Lo-fi techniques

good thing you att-ed me, there’s a quick answer. Tell Gatekeeper they’re OK.
Here’s my collection of Catalina gatekeeper instructions :slight_smile:
I’ve got one report that says you can do a re-scan within Logic’s plugin manager, and then as you run ‘reset and re-scan selection’ you can go to system prefs/security and it’ll show that Gatekeeper stopped the plugin from opening but there was an option for ‘open anyway’. If you’re able to do it that way the plugin will pass validation in Logic.
If that doesn’t work, the Terminal command to run will be like this (if you have the NewUpdates folder open on your desktop):

sudo xattr -d -r com.apple.quarantine ~/Desktop/NewUpdates/*

sudo (you’ll supply your password) lets you do administrator stuff
xattr -d removes the attribute ‘com.apple.quarantine’ from things,
the -r means recursive so it will go into subfolders and anything in NewUpdates, so don’t point this at your whole hard drive :slight_smile:


This is dope, is it all passive? No amp inside?

Thank you so much for the info!

for plug ins i love using the Klevgrand DAW Cassette/DAW LP/Degrade. A lot of fun stuff.

also aberrant DSP has a great cassette emulation. the random drop outs are so much fun.


Klevgrand’s lo-fi plugins rule! I also really like Bad Tape by Denise – it’s a brutally unsubtle effect, which is what I want when emulating old tape.


In addition to using dictaphones for the tape distortion, I’ve been surprised at how good it can sound to sample from their built in speaker. There’s something magical that happens with sound from small speakers being driven too hard that you then feed into effects like reverbs to make them sound bigger again.

I’ve discovered I like the sound of some of my tracks on instagram better when they come out of my iPhone’s built in speaker as it distorts surprisingly nicely. I really should get round to “reamping” with that!


Forever looking for one of these…

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I generally prefer Wavesfactory Cassette, but Bad Tape is fun for its somewhat bizarre saturation and more extreme noisiness :slight_smile:


In general it seems that in my part of the world dictaphones/tapedecks/uhers et al are very difficult to find in thrift stores. But record stores are selling Cassette releases steadily. Heck, a friend found an untouched original yellow splashproof walkman for 3 euro in a kids store-out in nowhere :flushed:
I just remember having a 4track walkman with a guitar line in, distortion, chorus and and a belt clip :laughing: you could track 3 channels down onto the last remaing-this probably was the best lofi machine i ever had.
I need to step up my tape digging game…


ok so we know how to make low fidelity recordings, but do we know why ?

** drops mic **


I see a few reasons:

Depth of field: Producer/mixer Tchad Blake seems to favour a blend of lofi/hifi-sounds in a mix because he finds it more interesting and fascinating. I also see a possibility in lofi to allow focus to specific sounds while others are allowed to blur in the background. There’s some Bob Dylan quote from when he’s listening to a mix and he turns to the engineer and say: “Man, you messed up. You can hear everything.”

Gel: Noise/hiss can also gel a mix together. Make it less sterile.

Messy is interesting: I just finished the book Messy by Tim Harford. Funnily, it’s sold with different subtitles: “The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives” and " How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World. I really appreciated it. In the end it discussed playgrounds for children, and how children often will turn down the neat and orderly playgrounds and prefer the danger and chaos of a nearby building site etc. Listening to the early demos of Jai Paul the other day I figured it was exactly the messiness and creative exploration that made them so appealing.

The magic of potential: There’s that mixing advice that we should sometimes leave the studio and listen to a mix from another room. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees etc. A powerful tune always seemed to come through even on a lousy fm-radio with a weak signal coming in. In the same way demos can be more fascinating than the finished piece. It’s like the half-finished leaves something for the listener to imagine.

Wabi-sabi: The perfect imperfection. In a world of AI, autotune and cheap gloss error and clumsiness will soon be our way to stay human and interesting.

… and of course it’s always an esthetic choice, as well as a tradition.


I use it for contrast. ITB for glossy high frequencies against Cocoquantus noise. It’s a texture thing for me.


I was thinking exactly the same thing! I have never seen any cassette, dictaphone, or reel to reel equipment in any thrift/junk/charity shop in my area. Maybe all of the other local lofi musicians get to the good stuff before me.

Although I have a couple of dictaphones I am recently finding it more interesting to pick and choose the elements of using tape that I like and emulate them in other ways. I have read that to people who use real tape, digital or pedal emulations can sometimes come off as a bit exaggerated, but I’m sure that I’m not the only one who finds these exaggerations sonically appealing. I find particular joy in rigging up various jerky, inconsistent vibrato sounds that take inspiration from tape in some respects but couldn’t really be called tape emulations.


@active - this is the bare minimum to get a sound out - the wafer contact mic came with two wires to a “volume” knob, and two to a quarter-inch jack, seen here – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07KZKLYGB/

I pre-amped through a fender pocket amp and that was just enough to get the sound out to the laptop. I expected a more cascading, old-reverb resonance then it delivers, instead it resulted in a mild noise maker. Maybe it could be improved with bass guitar strings and a heavier box(?). OTOH this cost under $10 US and was finished within an hour… You can hear it here - https://soundcloud.com/cryptohelix/president-pandemic-disquiet0435

I think this is exactly it. I do everything ITB, which gives everything I produce a sterile sheen that begs to be roughed up. It’s ironic – when I started making music in the 90s I recorded everything to tape on a lowly Portastudio and I would have given anything to have the mind-blowing recording possibilities that I have now with Ableton. And yet, now I spend quite a lot of time dialing in just the right amount of distortion and lo-fi grit to make things sound less pure.

(Unlike many of my fellow Lines members, I don’t have any hardware equipment. I wonder if that’s the big benefit of hardware – modular gear [even the non-analog stuff] seems to have that grit/lack of purity already built into it, in a good way.)


That’s part of the appeal for me. I still add “fake imperfection” anyway though :slight_smile:

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about the authenticity angle… actual flaws and limitations (can’t afford better gear), vs. intentionally introduced flaws and limitations (recording to an already worn tape or an old sampler), vs. simulated flaws and limitations (plugins, bitcrushing etc.). I haven’t come to any conclusions other than my old one that “authenticity” is itself kind of an artificial idea.


For me, authenticity only matters to the extent that the recording medium is interrelated with the concept behind a piece of music. For example, Basinski’s Disintegration Loops is based on a specific process, and would be completely different if it were done with plugins. Similarly, Caretaker’s music wouldn’t really work if he sampled youtube and used a “vinyl simulator” plugin instead of the real thing.

Otherwise, I agree that if you just want a specific kind of lofi sound, it shouldn’t really matter how you achieve it. For me, striving to be “authentic” can be a barrier to getting things done. Sometimes I just want a tape warble sound, but if I wait until I pull out the 4 track and set everything up, it’s probably never going to happen. In that case I’ll just use a plugin.


Agreed, sometimes using the real thing is important to the process, which is in turn important to the art :slight_smile:

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The ITB-aspect is interesting too and it makes me think of something else. Sounds aren’t just something in themselves but in relation to other sounds. I noticed that it was hard to play guitar in tune against a backdrop of perfectly pitched soft-instruments. I draw the conclusion (or if someone presented an idea) that just as in timing there’s a “pocket” for pitch. And you can make that pocket vary in size, bigger might make it easier for other instruments to be in tune.

I attended a masterclass with Hannes Bieger once and he talked about the importance of drum and percussion sounds “to fly at different altitudes” (frequency wise). Maybe the lofi “depth-of-field” idea can be an analogy to that? Focus/out of focus - close/distant etc.

Regarding authenticity, isn’t that the discussion that always leads to musicians taking up goat farming to make their own drums… :wink:


If you tend to be conservative (like me), or just slow, in your writing or recording introducing these things early can help push yourself, too. Maybe some unwanted noise took over a little more than you would want if you dialed it in afterward, but it’s done so there it is. You live with it, and maybe grow to love it!

I think of this gbv song where when things are just about to kick in it sounds like one of the guitars gets unplugged or something and then it AGAIN drops out a little later and it adds such odd interest. Why do I love that it does that to the point of getting a little thrill out of anticipating it? Probably a lot of the reasons mentioned above but there’s also a little humor in unprofessionally done things. Like a poorly built porch staircase… you would never want someone to build you something uneven but it can be undeniably charming, anyway. Some ther parallels to architecture, too. Sometimes you want your recordings to be Frank Lloyd Wright, sometimes a crumbling stone wall.