When it comes to VST plugins there are a million and one options, but when you are looking for the best LoFi VST plugin there’s only a handful of plugins that get you to authentic lo-fi vibes of producers like Dilla and Madlib in a jiffy.
For a long, long time Decimort2 is one of my go-to weapons to get that lo-fi sound. The plugin has excellent presets emulating vintage hardware like the Emulator, SP1200, MPC and ASR10 that instantly catapult the sound into the the lo-fi realm. From that point it only takes a few subtle tweaks to get the sound I want. Aside from modelling classic analog machines, there’s a bunch of experimental bitcrushing presets, which work great on things when creating otherworldly drones, etc! Get it here!
Developer Mathieu Demange introduced a very interesting plug-in this year. The RX950 is an emulation of the entire AD/DA conversion of the legendary AKAI S950 sampler, which was known for fat and punchy 12-bit sound. According to the developer, the RX950 plug-in provides perfect modeling of the signal path of an Akai S950. The plug-in works in mono as well as in stereo. Input Gain overrides the converter and should provide heat and the necessary crackle. The Audio Bandwidth slider adjusts the sample rate while adding the notorious aliasing to the signal. And of course, the filter control is responsible for the low-pass filter. That should be suitable for just about everything including mix buses and master track on your lo-fi tracks. The RX950 is an amazing emulation of one of the classic samplers from the golden hip hop era. The controls are super simple, but it sounds really good and realistic! Dial down the audio bandwidth to go into lo-fi territory and switch on mono mode on drums – it definitely adds some of that legendary S950 crunch to your drum hits!
This is the jack of all trades in terms of going lofi vst plugins. Make your audio wonky, noisy and analog like recordings from the past. The presets are great and feature some realistic and some experimental defaults to choose from. You can really mangle your audio into something that deserves to be called lo-fi. The RC-20 is easily one of the best lofi vst out there. Get it here!
If there’s one machine that’s synomous with lo-fi hip hop, it’s the Roland SP series, especially the earlier models like the SP-303 and SP-404. The legendary vinyl simulator which was implemented in these machines was used excessively by Madlib and Dilla to give their tracks that certain vibe. That spilled over into the lo-fi hip hop movement pretty quickly too. The Vulf compressor is modelled after the legendary Roland SP303 and gives drums and instruments a vintage character. It’s pricey but a real workhorse, which I use on every single beat of mine. The glue compression presets are great, but definitely check out the vintage sampler presets that got added recently – you’ve got the SP303, MPC60 and SP1200 sound with one click!
While a lot of the other plugins are one trick wonders in making your sound lofi, this one gives you extended control over the wow – fluctuations of frequency response. You can recreate classic tape wobble all the way to tremolo effects. The plugin goes way into experimental territory as well. I find it super useful for wavy, dreamy, rhodes-type sounds. While $129 is quite steep for a tape emulation, you get everything you can ask for when it comes to tape. From mastering tape to broken cassettes and alien fx – you get everything you need for really. Check out the ridiculous good overview video and if you’re convinced, here’s the link!
In fact… the whole Goodhertz Plugin Suite is dope!
Trem Control makes things tremble… The presets are great! Slow Autopan reminds me of the Rotary Speaker simulation in the ASR10, which I use a lot on samples. Reversed Pulses and Pump Hard is a bit like fake sidechaining – obviously you can sync it to your beat. Get it here for $79.
LoHi. This is a nice LP & HP filter that I use to achieve good sounding filter sweeps. It’s no really lo-fi, but it simply works very well on lo-fi tracks where you filter out the highs or lows at certain stages of your beat. While the plugin looks very digtial, the filter sweeps sounds very much like analog equipment. Recommended buy at $79.
Lossy. Emulating not analog gear, but digital compression. It used to be vinyl, cassette, etc – but how about emulating a 128kbps MP3 sound? I think with the rise in sampling from youtube, this is a great plugin to keep in your collection if you want to fit a VST instrument into a sample that you grabbed from an old MP3 file! pretty unique – don’t sleep on this one! The future of lo-fi for $59.
The plugin has been around forever. I have had the VintageWarmer2 on my mastering chain for ages but it works just as great on busses and individual channels. The plugin also includes the MicroWarmer which offers more CPU-efficient processing for more typical compression duties. Grab it here.
Tube Modulator is a collection of several tremolo, vibrato and spatial position effect circuits ranging from the late ‘50s tube bias tremolo to the late ‘60s psychedelic vibe pedals. It’s great for adding a vintage tone to your track, because it is purposely colored by design – adding a great amount of warmth and color to your signal, while keeping it realistic when added subtely.
Many of us got into digital recording precisely because we wanted to get away from the hissy sound of cassette, but if you miss that ‘magical’ ‘80s sound, Klevgrand’s DAW Cassette can help you to bring it back. DAW Cassette is designed to introduce saturation, distortion, noise and wobble. You can reduce the tape, head and motor quality to age your sound and choose from metal, chrome and normal tape material options. Dolby A and K weighting can be switched in, and there are controls for adjusting the input gain, output gain and dry/wet mix. This is one of my favourite recent additions and is most convincing when left at 100% wet. Simply tweak tape, head and motor quality slightly and you’ll get a realistic tape sound.
Emulating the double tracking technique that was developed by Abbey Roads Studio for the Beatles. Essentially Reel ADT by Waves is a lot more interesting than your average double tracking plugin though. An LFO, sync-able to your project tempo, controls the varispeed function for evolving, organic movement in any sound send through the plugin. A bunch of great and professional sounding presets for vocals and instruments let you dial in your wanted sound quickly. This plugin really gives a realistic vintage vibe to any sound.
This freebie from Izotope was one of the earliest dedicated lo-fi weapons and it still holds up well. It’s a staple in many producer setups to this day.You can simulate the dust, scratches, warp, and mechanical noise reminiscent of vinyl and tweak it to your liking. This plugin lets you control each nostalgic element independently. Never use the same worn-out vinyl crackle sample on all your tracks.
Tritik offers a compact bit crusher VST named Krush that’ll cover most of your bit crushing needs. Aside from the downsampling & sample rate reduction you get analog modeled resonant filters and a modulation section which lets you modulate any parameter.
Rekkerd releases a straightforward Lo-Fi Effect with four different distortion variants, which is a free download for Windows & Mac. This new Lo-Fi VST is an audio processing effect that gives any audio a lo-fi character by combining a bitcrusher, a distortion unit, a high pass and a low pass filter. It’s the new and improved version of the original HY-Lofi plug-in.
Akaizer can time stretch (and/or pitch shift) any WAVE or AIFF sound file in the style of the ‘cyclic’ time stretch which featured on old Akai sound samplers, like the S950 / S1000 / S2000 / S3000 series. This is ideal for DAW-based music producers who want that classic metallic-sounding effect, as used in many old school Hardcore / Jungle / Speed Garage tunes from the 1990s, without the need for an actual Akai sampler.