I've known and loved zplane for over seven years now, since finding that the (now discontinued) Avid Phasescope plugin was actually inaccurately reading PPM (peak program meter) values, causing people to fail technical review. zplane also make the excellent PPMUlator metering plugin (separate review of that to come), and in all this time it really hadn't occurred to me to check out their pitch shifting plugin - Elastique Pitch V2.
Good, Cheap And Fast?
A lot of the Pro Tools Expert Community felt that this marvellous GIF struck a chord.
I've long felt the same way about pitch shift plugins, so have used premium options like X-Form or Serato.
The ones that were good were usually very slow, and you could never find a good but cheap pitch shift plugin.
This stands to reason. Behind what might seem to a lot of people to be something simple, is an awful lot of very complicated processing. This never usually comes cheap or fast.
In this review I'm comparing zplane's Elastique Pitch V2 to two Avid Pro Tools AAX plugins - Timeshift (which is bundled with Pro Tools), and Avid's premium pitch shift plugin - X-Form (now bundled with a HD upgrade/support plan but also available separately).
As Timeshift is bundled, we can't really compare it on cost grounds, but Elastique Pitch V2 is currently less than half the price of X-Form, and more than four times cheaper than what has almost become an industry standard - Serato Pitch 'n Time Pro.
Elastique Pitch V2 is also available in VST (32 and 64bit) and AU formats, which is a bonus because users of other DAWs don't have access to the Avid plugins.
Using Elastique Pitch V2
This plugin instantly scores big over the Avid plugins in that it is available in real time AAX64 Native format, and very importantly, in multi channel.
This is really handy as it enables us to get a preview of the result, even if in the long term we render.
Using a 5.1 instance of Elastique Pitch V2 and recording it out through an internal bus on a HD Native system, results in a latency of approximately 12 samples. That's pretty damn good in my book. If in Pro Tools 12 you commit the audio, there is zero latency, as is also the case with AudioSuite. This could really speed up my workflow when working on feature length projects.
When looking at the user interface requirements for post production, there are different things that are important to a post user than a music user.
The main headline for those of us that have to deliver in multiple frame rates, is having a handy set of presets for all our common scenarios.
The fact that zplane have included all the usual suspects shows that this plugin's development team have really thought about the needs of the post community.
Otherwise, the user interface is clean, intuitive and resize-able to three different displays.
AudioSuite - Book A Flight To India?
It's been a sort of in-joke, that while you wait for a good quality pitch shift plugin to do its work, you don't so much have to pop off and put the the kettle on for a cuppa, you usually have time to take a flight to India, pick and dry the tea, and come back before it's done.
This has certainly been my experience with X-Form recently. Pitch shifting 5.1 content seems to take it multiples of the running duration. I did a comparison of the three plugins based on pitch correcting a 2 minute 11 second long piece of stereo and 5.1 audio. The results are fairly shocking -
|Plugin||Time to process
(mins & secs)
|Time to process
(mins & secs)
|zplane Elastique Pitch V2||0:07.87||0:16.24|
Where Elastique Pitch V2 really aces it is with 5.1 material - screaming through in sixteen seconds, compared to more than four minutes for X-Form. Timeshift also delivered a very swift result, but we'll look at the implications of that speed later.
These figures were measured using my Windows 10 Pro Tools 12.7HD twelve-core host system, with 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Given the enormous capabilities of the host, I frankly couldn't believe how long X-Form was taking. It actually seemed slower than it was on my original Windows XP Dual Core system many years ago. So I took a look at the CPU loading while X-Form was at work. The Pro Tools System Usage meters don't display CPU load while using an AudioSuite plugin, so I used CPU-ID to give me a better picture. It seemed that X-Form was max'ing out just one CPU core out of a possible twelve. This leads me to suspect that this is down to poorly ported, legacy 32 bit code. This is a real shame, as the main drawback of using X-Form is the amount of time it takes to deliver.
What Do They Sound Like?
Have a listen to my video to find out -
The performance of Timeshift is pretty much as awful as it's always been, mainly with "burbling" artefacts on strings and piano. It was these artefacts that originally led me to seek out X-Form and Serato.
X-Form and Elastique Pitch V2 are both very good, but the latter slightly edges it when dealing with deep male voices - X-Form has a tendency to make them sound as if they're in a bathroom.
What was most alarming though was what X-Form was doing to the phase relationship of the 5.1 image. If you keep your eyes on the phase meter on the X-Form track, against that of the Elastique Pitch V2 track and the original un pitch-corrected track, you can see that X-Form is fairly drastically changing the phase relationship. In the stereo fold down you hear in the video, it also changes the nature of the sound of the music.
When listening in 5.1 on well set up monitoring, this results in a distinct image shift, which as disturbing as it is to hear, can have a major consequence on subsequent LtRt matrix style fold-downs, like Dolby Pro Logic. It seemed that Elastique Pitch V2 was maintaining a far closer phase and image relationship to the original.
I am genuinely massively impressed by this plugin, even before taking the price tag in to consideration. I threw all manner of material at it, and didn't seem to be able to trip it up. It has the potential to revolutionise my multi-frame rate workflow. I was having to pretty much "lock out" my Pro Tools system for 24 hours to pitch correct an entire movie and stems.
Now it seems I can get this done far more efficiently, with the added bonus of the re-sped and pitch corrected material sounding more like the original. With it also being available in VST and AU formats, it extends which DAWs and indeed which video editing software I can use it on.
zplane Elastique Pitch v2 retails at £149 or $199 for the full version.
I'm excited to announce that there is a new Pro Tools AAX only product coming soon from zplane - Elastique AAX, which will offer very tight integration within Pro Tools and new features. We'll be keeping you up to date with developments as they happen, with an exclusive review.