The X-Factor is back, and this time it’s war. Apparently, those minxy little devils have been auto-tuning the vocals of the contestants they want the public to vote for.
1. Gamu Nhengu
Didn’t think anything was amiss? You’ll probably think it really obvious when you know what to look out for: I know I do. Auto-Tune makes people sound like robots. It’s an audio processor by Antares Audio Technologies, which automatically corrects the pitch to the nearest true semitone if you go off-key. It was invented by Exxon engineer Andy Hildebrand as a seismic data tool before he realised its potential as an audio device, and now it’s become so ubiquitous that – like airbrushing in photographs – you probably don’t even realise how unnatural it sounds.
This is the first time you probably heard Auto-Tune. I remember assuming it was a vocoder – the device used to distort Pink Floyd’s vocals in Sheep – and they encouraged that assumption for a long time because Auto-Tune was a “trade secret” up to that point. It’s responsible for the weird, robotic sound, so any time you hear that it’s probably because Auto-Tune is in use.