clean, and Granular. Audio Damage modeled the Vintage style after the legendary Eventide H910 and H949 pitch shifters. The Clean mode allows you to create very modern-sounding shifting soundscapes. Finally, the Granular style provides you with a vast amount of experimental options to explore, with very smooth pitch-shifting.
Delay and reverb. Discord4 has two delays. One is tempo-synced, and the other is free-running: both support feedback, cross-feedback, and a sophisticated bandpass filter.
The two low-frequency oscillators present in this plugin modulate pitch-shifting intensity, delay times, and the filters’ frequencies. The Rate knob controls the variation of the LFO over time. The Shape knob lets you choose if the wave will be a sine, triangle, or square. The Skew knob controls the horizontal symmetry, and finally, the Warp knob adds a controllable curvature to the wave, changing the vertical balance.
Character and Sound:
You can achieve a wide variety of sounds with the available flexible low-frequency oscillator. The LFO is equipped with tempo sync and arbitrary waveform properties. The general sound of this plugin is your traditionally warm vintage sound.
The possibility of adding saturation is what creates recognizable retro sounds. The different mixes of dry and wet signals furthermore widen your sound palette.
Discord is available as 32- and 64-bit VST2, VST3, AAX, and AU. You can run it on Windows (8.1 or newer) and macOS (10.9 or newer).
This plugin’s main strength is the highly adjustable parameters, which ensure advanced precise control over the end output. The tempo-synced and free-running variants of the individual effects offer a plethora of different sonic options.
4. zplane ElastiquePitch 2 Review
ElastiquePitch 2, by zplane, supports up to eight channels of synchronized pitch-shifting.
Zplane designed this plugin for use in film and video conversions, sound design, and music production. Its versatile and real-time nature lets you automate its action with the Pitch/Timbre graph, unleashing your creativity.
- Pitch and Timbre
The timbre control is located on the X-axis, while the pitch control is on the y-axis. You can choose to modulate them at the same time or separately.
When you activate the Freeze button, it prolongs the plugin’s input signal infinitely. As it happens, the feedback path is disconnected, so Delay and Feedback changes will not take effect.
- Voicing parameters
This is crucial if you want to tailor your plugin’s output to the sound source. This helps you avoid any added distortion, unwanted notes, and all the other artifacts.
- Pitch and formant shifting
You can change both the note and the sound’s timbre if you pitch shift. On the other hand, you can use formant shifting to keep the notes intact while only changing the timbre.
Character and Sound:
The sound is pristinely clean, and the number of options further allows you to create an artifact-free output. This plugin is great for all instruments alike since it does not add any unnecessary noise other than the desired effects. Furthermore, it can be used in an automated way to impact the whole mix at your desired points in a song.
Compatible with both Mac (10.6.8 or higher) and Windows (XP or higher). Coming in different formats of VST, AU, RTAS, and AAX.
With this plugin, you can use feedback for the delay, with numerous other possible creative usages. It might be pricy for some, but the expense is completely proportionate to the quality you are getting. If you are looking for a real-time pitch shifter, this one is a good choice for you.
5. Eventide MicroPitch Review
Eventide MicroPitch plugin is the latest incarnation of the legendary effect that has been ever-present since the 1970s.
Known for its unique delays, vocal-doubling, and tone fattening capabilities, the MicroPitch allows smooth adjustments of each parameter. The Flex button lets you double both pitch-shift amounts. You get absolute control over the delay times with three sync options, plus a Tap button that lets you set your own tempo. MicroPitch can be used either as a mono or stereo plugin.
- Ribbon control
You can use this big slider control to simultaneously adjust two or more parameters as if they were linked. It is supposed to give you the feeling of adjusting different knobs simultaneously as if you were in front of a hardware unit. The advantage of this process is keeping the balance between the parameters as you fine-tune them. The fastest way to do this is by clicking any of the two Ribbon buttons placed at the edges of the black strip in the lower half of the plugin. Then move to that side of the knobs you wish to adjust. Repeat the process for the other side. The idea is to create a range in which the knobs can turn. After you’ve set the range, drag the blue line in the black strip to either side. You’ll see the knobs moving together.
- MOD-depth and rate
Change the modulation around each voice’s current pitch and pitch modulation speed, respectively.
You can fix the dialed effects while auditioning other presets. Great if you found a nice setting but still want to check for more options.
Use this control to apply filtering to both voices, which allows you to find the exact frequency range that will make the effect more or less apparent in your mix.
Character and Sound:
You can achieve a vast amount of different sounds. Thick modulations, rich repeating delays, and tempo-synced effects are what this plugin is capable of producing. This installment of the MicroPitch series offers a good balance of traditional sonics and modern-day convenience.
Compatible with macOS and Windows, this plugin is available in VST, AAX, and AU formats.
This plugin is designed to achieve the classic stereo-spreading effects. Also, it has numerous different controls, which makes it great for experimenting. The ribbon option ensures its status as a reliable live performance tool.
6. Waves Torque Review
Its intuitive, user-friendly controls help producers bring life to drums in a way no other pitch shifter can.
Torque by Waves is specifically made for treating drums, salvaging mistuned or poorly recorded pieces without triggering. By letting you focus on the root of each drum, Torque brings excitement for dull-sounding kits. The technology behind this plugin makes it an innovative tool based on the concept of pitch-shifting rather than another modulation plugin.
No delay between your command and the effect to take place. It is a convenient feat to have in the studio situation, but it’s most needed if you are in a live scenario.
- Torque focus
Zero in on your desired resonant peak, and affect it specifically without processing the rest of the sound. The focus control and its precise alteration operating allow you to achieve the desired result while keeping the drums sounding as natural as possible.
- Output level
You can choose to lower your output signal if it’s peaking or turning it up. In this way, you can adjust the levels in yet another gain stage, thus increasing your chances of avoiding getting into digital distortion.
- Organic ReSynthesis
This technology patented by Waves is responsible for this plugin’s amazing sound. The plugin separates and analyzes each drum’s soundwaves’ characteristics to reassemble them with the new pitch information later.
Character and Sound:
This plugin makes for a good tool for pitching tones to specific keys while still maintaining their natural sound. The advanced Waves ReSynthesis Technology ensures precise deconstruction and manipulation, which makes the reassembled track sound organic.
Since Torque is explicitly designed for drums, sound processing is done without artifacts associated with the traditional pitch shifting plugins.
Compatible with 64-bit Windows (10 or more) and macOS (64-bit). Available in AAX Native, AudioSuite, Audio Units, VST, and SoundGrid formats.
Torque can be equally effective with both well-recorded and poorly recorded drums. The sum of all the main features makes this plugin equally adept for live and studio scenarios. The zero-latency feat can be of great use for mid-song front-of-house mixing interventions.
However, the most significant advantage is the artifact-free pitch-shifted sound which minimizes the need for any triggering.
The Best FREE Pitch Shifter Plugins
1. Auburn Sounds Graillon 2 Review
Graillon, by Auburn Sounds, is a free vocal pitch shifter designed to let you accomplish various vocal modulations.
Auburn Sounds have done its research to make Graillon a versatile plugin, with sound quality as a primary goal. They got the best out of several vocal pitch shifters and combined them in a single unit.
- Pitch-tracking modulation
Unique to Graillion modulates the type of speakers, creates throat sounds, generates choruses, and adds octaves atop the original melody. Available in full version only.
- Formant shifting
Can make your singer sound as if he/or she is of the opposite sex or add depth to a vocal performance.
This set of controls doesn’t distort the sound by adding saturation but reducing its overall quality.
Character and Sound:
The latency of 23ms is not its greatest feat, but it is competitive compared to other pitch-shifters available on the market. Since the pitch-shifter is optimized for the voice, it ensures a clean-up and down transposition of the vocal.
Compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux. Available in VST, AAX, AU, and LV2 formats.
This is a good plug-in. Very simple and beginner-friendly. The several controls can make for interesting results when used creatively. However, not ideal for highly professional environments.
2. GVST GSnap Review
With a simple GUI, the GSnap by GVST is a free auto-tune effect that offers subtle or extreme modulations.
GSnap’s algorithm is more suitable for simpler, more extended notes with steady transitions. Thus, a fast rap vocal can take hours of MIDI tweaking before it sounds pleasing. You can find surprising results by applying the Gsnap to non-vocal sounds.
This section allows you to determine the parameters of when and how the pitch-shifting kicks in.
This one allows you to determine the frequency range which is to be affected by the plugin.
Chose the key and the scale you are aiming to quantize your pitch to.
Character and Sound:
This free plugin can produce sounds from mild pitch corrections to extreme quantization. Such sounds are often associated with artists like T-Pain or Cher.
GSnap is a VST plugin compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux, 64 bit only.
This pitch shifter is best suited for creating auto-tune-like sounds. The fact that it’s free makes it an excellent practicing tool for anyone who wants to get their chops on a level suited for the use of high-end software such as Melodyne and Autotune.
3. Aegean Music Pitchproof Review
Aegean Music’s Pitchproof is a pitch shifter based on harmonizer guitar pedals.
This plugin was designed with guitars in mind, even supporting the polyphony of power chords. It can change the pitch or add harmonies to vocals or solo instruments. Pitchproof works best in mono, but it also supports stereo inputs.
- Blend control
Enables you to choose how wet or dry you want your output signal.
Choose a scale and an interval and harmonize your primary signal with it.
You can use the display as a tuner for your instrument.
Character and Sound:
Depending on your settings, you can get this one to make your output sound very natural, very hard-tuned, or anywhere in between.
Compatible with 64-bit Windows and 64-bit macOS. Available in VST and AU formats.
Aeagan Music’s Pitchproof is very versatile and straightforward to use. It can cause some CPU spikes, but you can counteract that by switching to mono.
1. Freakshow Industries DUMPSTER FIRE Review
With the distinctive design and cryptic control names aside, this plugin offers arbitrary pitch rotation options.
Also called “The Nightmare Shifter,” this is not a pitch-shifter per se. Instead, it aims at creating horror landscapes for sound design applications. Very useful for creating unsettling atmospheres and sonic madness.
Rotate the pitches arbitrarily.
- Band selection
Select a random band of frequencies to affect.
Create horror-movie soundscapes with time and pitch spread.
- Great for textures
The primary use of this one is creating hellish sonic textures
Compatible with macOS 10.10.5 or higher and Windows 7 or higher. Available in AAX, VST, VST3, and AU formats. 64-bit only.
Its central purpose is sound design; it is not really in the same category as the other plugins on this list. That’s why it’s gotten the Bonus Plugin label! Dumpster Fire is a fun pitch-shifter and a great plugin to have around whenever scary textures are needed.
2. Soundtoys Little AlterBoy Review
Soundtoys’ Little AlterBoy was designed to produce dramatic vocal alterations from clean, monophonic sources.
This plugin can alter pitch, give bottom to a nasal voice, create a monotonic robotic effect, and work as a real-time auto-tune. Soundtoys even added a drive knob that encompasses technology developed for another one of their plugins, Decapitator. The result is a versatile and fun plugin with serious capabilities.
- Formant shifting
You can make a vocalist sound as if he/or she is of the opposite gender. You can do this in real-time via the MIDI control.
- Robotic sounds
This option enables you to create a wide variety of different experimental sounds. You can dial in this sound by locking onto a single pitch.
Use the quantize button to lock the voice to the closest pitch, creating pop music’s favorite vocal effect. Also, add some drive to make it sound warmer and more natural.
You can set the pitch to any interval above or below the main melody and use the mix knob to create a nice double-tracking effect.
Character and Sound:
Little AlterBoy is a plugin primarily created for modern-sounding effects. One of them being the pitch-quantized hard tuning. The altered and the original sound can be mixed to create a robotic-sounding harmony.
Compatible with macOS 10.10 or later and Windows 7 or later. Available in AAX Native, AAX Audio Suite, VST, and AU formats. 64-bit only.
AlterBoy ensures a wide range of voice transformations. It consists of easy-to-use controls, making for a user-friendly plugin—a nice addition to a producer’s collection.
Conclusion & Verdict
Pitch-shifting is a powerful music production tool that’s been around for decades and still hasn’t been dethroned. We put this list together to help you pick the best for your needs, as well as helping you identify the best bang for your buck.
Plugins like the ElastiquePitch 2 and Micropitch are great for most pitch-shifting situations, while focused efforts like Torque and Little Alterboy aim at solving specific creative necessities. Whatever you need to pitch-shift, there are several tools out there capable of getting you closer to the sound you want to achieve.
Pedro Nascente is an artist, record producer, and mix engineer, currently operating his own studio and working with his band, Yellow Boulevard. Believing that music should convey experiences and feelings, Pedro is known for applying design thinking to his workflow to achieve different sounds and deliver the right messages.