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June 24, 2013

Bit Crushing

When was the last time you bit crushed? It's a very particular, distinct, and often abused effect that can add an unique color to mixes just as easily as it can rip your listeners' ears off.

"Unfortunately most times it just sounds like distortion, and not a "pleasing" harmonic distortion either." - Mark Christensen mastering engineer at Engine Room Audio

I usually use bit crushing very sparsely but recently I used it across an entire mix! My goal was to go loud and destroyed but still sounding punchy and not ear shreddingly offensive, here's how I did it :

Floating On Air Mastered

You can really clearly hear the increased apparent volume as well as the "color" of Bit Crushing in there. Notice how it still retains detail and punch; those are usually the first things to get lost when bit crushing. I did this very simply with just some careful routing and then a nice little chain of plugins.

How’d I do it?

Technically I used it in addition to the mix, this is the main reason my mix still sounds clear and punchy - parallel processing is key. I duplicated my Instrumental Stem aux track (mInst as I call it), bit crushed it and then automated the volume. I began with just the bit crushing but then went back and added a couple other plugins to help tame the sound going into the bit crusher. I used Soundtoys' Decapitator to add some harmonic distortion, tilt the tone towards the bright side then I attenuated the output so I was hitting the bit crusher with better gain staging.  Then I used the UAD Roland Dimension D to add some width and sparkle then finally on to the bit crushing!

bit crushing settings

I used the Plug & Mix Degradiator plugin to handle the crushing duties. I've used a lot of different bit crushers and this one is definitely a favorite. It's probably the most flexible bit crusher I've used as it maintains a very useful and reasonable sounding destruction. Other plugins often have too much harshness, ridiculous interfaces, or not as many controls to tweak. Check out the settings I used on this chain :

Here's that section of the song dry :

And here's with the added bit crushing :

I think it adds an unique and appropriate texture to the mix.

Here's what just the bit crushed processing sounds like :

It's my experience that a little bit of bit crushing goes a long way. I can be tough to find the perfect settings sometimes but when you get them right you’re rewarded with an intense and unique effect that can help individual tracks or even your entire mix stand out!

If you'd like to hear the full song, head over to Floating On Air is part of EMW Music Group's album Shuffle of which 100% of the proceeds are being donated to VH1 Save The Music Foundation.