We’re guessing that he doesn’t have jumpsuits like Harry Styles or moves like Beyonce, but Antares founder Dr Andy Hildebrand does have one thing in common with these two pop titans: he won a Grammy Award at the weekend. Not for an album or song, though - Hildebrand’s prize was given in honour of his achievement in creating the pitch correction powerhouse that is Auto-Tune.
The prize for the man known colloquially as ‘Dr Andy’ was the Technical Grammy. Previous winners have included Bob Moog, Rupert Neve, Bill Putnam, SSL, Roger Linn, Yamaha, Leo Fender, Lexicon and Celemony Software, maker of Melodyne.
The Technical Grammy is awarded to individuals, companies, organisations or institutions that have made contributions of outstanding technical significance in the recording field. This being the case, Hildebrand is a deserving winner; Auto-Tune has undoubtedly had a huge impact on the music business.
As well as being able to tune-up imperfect vocal performances, the software has also been used creatively, with the so-called ‘Auto-Tune effect’ first being heard on Cher’s 1998 hit Believe. This extreme ‘warbling’ effect was used sparingly here, but it went on to be employed more extensively by the likes of Kanye West (808s and Heartbreak), Bon Iver and Lil Wayne, and is a commonly-used production trick to this day.
Originally a geophysics engineer, Hildebrand had a moment of genius when he realised that the algorithms he’d created to map the earth’s surface by sending out sound waves and recording their reflections could be used to detect the pitch of audio. The first version of Auto-Tune duly arrived in 1996, and the software’s name has been a shorthand for automatic pitch correction ever since.
Auto-Tune has also proved to be controversial, though, with traditionalists complaining that it’s made bad singers sound better than they actually are and that its sound when used at extreme settings has become a blight on the music business. Only last month, YouTuber Rick Beato claimed (without a great deal of justification) that Auto-Tune has “destroyed popular music”.
In celebration of Dr Andy’s award, Antares has reduced Auto-Tune X (opens in new tab), its flagship product, to the price it originally sold for in 1996: $299 (regular price $459). This also comes with a one-year subscription to Auto-Tune Unlimited, which has an additional value of $179. This offer is available until 13 February 2023.
Find out more about Dr Andy’s achievements on the Antares (opens in new tab) website.
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