How To Go Lo-Fi With Ableton Live (Part 3)

The Lo-Fi crowd is getting bigger by the minute and tutorials about lo-fi plugins pop up right and left on how to get that sound. In part 3 of our series I want to show you how to get that lo-fi sound using just Ableton’s native devices. Let’s start with a basic drum loop, and some chords and melody I created. Unprocessed it sounds like this:

Instrument Sauce

Not bad, but let’s add some Lo-Fi sauce to it! We will group the instruments and apply the effects to the group/buss to get a cohesive sound and glue them together. This way they sound more like they came from the same record and not different VST instruments. Ready to go lo-fi with Ableton Live?

Arrangement before processing

First, we are going to add the Redux device to add some bit reduction and downsampling. By itself it’s a bit too raw for my ears but we are going to remedy that with some additional devices to take the edge off.

Next add the Pedal. Select OD (Overdrive) and pump up the bass, mids and treble a little to get some more crunch. Set the Dry/Wet to your desired amount. Less is often more. you want to hear the effect, but not have it overpowering the underlying timbre of the instruments.

Then it’s the all important warped vinyl effect also referred to as pitch drifting. You can achieve this with the Frequency Shifter device. To make this more organic you can randomise the Fine parameter or manually draw in an automation curve, like so:

Warped Vinyl Automation in Ableton Live

Last but not least, we are going to add some hiss and vinyl crackle with the help of the Vinyl Distortion device. Your rack should look a little bit like this now:

Ableton Live Lo-Fi Sauce Rack

Let’s listen what we’ve got… First the untreated original for 4 bars, followed by processed chords and melodies.

Crunching the Drums

Now for the drum loop, we are going to add the Drum Buss. Drive and Crunch will get you some distortion and use Damp to cut out some high frequencies, which is great to achieve that lo-fi sound.

We bring in again the Pedal for some additional distrotion.

Lastly add a Saturator. Dial back the Drive a bit and set the Dry/Wet to <10% – you only want a hint of saturation on the drums. Your rack should resemble this one now:

Ableton Live Lo-Fi Drum rack

Let’s listen to 4 bars of the original drums, followed by 4 bars of our processing applied:


Here’s what it sounds like after all the processing. First the raw version, followed by the version, where we went all lo-fi with Ableton Live.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. If you followed along, save the racks to your library, so you don’t have to rebuild them next time around.

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