Auburn Sounds have released Graillon 2 Free, the feature-limited (but only slightly so!) freeware version of their new real-time pitch-shifting and pitch correction effect in VST/AU plugin formats for PC and Mac.
Graillon 2 (€29) is a significant improvement over the original Graillon, adding powerful new pitch-shifting and pitch correction functionality to the core feature set. The same goes for Graillon 2 Free, which includes the excellent pitch shifter and pitch correction modules found in the full version. In fact, having tested Graillon 2 Free in my DAW, I’d say that it’s currently the best freeware alternative to Auto-Tune, especially for users who need a non-complicated real-time plugin to handle the task. But more on the free version later.
Taking a closer look at the full version of Graillon 2, it shares a similar design flavor as the original release (and other Auburn Sounds plugins, for that matter) but comes in a much larger GUI with a slightly different layout. The old pitch modulation section is now placed on the top, with the new pitch correction and shifting tools placed at the bottom of the interface. The display in the center shows the pitch and waveform of the input signal in real-time. The plugin also features a bitcrusher effect, a low-cut filter in the output section, and a dry/wet knob that controls the amount of processing applied to the signal. Keep in mind that this isn’t a simple “mix” control – instead, two other knobs (Lead Voice and Dry Mix) are used to mix the clean and processed signal.
According to its developer, Graillon 2 was years in the making, designed to be a unique real-time vocal processing effect for live and studio use. The result is quite impressive, especially considering its affordable price (for the full version). The plugin’s most distinctive feature is still the so-called “Pitch Modulation Tracking” module, which affects the timbre of the processed vocal, as seen in the original version of Graillon. However, the new pitch tracking and pitch-shifting tools make Graillon a far more versatile vocal processing effect, though, one that could quickly become a go-to tool in my mixing arsenal.
The pitch shifter sounds very natural (as far as pitch shifters go) at mild settings, with more distorted, but still usable results towards the extremes of its ±12 dB range. The option to preserve formants in the processed signal is a welcome feature that changes the pitched signal’s timbre to sound more human-like. Obviously, it will still seem unnatural to the human ear, but less so than a vocal that was simply pitched up or down in a sampler. Increasing the dry mix signal can be used for achieving harmonizing and doubling effects, something that’s quite handy when you’re processing vocals in a hurry. I’d love to have the option to adjust the panning of the processed and clean vocals separately, but the fact is that this can be done simply by using two duplicate tracks in the DAW’s mixer.
The pitch correction module is equally impressive, both in its functionality and simplicity. It is ideal for achieving that robotic Auto-Tune effect, but it can also be tamed down a bit to sound more natural and less “in your face.” The user can enter a custom set of notes that are “allowed,” and also force the processed vocals to a single note (perfect for designing robotic vocals) or even make the algorithm more “lazy” by adding inertia. The plugin works almost in real-time, with only 23 ms of added latency. The full version also includes a bitcrusher module and the improved “Pitch Tracking Modulation” section with frequency shifting and ring modulation.
The free version of Graillon 2 is almost identical to the full product, except that it doesn’t include the PTM and bitcrushing sections. Everything else is virtually the same.
With all of this in mind, it’s fair to say that Graillon 2 Free Edition is the best free autotune VST plugin on the market. Its feature set is incredibly generous for a being the freeware version of a commercial plugin, which is why you should definitely consider purchasing Graillon 2 at some point if you find yourself using the freebie often.
Graillon 2 is available for download/purchase via Auburn Sounds (6.69 MB download size, ZIP archive, 32-bit & 64-bit VST/AU plugin for Windows & Mac OS).