If dominant audio production conventions in the 90s were typified by a never-ending quest to achieve pristine fidelity, loudness and ‘transparency’ (192kHz, 24-bit sound!, Dolby Noise Reduction! Surround Sound! Punchy mixes!), then the last decade has witnessed a steady shift back toward the warm intimacy of noise, hiss, dirt and rumble – a radical lean into muted tones, distortion, digital artifacts and the ‘background’ noise of domestic recording technology. All these, ironic reminders of human fingerprints amidst a culture which frequently airbrushes away signs of imperfection.

From the cavernous noise-floor of Moritz Von Oswald’s work as Basic Channel to the psychedelic tape-warble of Boards of Canada, to Burial’s spectral clicks and pops, it seems that our ears are again being seduced by audio ‘detritus’ – embracing decay, distortion, dull edges and rough edits, railing against the brightness and contrived sterility of mainstream media.

Lodged deep in the Reaktor User Library, here are seven of the best tape / lo-fi effects ensembles, lovingly curated to warming, distress or totally destroy audio recordings.

 

VHS Audio Degradation Suite

A ‘zeitgeisty’ recent addition to the Reaktor User Library in light of the recent 80s aesthetic revivalism. The VHS Audio Degradation Suite boasts an expansive range of features and tweakability options, including presets like “90s VHS Tape” and “Vaporwave”, and the ability to automatically generate noise without any input audio.

Check it out here.

 

Grungelator

Grungelator clicks and pops away, and includes an exceptional filter bank section where users can create their own distinctive sound-smashing filter profile. In the words of its creator, Kim Joris Boström, “when I’m listening to my old tape recordings, they do not sound smooth and warm, they’ve got this atmosphere that I like but that I would not be able to recreate.” So he created it.

Check it out here.

 

Tape Mate

This self described “Crap Cassette Emulator” delivers no-frills, and warm and controllable emulations of “crappy old cassettes and VHS tapes”. The author alludes to a love for Boards Of Canada, which is more than evident here. Tape Mate is simple to use and musically calibrated – generating controllable tape-hiss and saturation effortlessly. Dedicated “Noise” and “Wear” dials allow for further tonal control.

Check it out here.

EarSafe

If digital distortion and artefacts are more your style, EarSafe allows you to dither to your heart’s content. Turn thumping drums into Gameboy style blips or add brittle mp3 style noise to your work.

Check it out here.

 

Scream 4 More

Only in the deep realms of the Reaktor User Library would would we unearth a software homage to another classic software distortion unit. Scream 4 More allows for everything from warm, thumpy compression to tinnitus-inducing horrors.

 

Check it out here.

 

ShortWave

If channelling Cold War spy transmissions is your penchant, ShortWave offers shortwave-radio style processing of audio signals, in what must be one of the Reaktor Community’s more idiosyncratic Ensembles. Not only can this little tool process your slammed 808 into oblivion, it self-oscillates, offer the flexibility to generate sound beds and curious proto-ambient washes automatically.

Check it out here.

 

Crackle and Dust

For owners of REAKTOR 6, this elegant collection of User Blocks offers controllable, dynamic and randomisable real-time generation of (extremely listenable) dust, crackle and white noise. Utilising Reaktor Blocks controllable ‘Bento Box’ LFOs, this ensemble allows for the generation of subtle to dense or even rhythmic noise, combining up to four separate noise generators.

Check it out here.