When we realised what the ART Auto-Tune Pre is, we had the same feelings of disappointment and inevitability as at the announcement of a new reality TV show called 'Fat Ballet'.
Still, we shook off our blinkers, recalibrated our technology/morality meter and opened the box with excitement; secretly, we could use this. It's a proper, fully spec'd valve mic amp with built in Auto-Tune. Not someone else's attempt, but actual Antares licensed Auto-Tune - the real deal!
The Auto-Tune part works with cut-down controls. There are three settings from T-Pain to subtle intonation correction, and the usual key select and note bypass options via a little LED push-button keyboard on the front panel. Five presets and a bypass are available, and a preset can be bypassed on load. It sounds exactly as you would expect.
Given the amount of controls ART have fitted onto a small unit, the front and rear panels are surprisingly ergonomic. Gain and Output knobs are at the front, everything else round the back. Inputs are XLR or 1⁄4-inch jack (unbalanced, Hi-Z) on a combi, output on XLR and 1⁄4-inch Jack (unbalanced).
There's also an insert (post amp, pre Auto-Tune) allowing for interception, interruption and line - level injection and footswitch control. Phantom 48v is available and sensibly there's a low-cut filter.