Bitcrusher is are some of the best tools for recreating the weird and wacky character in older digital hardware units. Bitcrushing uses quantization, separating samples into bits so that you can manipulate the digital audio resolution by getting rid of some portions of the data.
I often find myself using bitcrusher plugins when I want my mix to have a nostalgic character. It is great for making a clean piano sample sound crunchy or a crisp vocal sound lo-fi. Of course, as with any plug-in, the overall sound of a bitcrusher will depend on the algorithm it is using.
To help you find the best bit-crushing plugins for your particular mixing needs, we've carefully compiled a list of the best bit-crushing plugins on the market today.
Let's dive In and check some of these out, so you can begin adding that crispy, crunchy, old-school flavor to your audio tracks.
What Is Bitcrushing?
Before we dive in and explore the bitcrushing plugins on the market, let's answer the important question,
What is bitcrushing?
Big crushing is a unique effect or form of digital sound manipulation in which the quality of an audio signal is reduced.
Many people will compare bitcrushing to distortion. However, bitcrushing works differently by reducing the bit depth and sample rate to create unique artifacts and aliasing. The result is a sometimes unpleasant or jagged effect that sounds somewhat like an audio file has been corrupted.
The cool thing about big crushing is that it can be used in context to give your music an interesting, gritty digital character.
Though reducing the audio quality of a file might seem simple, developers have made a wide range of specialized plugins which provide more control over this unique effect.
Denise - Bite Harder
Denise Bite Harder is one of the most versatile bitcrusher plugins on the market today.
With the push and pull design, you can decide which frequencies you want to target. This unique push-and-pull graph is exclusive to the Bite Harder plug-in, allowing for a wide range of undiscovered sonic possibilities. You can even automate the graph to organically change how your bitcrusher works, creating everything from screaming resonances to subtle curves.
One of my favorite features found in this bitcrusher plugin is the Silky dial, which you can use to smooth out the effects of your bitcrushing, getting that distorted tone without puncturing your eardrum.
In terms of what we believed bitcrushing was capable of, Denise Bite Harder is changing the game. It is such a versatile yet intuitive sound design tool that you can use to add ear candy to your mixes.
You will also find a wide variety of effects, including the random effect, the repeat effect, the glitch effect, and the stutter effect.
Tritik Krush Pro
The developers over at Tritik released the first Krush bitcrushing plugin as a free plug-in a few years back. The Tritik Krush Pro plugin is the next iteration of the freeware, taking bitcrushing to an entirely new level.
These plugin developers added several modulation controls, including an envelope follower, step sequencer, LFOs, and more. In fact, Krush Pro is the very first bitcrushing plug-in with full stereo modulation capability.
This means that all of the modulation parameters within this plugin are in stereo, and each of the modulation slots comes with a knob for stereo balance that can create never-before-heard stereo effects with the ability to modulate the parameters differently.
This plug-in also uses Tritik’s wave-crushing distortion module, which was built upon a unique set of processing algorithms. The number of possibilities truly sets this plug-in apart from many others on the market.
CableGuys - CrushShaper
CrushShaper is one of the best bitcrusher plugins in the CableGuys lineup. This tool is made to unleash every bit of your creative bitcrushing potential. With flexible envelope followers and drawable LFOs, you can essentially create your own algorithms using the plug-in's sleek and modern interface.
In a way, CrushShaper is more of a multi-layered FX plug-in rather than your standard bitcrusher.
I absolutely love the multiband design on this bitcrusher plugin, as it provides a bit more control over which of the frequencies you decide to manipulate. You can also sync the plug-in up to your DAW to design effects that pump in time with your tracks.
With such a versatile design, you can do just about anything with this plug-in, from making your melodies sound more lo-fi to giving your mixes that 8-bit sound to designing gnarly, over-the-top textures, making your music more exciting.
CableGuys has an incredibly diverse lineup of wacky and wild FX plug-ins, though CrushShaper is one of the few that we deem a must-have, especially when it comes to impactful pseudo-distortion plug-ins.
BeatSkillz SampleX V3
The BeatSkillz SampleX V3 bitcrusher plugin offers unique sampling configuration abilities by referencing real-life hardware circuitry. if you want to introduce your digital mixers to the desired sound of hardware, this is the perfect plug-in.
The BeatSkillz SampleX V3 bitcrusher plug-in features a number of distortion and audio destruction functionality. you will find 4 sliders on the main interface, including width, shift drive, bit rate, and sample rate. With the width knob, you can change the spread of the stereo field, which isn't a normal feature in many bitcrusher plugins. We also love employing the vintage ladder filter to give the sound a more lo-fi quality.
Whenever you use the analog-modeled resonant filters on this bitcrusher plug-in, you can also apply additional tweaking with unique cut-off and resonance controls, which are found on the far right side of this plugin. Each filter comes with two knobs, providing control over the fine-tuning of your resonance. I often like using the self-oscillation mode to get a more analog sound.
You can also gain complete control over your sampling alteration by using the five parameters in the bitcrushing section. For example, you can use the drive slider to get that crispy, crunchy vintage tone or use the shift slider to get non-traditional aliasing sounds.
One function that is difficult to ignore is the machine mode. Machine mode has six distinct modes, allowing you to emulate vintage samplers. If you are working with rhythmic sections, the first three modes provide a crispier sound. The last three modes provide a more muted, low-fidelity sound.
Lastly, you get a unique graphical user interface that is very reminiscent of 80s and 90s hardware sampling units. With a simple LED display, on and off switches, and a digital cassette tape loader for your samples, you get the real feeling of using vintage hardware.
For quick and easy sample degradation, Klevgrand created one of the most accessible bitcrusher plugins on the market today.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced music producer, you'll find this bitcrusher plugin is simple to use yet rich in features. There are plenty of clearly defined knobs for you to tweak, including a saturation knob, a bit depth knob, a sample rate knob, and a jitter knob. If your mix needs a bit of additional loudness, you will also find a few mastering options.
One of the unique things about the Klevgrand Degrader bitcrusher plugin is its large resampling frequency range coverage. You can manipulate your sample anywhere from 250 Hz to 96 kHz, opening up a world of possibilities for creative sound effects. With a higher sample rate, your distortion effect will be subtle. On the other hand, a lower sample rate will give you a lower fidelity sound.
The bitcrusher VST includes several quality presets to get you started, many of which emulate vintage hardware really well. Whether you want a slight sample alteration or full-fledged audio destruction, you can find a preset in Degrader for your needs.
Degrader is a bitcrusher VST that provides a simple way to completely destroy your audio signal using saturation, sample rate reduction, and jittering. The intuitive interface provides just as many features as you need to keep your music sounding modern and fresh. With so many great presets to choose from, you can even hear what the plug-in developers used to create their own special sounds.
D16 Group Decimort 2
D16 Group Decimort 2 is somewhat of a hidden gem bitcrusher plugin, used by famed producers such as DJ Michael Trance and David Guetta.
This unique bitcrusher plugin delivers all of the unique characteristics of old-school hardware, including the gritty, fuzzy, and warm sound of 90s rack units. With an old-school user interface, you get all you need to recreate some of the best hip-hop hits of The Golden Era.
You'll find plenty of unique functionality within this bitcrusher plugin, including adjustable jitter, dithering, and anti-aliasing features. There are so many different ways to customize your workflow!
You can create random bit-crushing effect jumps in your audio using the adjustable jittering, which is similar to the sound of vintage hardware’s broken potentiometers. After applying the jitter effect, you can use the adjustable dithering to minimize any errors in harmonic distortion, making sure your sample sounds as clean as possible.
To recreate the real-life sound of analog hardware, you can choose between a wide range of simple filters. If you feel that your sample is resonating a bit too hard, you can use the resonance knob to fine-tune the applied filter’s cut-off. One great thing about Decimort 2 is that it does not have any internal aliasing. Unless you decide to deliberately apply harmonic distortion, it won't appear automatically.
Out of all the bitcrusher plugins on this list, Decimort 2 offers the best hardware-like experience for music producers and mix engineers, making it easy to recreate anomalies that appear in audio hardware. Plus, there are so many excellent presets to get you going, offering a world of creative possibilities.
BitJuggler by ToneBoosters might just deliver one of the most fantastic and unique plug-in experiences on this list.
There is no doubt that ToneBoosters BitJuggler Can help you obliterate your audio using a range of quality options for sample distortion and bitcrushing. Whether you need unique digital effects or classic analog sounds, you can use the LFO settings, pre-processing, resampling, and quantization effects to get the effect you need.
BitJuggler was made to recreate vintage Hardware, all while adding the imperfections of old-school digital units to your audio samples. Everything from 80s and 90s digital fuzz to lighter yet characterful effects can be injected into your productions.
You can even use the optional envelope follower and quantization to alter your sound and control the modulation along the way.
With the included LFO, you can create that new-school pumping effect that makes your audio signal a bit more dynamic. BitJuggler also happens to be one of the most CPU-friendly bitcrusher plugins on this list, especially when you consider all of its capabilities. You’ll find a wide range of interesting bitcrushing effects and top-notch cross-platform support.
The internal headroom is near-limitless, making it a great place for skilled producers to experiment.
Three Unique Ways to Use Bitcrushing In Your Music Production
Now that you understand the basics of bitcrushing and the many unique bitcrusher plugins available let's look at a few ways that you can utilize these bitcrusher effects in your music.
There are many old-school hardware samplers that are known for their gritty and punchy tones. Back in the day, there were many hardware limitations, which consequentially put out lower-fidelity digital recordings.
When you use the bitcrushing effect in a subtle way, you can get the old-school feel of vintage hardware samplers in the digital domain.
With bitcrushing plugins, you can get that classic robotic vocal effect.
Though vocoders or ring modulators are often used in this regard, bitcrushing works just as well. I often find myself reducing the sample rate until the vocals take on enough of that jittery, digital quality.
Sometimes, the drums are just too clean in the mix. To fit right, you might need to give them a bit of extra dirt.
If you can't get the sound in your head with traditional saturation plugins, bitcrushing plugins might be the key.
Deteriorating the Digital Realm
The unique thing about bitcrushing as an effect is that it is only possible in the digital Realm. With flexible capabilities, bitcrushing plugins are some of the most exciting effects to experiment with.
Whether you are looking to obliterate your sonic content with distorted mayhem or impart the subtle coloration of a vintage sampler, you can find a plug-in on this list to meet your audio needs.
Looking to update your plugin arsenal with some serious digital audio destroyers? Come check out the best bitcrusher plugins to learn more!