AF’s Weblog

December 16, 2009

Celemony Melodyne Editor Review

Ever since the creation of the first DAW, no other software has caused so much ink to be spilled and generated such expectations. The Direct Note Access technology, which was introduced by Celemony at Musikmesse 2008, is one of those holy grails no one ever thought to be accessible because it allows you to edit single notes of a polyphonic audio recording. Is it some sort of de-mixing? Yes and no! Is it a revolution? You bet!

Celemony Melodyne EditorBefore we dive into the innards of the program, a brief summary about Melodyne is necessary for those of you who don’t know it yet. Celemony created Melodyne in the wake of the Antares Autotune, which allowed you to edit the pitch of an audio recording. Melodyne worked under the same principles (pitch shifting and time stretching with formant control) within an interface conceived for musicians instead of sound engineers. After detecting the notes, you had several tools for pitch, time and amplitude correction, so you could actually edit audio recordings as easily as MIDI parts, under one condition: the audio recording had to be monophonic. The software’s excellent algorithms and idiot-proof user interface gave lots of product ideas to their partners (like Ueberschall, who developed customizable loop banks for the Melodyne engine) and competitors. For instance, Autotune got a new user interface (see the Autotune EVO), several competitors appeared (Waves Tune, Zplane) and the main audio sequencers integrated Melodyne-like functions (Steinberg introduced VariAudio in Cubase 5 and Cakewalk did the same with AudioSnap for Sonar).

While competitors were still trying to catch up with the first Melodyne, Celemony changed the game again by offering individual note editing in polyphonic recordings. During the product presentation at Musikmesse, Melodyne’s boss had a blast changing a guitar minor chord into a major chord using a simple MIDI keyboard. And to top that, he also modified the trumpet of a Miles Davis recording without changing the double-bass or the drum part. Impressed? There are no words to express it. The presentation of the product had such an impact that some people thought it was a hoax. That, together with the time it took for the official release to come out raised serious doubts among the audio community. But…

Melodyne Editor, the first software using Direct Note Access technology (DNA) has finally hit the stores. And it works…

On Familiar Ground

The installation is extremely easy. You will only need the serial number to activate it online on Celemony’s website. The software is protected in two different ways: either you activate the product online, in which case the registration is limited to only one computer (you’ll have to uninstall it first before installing it on another computer) or you transfer your license to an iLok key. Once you did that you can start your sequencer (I work with Cubase) and look for Melodyne Editor in your plugin list.

Celemony Melodyne EditorUsers of previous Melodyne versions, especially those who had the plugin version, won’t feel too estranged at first sight. The user interface (the look and layout) didn’t change much. Under the Settings, Edit, Algorithm, View, and Help menus, you’ll still find the aluminum-like bar hosting the basic parameters. Most of the interface is made up of a sort of piano-roll grid displaying yellow, orange and red events… On the right side, you’ll still find the “Correct Pitch” and “Quantize Time” buttons, as well as three automation-capable controllers that allow you to play with the pitch, the formant or the volume parameters in real time. On the center of the tool bar you’ll find the Undo/Redo icons and the tool box (with the same old icons): from left to right, you’ll find six tools for selection/zoom/scroll, pitch editing (with modulation and drift parameters – a sort of audio pitch bend), formant editing, volume editing, timing editing and note separation editing.

Right below these icons, there are two fields that display the note detected in the segment selected and its distance to the correct note. Finally, on the left side of the bar you have the transfer parameters. Just like with the first plugin version, the first thing you have to do is start the detection process: once Melodyne is inserted in the track that is to be processed, click on the transfer button and start playback in the sequencer. Depending on the algorithm you selected in the “Algorithm” menu, Melodyne analyzes the audio material and generates events on the grid. There are three algorithms available: monophonic (melodic), rhythmic/unpitched and polyphonic. In this review, we will focus on the latter since the two others are already known from the Melodyne plugin.

Before we get into details, we have to mention that, unlike the first Melodyne plugin, you can fully resize the program window and freely zoom in/out via shortcuts. It would have been perfect if it had a button to switch into full-screen mode with a single click…

Now let’s take a look under the hood…

Conclusion

Melodyne Editor is indeed the revolution we expected, thanks to its DNA technology. The algorithm is not infallible and (still?) doesn’t allow to entirely de-mix a song. Nevertheless, there has not been such an exciting invention in the audio industry ever since the creation of Autotune – and the invention of samplers before that. Melodyne is available for a very affordable price considering the huge R&D efforts Celemony had to make to achieve these results.

While we wait for a more comprehensive version that includes MIDI export of the detected notes, we strongly recommend Melodyne Editor to sound engineers (to repair an acoustic guitar recording when the guitarist already left the studio), to musicians who work with loops (and never find the right sample in the right key) and to all sound designers. You will undoubtedly have lots of fun discovering the huge possibilities it provides. However, there is still one thing that remains unclear: what happens to the copyright of the processed samples? If I change all the notes of a Miles Davis phrase, will he still be the owner of the melody I use in my song?

To wrap it up, if I were to have only one gift under the Christmas tree, I’d ask for this one!

Celemony Melodyne Editor
Advantages:
  • Technological feat that revolutionizes audio editing and sampling
  • Ease of use
  • Stunning results when used for the right application
  • Price (considering the R&D investment)
  • Amusing and creative tool
  • One of the best monophonic time-stretching & pitch-shifting tools, maybe even the best…

Drawbacks:

  • CPU consumption: you’ll have to bounce!
  • Left and right channels cannot be edited separately
  • Not multitimbral
  • Disappointing results with some audio material

To read the full detailed review including sound samples see:  Celemony Melodyne Editor Review

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