Lo fi techniques

A thread for lo fi techniques. I’ll start it off with this: Direct-to-disc acetate recording on an old 1930s machine (which is probably more hifi than a lot of what we’ll discuss in this thread):

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Great topic.

I’ve found the Chase Bliss Blooper to be an unexpected lofi hero. It’s really nails some aspects of working with tape (like dropout, for instance) better than almost anything else.

Speaking of tape, I often like to take a 1/4 inch tape loop and wad it up with my hands, introducing lots of crinkles. Then I record on it. It’s lovely.

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Is Blooper able to process live audio in this matter, or just loops?

Live recording into a Bastl Microgranny is fantastic for crunchy digital lofi. Always sounds great.

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eagerly following this thread… always loved rougher sounds.

Technically just loops, but if you set up a short loop and leave it recording it just behaves like a delay.

EDIT: All of the tape saturation, wobble, and dropout on this track are Blooper:

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any techniques that result in digital information removal - bitcrushing / sample rate reduction in its simplest form, but also applying any lossy conversion like mp3 (doing a quick search there is lossy).

a simple way of doing sample rate reduction in modular without a dedicated module is running audio through a sample&hold running at audio rate.

taking this further, any form of encoding audio into some format / corrupting some of the data / decoding could make for interesting results i imagine (and this wouldn’t be digital only, FM radio comes to mind as well). i would love to see a dedicated software or hardware that would allow you to select from various protocols and dial in the amount of reduction / control various parameters. like being able to process audio through a low quality modem line.

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lossy is a great VST.

My favorite way to get lofi sounds is destructive audio editing via Soundforge. Second place is running audio through a bunch of guitar pedals.

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I love taking a sound or track and then making a stereo room recording of that track playing out loud. In itself it’s not necessarily lofi, but it is once you start using characterful (broken) speakers for the playback.

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I’ve found all sorts of techniques for lo-fi or processed sound, but here’s a few favorites—

Dropping the clock speed of fx processors. A lot Spin FV-1-based fx (and other fx) allow you to lower the clock speed of the processor–reducing the bandwidth of the processing. Makes for some great lo-fi textures. Not be confused with clocking a delay to sync with a beat. If you can input a clock to control the processor speed–I like using an osc square wave set to run the processor fairly low, and gently FMing the osc with a heavily attenuated lfo–gives a great tape warble effect.

Using a mix of a slow and fast lfo into the clock input of a delay can give some convincing wow and flutter tape effects.

Gain staging - Control of gain staging can add noise when you want it, and analog input stages can be overdriven to add texture.

Tape - Cassette 4-tracks like the Tascams are excellent for adding lo-fi sounds, and aside from the tape transfer, the EQ controls can help dialing in your flavor.

EQ and compression are fantastic tools for bringing up the noise floor, reducing bandwidth, and otherwise mangling your sound.

Attenuated and EQ’d noise into a filter cutoff can add some fine grit.

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Pre having lossy - record the sound back and forth over video chat with a friend ( reggae over skype is really one of my favourite things to hear)

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A lofi trick I’ve been experimenting with recently is playing back my audio in my garage through some computer speakers and recording it on a portable audio recorder. Sometimes I one (or two or three) additional mics around the place so I can make a mix of them (or cross fade for effect). I almost wish I still lived in the apartment I used to, which had a huge underground garage: those would have been some interesting acoustics!

This process was inspired in part by two albums by Alessandro Cortini: Sonno and Risveglio. They were both recorded on tape using one or two synths then played back in a hotel room and rerecorded, also on tape, where the sound is altered by choice of speaker and mic placement, leaving water running, openning a window etc.

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based on the idea that @scanner_darkly mentioned, but i love this video and device and the idea of emulating digital imperfections in analog hardware. don’t have personal experience with the module that Bastl based on the distortotron, but in a recent livestream Vaclav ran an op-z beat through a tromsø and then his cinnamon low-pass filter and it was a luscious sound.

A quote from tumblr (decades ago now, it feels like) about a Brian Eno quote that I’m not sure what the original is, but I liked the way this is framed:

that Brian Eno quote about how whatever you find most repulsive about a medium (film grain, record scratches/fuzz, CDs skipping) will be the first thing you try and emulate once that medium is obsolete because it’s “the sign of a moment too powerful for the medium assigned to contain it”…. man…….

the sign of a moment too powerful for the medium assigned to contain it

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Use a 3-head cassette deck. 3-head decks are arranged so that the erase head comes first, the record head second, and the playback head last in the tape path. This design lets you listen to the signal on a tape just instants after it was recorded - pretty much instantly - without interrupting the recording process. What this means is that you can live monitor the sound coming off of the tape, which means you can use the deck as a real-time “tape effect” on live audio. Experiment with different cassettes, new old stock, worn and warped, etc. for different flavors. If your speed is variable, tweak it live - or just reach in and drag the spindle.

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One obvious means of achieving this in euro format is the Doepfer A-189-1 voltage controlled bit modifier. I own one and it has an impressive amount of different sound-quality-reducing tools for a fairly low price and compact format.
My issue with it is the unexpected spikes in gain/output volume that arise from bitcrushing and sample rate reduction. Slowly increasing the depth of BC/SSR you comes across these local hotspots that really throw you off your game if you’re trying to gradually fade something into oblivion.

By contrast I recently had a great time simulating gradual signal-degradation using the Modulator/VCA from Future Sound Systems (part of the Gristleizer System).

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I’ve been experimenting with this too, but via resampling with effects + more on a Roland sampler.
They excel at this process but it’s definitely quick and dirty compared to a computer.

Also good to hear others enjoy lossy, I’ve been meaning to try out the demo.

If you’ve never heard Sid Selvidge before, this direct-to-disc project above in the OP was his last recording right before he died and he’s only at about 50% of his vocal capabilities. Truly one of the great voices of his generation. Check him out in his prime:

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And screwy rooms–stairwells, standing wave zones. This is a great technique.

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Tascams just for that distortastudio sound are worth it. Probably cheap too because the transport mechanism can be broken and you can still get the sound.

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Slower softcut recording speeds impact sound quality.

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