The telephone or radio EQ trick can be used to give the impression of low fidelity, as you’re attempting to mimic the sound of ‘crappy’ phone or radio speakers. Simply use your DAW’s EQ and sweep away the low frequency up to around 400Hz and apply a high cut filter, sweeping down to 4k. Of course, experiment here to get the sound you’re after, and use sparingly, just on one or two sounds, or even automate such an EQ on/off to add extra lo-fi vibe to certain sections of an arrangement.
Get the Gear
A great to way to add a lo-fi vibe to your recordings is to use cheaper recording gear to capture sounds – whether it’s vocals, guitars or even field recordings. Although more often employed for live performances, a Shure SM57 mic should be just the trick for a lo-fi vocal take, whilst some cheaper bits of recording equipment may even add some authentic lo-fi hiss or noise to your recordings.
Hi-fi productions tend to have a big and wide sound, filling the stereo field. Whilst aiming for a lo-fi and grungy feel, be cautious not to add too many stereo imaging effects to sounds. Keeping stuff in mono, or simply place stuff around the stereo field using the pan control rather than stereo spread.
Noise is great for adding a lo-fi feel. This could be in the form of engaging the white noise oscillator on your soft synth or even recording some noise and creating a loop to act as an atmosphere in your production. If using the latter, be sure to mix it low and EQ out any unwanted frequencies, maybe even side-chaining it to the kick drum for a more rhythmic effect.
Although the tips and tricks recommended in this series are geared towards achieving a lo-fi vibe in your productions, bare in mind you’re effectively reducing the quality of your sounds and recordings. Going too far with such techniques and you’re mix will potentially end up sounding terrible. Using lo-fi techniques on some select sounds within a production can successfully add the feel you’re after without ruining the whole mix.