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Intentionally lower the quality of your audio for artistic effect with the bitcrusher effect Degrader in Soundation's online studio.

  • With Degrader
  • Without Degrader

What is a bitcrusher?

A bitcrusher plugin such as Soundation’s Degrader simulates the sound of old lo-fi equipment like early samplers, computers, or video game consoles by lowering the bit depth and sample rate of your audio. Simply put you can say it lowers the quality of the sound, which may sound like something undesirable but it can actually add a bit of aesthetically pleasing nostalgic charm.

This effect is often used to add a 'retro' quality to sounds, and the reason we perceive it that way is that these older machines had a much lower digital audio resolution. If you really want to deep dive into how sampling and playback of digital audio works, have a look at this great article by Griffin Brown.

One important part of the lofi sound is simulating analog artifacts such as the imperfections of a vinyl record player or a tape deck:

  • Pitch wobble caused by a crooked plate or worn-out components
  • Loss of certain frequencies
  • Noise from dust or electric current, hiss, etc.

When we’re bitcrushing audio on the other hand we’re simulating the degradation of the quality from digital hardware.

Have a listen to this comparison

  • E-MU SP1200, Drum Sampler, 12 bit/26 kHz (1987)
  • Amiga 500, Home Computer, 8 bit/28 kHz (1987)
  • Akai S950, Sampler, 12 bit/48 kHz (1988)
  • Nintendo GameBoy, Handheld Console, 4 bit/11 kHz (1989)
  • CD Quality Audio, 16 bit/44 kHz

As you can hear above, the consumer electronics such as computers and video games weren’t quite as hi-fi as the pro-grade studio equipment even though they came out later. Lower bit rate introduces more noise, and lower sample rate introduces more of the crunchy, shimmering high end distortion known as aliasing.

It’s also noteworthy that from the mid-90s onward most multimedia equipment was able to produce CD-quality sound at bit- and sample rates that are virtually indistinguishable from reality to the human ear, and that was the goal at the time. We grew into liking the nostalgic sound of low quality audio. Hence there is no real “character