Simon Cowell Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell's U.K.-based singing competition The X-Factor caused an uproar this week after fans online suspected foul play via the use of Auto-Tune, an audio processor that corrects a singer's pitch and tone.

Allegations that Auto-Tune played a role in the Season 7 premiere arose shortly after it aired Saturday, according to Deadline. The episode featured an 18-year-old contestant named Gamu Nhengu performing Katrina and the Waves' "Walking On Sunshine." It was followed by outrage in online forums over what many thought were altered vocals.

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"Shame about the auto tuner - it's like air brushing," said one fan on the X Factor Facebook page. "Why give a false impression of talent? Real singers don't need auto tune!"

A spokesperson for X Factor said that Auto-Tune was used to fix disruptions caused by the many microphones used on stage specifically for the telecast. He added that producers used the processor in an attempt to "deliver the most entertaining experience possible for viewers."

Fox's musical comedy Glee has been known to use Auto-tune, and even the show's iPhone karaoke app comes equipped with such a pitch-correcting function.

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But, as distraught viewers have pointed out, X Factor is a singing contest and not a scripted program. The show's spokesperson insisted that "the judges make their decisions at the auditions stage based on what they hear on the day," rather than what is heard after post-production.

A U.S. version of X Factor is slated to debut in 2011 on Fox, with Cowell set to produce and judge. Is the use of Auto-Tune in singing competition shows OK? Or is it cheating?