Tune is a pitch-correction plug-in that's so easy to use, even a non-musician can get "perfect" takes. Why the quotes around perfect? Because I find that most pitch correction schemes kill the life of the vocal and make it sound unnatural, like it's going through some kind of phaser. So when I first heard Tune, I was blown away. Sure you can make it sound machine-like, but unless you stray very far from its default settings, you'll still hear climbs and falls in pitch, as well as vibrato and other vocal inflections... and the track will be "in tune" in a very natural sounding way. Magic? Yeah, that's what I thought at first. But once I started tweaking the controls, I realized that there's some good science behind it. First of all, there are three knobs for speed, note transition, and ratio. Usually, the first thing I do is bring down the ratio to somewhere between 0-20% correction and apply the settings to the whole track. Then I listen to each note and tweak the correction ratio for that note as necessary, while making sure note transition and speed work with how the singer lands and stays on that note. And then I'll use the vibrato controls to make sure any soulful stuff isn't chewed up by the auto-correction. The piano roll with "chunks" representing notes and orange/green lines uncorrected/corrected pitch is not only a great visual of what the plug-in is accomplishing, but it's also an effective tool for moving notes up and down and for using custom settings on specific notes. There's an overview window at the top of the plug-in screen that lets you slide to any part of the track. And the plug-in passes all the transport key commands to the application, so you don't have to click out of it to get the transport rolling (like you do with some other plug-ins). Similar to other pitch-correctors, Tune accepts MIDI input for specifying correct pitch. You can also export MIDI if you want to double your vocal with a synth part. On a recent project with a band that I won't embarrass, I Tune'd half the vocals on the album. (And this wasn't just straight-ahead singing... there was a lot of vocal kung fu going on.) The tuning sounded so natural that the band members didn't know until I told them!

DeBreath is a plug-in that takes out breaths (duh!). It works so well, that I'm now using it on all background vocals and doubles. When I stack one or more vocals behind the lead, I hate hearing multiple breath sounds (inhaling, exhaling, etc.). I like to hear the breathing only in the lead vocal (crucial for a natural vocal sound. More than one track of breathing is distracting. I used to edit out all the breath sounds by hand. But now I just DeBreath them away! Don't think that this is just some simple noise-gate. It ain't. It uses template-based matching to identify breathing intelligently. You can set the threshold at which a breath sound is identified (based on a breath rating factor that's shown on a moving graph), and there's a slider for the amount of gain- reduction you would like applied to breath segments. There's also the option of adding in low-level white noise to replace muted breaths for more natural transitions, so you don't end up with a bunch of "holes" in your track. One cool trick you can do is mult your vocal to two tracks and then apply DeBreath to both with the exact same settings. On one track, set up DeBreath to output the vocal minus breaths. On the other track, output breaths minus the vocal. Process each differently and mix. That way, you can slam the lead vocal with lots of compression, reverb, and/or delay, while the breathing stays completely natural. Awesome!

Tune and DeBreath are available separately, or you can purchase them as part of Vocal Bundle, which also includes Renaissance Channel, Renaissance DeEsser, and Doubler-a total of five vocal-processing plug-ins. (Tune $600 MSRP, DeBreath $350, Vocal Bundle $1000; www.waves.com) 

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