Bit Crusher plugins are an essential addition to any producer’s toolbox. They can transform and colour audio in a highly distinctive manner. Think of early vintage samplers with their much-covered sound. They can be pushed aggressively for extreme and creative results or used subtly to add some punch or weight. In this post, we check out 5 highly capable Bit-Crushing plugins.

D16 Group – Decimort 2

Decimort 2 is considered by many to be the rolls royce of bit-crushing tools. It has more features than a Swiss Army Knife including:

  • Approximative anti-alias and image filters
  • Two alternative quantization algorithms
  • Adjustable jitter and dithering
  • Resampler module for further sound sculpting
  • Multimode feature for pre or post processing
  • Zero internal aliasing and ADC emulation
  • Multiple UI sizes and HiDPI support
  • MIDI Learn

It’s clear from the list of presets that Decimort has set its aims on emulating vintage hardware. All the classics are in here such as Emulator, Akai and Ensoniq samplers. As someone familiar with these vintage samplers and their sound I would say Decimort 2 gets pretty close but doesn’t always nail them. However, with so many sound shaping parameters available you should be able to get the crushed effect you need on a track without too much trouble. And the ebility to parallel process the signal with a Wet/Dry functions means you should be able to dial in just the right amount of crush.

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Native Instruments – Crush Pack

This Bit Crushing solution comes in 3 rather larishly coloured modules. You have Bite, Dirt and Freak all of which are designed to work together to degrade your audio in a variety of ways.The Bite module represents the main Bit-Crushing functunality while Dirt is a fuzz distorter and Freak offers a variety of modulation effects.

So lets take a look at Bite. There’s no mistaking the Sample and Bit rate controlls as they are displayed proudly either side of the Mix dial. Use these to go all the way down to a sample rate of 3.81Khz or bit rate of 2! These low settings can produce seriously crushed special effects akin to kids toy robot running low on batteries.
Used more conservativly the parameters available on Bite can achieve fantastic results akin to classic samplers of yesteryear. The addition of a jitter effect that applies random micro dropouts and inconsistancies in a signal is very welcome. You also get a crunch dial, pre and post filters, saturation, dither and expand controls.

But its when you combine the Bite module with its two counterparts that endless sound shaping possibilities present themeselves. Freak can help to add anti-aliasing type effects while Dirt, you guessed it, can make things sound even dirtier.

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CableGuys – CrushShaper

While most of our suggestions on this list focus on basic bit-crushing, emulating the limitations of vintage hardware, CrushShaper takes a slightly different approach. Crushshaper is all about using the Bit-Crushed effect and applying it to a whole host of creative applications. This plugin blurs the line between Bit-Crushing and synthesis type control.

While most bit crushers will apply the effect evenly to an audio signal, Crushshaper allows for dynamic control over parameters such as sample and bitrates. It also syncs with the DAWs tempo. This allows for a whole host of interesting rhythmic effects. You also have the option to draw in LFO information as well as automating parameters. You can even identify and target specific elements or transients in your audio such as snares or kicks – Perfect for loop manipulation!

So if you’re looking to use the medium of Bit-Crushing to get ‘mad creative’ on your audio then this option has got to be worth investigating.

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TAL-Bitcrusher (Free)

While most of the candidates on our list have many bells and whistles to them, this option is a more stripped down affair. But before you go skipping to the next choice it’s worth baring in mind that Bitcrusher by TAL is a FREE plugin. And yes, most DAWs will have a basic Bit-Crusher tool in their effects arsenals but this example does also offers a noise cross modulator and high and low shelf EQ. Most importantly sonically it sounds great! Every bit-crusher will sound subtly different so if you are a 12 or 8-bit fan then it’s always worth having a few options available. So there’s very little reason not to download and stick this free crusher in the old tool box.

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BeatSkillz – SampleX V3

Much like Decimort 2, SampleX aims to acuratly model the sound and feel of a vintage sampler. With its late 80’s hardware GUI asthetic comple with floppy disc drive you are left with no doubt at all of this. But as well as being visually pleasing the layout and functionality of this plugin make it an extreamly intuitive beast to navigate and use. As well as all the standard controlls you would expect from a capable bit crusher you also get 6 buttons that are each designed to model a different piece of hardware. SampleX have apparently gone to great lengths to model not just the sound of vintage samplers but also their signal paths and circuitry. According to Beatskillz they…

“went on a quest to study the actual circuitry and found each and every step right from the A/D converters, preamps, analog, and digital filters, and processes involved to recreate each stage and bring you a plugin that can not only emulate a sampler but many, and also lets you design your own sampler or vintage chip!”

And as an avid user of SampleX in my own productions I have to conceed that their modeling is some of the most convincing I have heard. I find the pitch shifting anti alliasing effect to be particularily pleasing. So if your a Hip Hop producer looking to get that magic 90’s SP1200 sound or a lofi producer after some added retro grung, I don’t think you will be dissapointed by this offering.

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