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Does Ableton Sound Better Than Melodyne?

Ableton Live 11 Warping vs. Melodyne 5 Studio

Should you use Ableton or Melodyne for pitching vocals?

Let's put them both to the test to see if there are situations where one is better than another.

Better in this case means that there will be fewer noticeable artifacts like graininess, strange resonances and other degradations.

In order to hear the artifacts more clearly, let's put the vocals through some pretty extreme conditions. We'll be pitching this vocal I picked up from Splice up and down an entire octave while keeping the timing consistent.

One important aspect of this comparison is that Ableton gives you control over the formants and it makes a HUGE difference to the amount of detectable artifacts, so I included it as part of the test.

Basically, if the formants are consistent with the pitch:

  • A lower pitched vocal will sound like a giant

  • A higher pitched vocal will sound like a chipmunk

  • ...and not at all like the original vocalist!

Ableton and Melodyne use different metrics for their formant control so I had to approximate a similar amount in both.

Test 1 - Pitching An Octave Down (While Keeping The Timing The Same)

Here's what the original sounds like:

Now we have it pitched down an octave, keeping the formants consistent with the pitch:

Next we've got it pitched down an octave, but bringing the formants halfway to the original:

And finally, here's an octave down, but with the formants as close to the original vocalist as possible:

What have you noticed so far? Do they sound completely different to you?


Test 2 - Pitching An Octave Up (While Keeping The Timing The Same)

Next, we have the same test but pitching the vocal an octave UP instead:

Here's an octave up, but bringing the formants halfway to the original:

And finally, an octave up but with the formants as close to the original vocalist as possible:

What did you notice this time around?



Which was which? The top audio was Ableton and the bottom audio was Melodyne!

Obviously Melodyne and Ableton have different applications, but there is some overlap. For example, if you wanted to change the key of the vocal, which one would be better?

Here are the most noticeable differences.

Let's start with Melodyne.

Melodyne sounded smoother, less grainy and had fewer noticeable artifacts all around.

One thing that also stuck out to me was the Melodyne did not pitch the consonants, whereas Ableton pitches all aspects of the vocal.

Overall, Melodyne just sounds more realistic and would be a better choice for changing keys on a lead vocal work where the detail matters.

The good news, and something that surprised me, is that if Melodyne did this well with a 12 semitone adjustment, I'm confident you could get away with a dramatic key change (4 or 5 semitones) and make it sound decent.

Ableton on the other hand, had more of a grainy and resonant quality on the vocals, especially when we adjusted the formants.

It reminds me more of an effect that you'd hear in electronic music (like a remix). It's not trying to sound as real as possible, but it sounds closer to what you'd "expect" a pitched vocal to sound like.

However, if you don't need to change the melody in any way, it's way faster to do broad adjustments to the pitch:

  • No other plugins necessary

  • No waiting to "record in" the vocal

  • No CPU taken up. Just quick and dirty.

To be fair to Ableton, you do have more control over formants by using a combination of the "formants" and "envelope" sliding scales, so you can usually find ways to reduce the artifacts by playing with the balance between the two of those.

In the end, we shouldn't be TOO surprised about the realism - Melodyne is dedicated software for realistically pitching sounds but given the results, but what situations would you use Melodyne for over Ableton?

Which did you prefer? Let me know in the comments!

Pick up a copy of Melodyne here!

Sensho Music Producer | Audio Engineer | YouTuber

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