A Bitcrusher is a digital audio effect, which produces a distortion by the reduction of the resolution or bandwidth of digital audio data. The resulting quantization noise may produce a “warmer” sound impression, or a harsh one, depending on the amount of reduction.
A number stored digitally has a resolution given as n bits, where there are possible values of the number. If one reduces the number of bits used to store the number, the number of possible values of the number is decreased, and thus the resolution decreases, producing quantization distortion. For example, a standard CD has a resolution of 16 bits, thus there are 216 possible values for any given part of the musical waveform. If this is reduced to approx. 8 bits, distortions can be noticed, reducing the quality. These distortions add to the original overtone in such a way that the wave shape becomes angular. This can produce a “warmer” sound impression than the original waveform, especially if the wave is rounded off in certain ways. Often this is used with techno or electronic music consciously, without regard to fidelity.
An example of a sound distorted by a bitcrusher is in the introduction to the song “Chemicals” from the album "Shrink" by The Notwist. Another example of bitcrushed audio is in the last portion of the song "Short Circuit" by Daft Punk, from their "Discovery" album.
The samples used in the Roland TR-909 drum machine, for example, have a resolution of 6 bits, leading to a similar sound.
In the musical genre Hardstyle, bitcrushing has become an essential effect in many tracks.
In harder versions of the electronic music genre Dubstep/Drumstep, bitcrusher "yah yah" and "yoi yoi" effects have become more popular in the recent years of the genre; some artists even using the effect more than the genre's signature "bass wobbles".
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