A Bitcrusher is an audio effect that reduces the resolution of audio data by dividing the sample rate or changing the bit depth. This produces digital distortion and allows you to emulate the digital sounds of early audio devices. It's an extremely useful music production tool to use and a powerful, yet simple way to add character to your tracks.
In this article, we'll find out whether Ableton has a bit crusher, where you can find it, and how to use it.
Does Ableton Have A Bitcrusher?
Ableton Live does come with a bitcrusher effect. However, it may be hard to find at first, because of it's name. In Ablteon the Bitcrusher is called, “Redux”and it's available in all three editions of Ableton Live.
Redux is split into two sides. The left side is the downsampling side and it includes three different controls. These are:
- Rate: This control sets the sample rate that the signal is degraded to, within a range of 0-40kHz. A lower sample rate means more high-frequency components are lost and results in a more prominent distortion.
- Jitter: This parameter adds unpredictable variations to the downsampling process, creating noise and randomness.
- Filter: This can be applied before (pre) or after (post) in the effects processing.
- In pre, you apply an anti-aliasing filter, which changes the way the sample reduction will react to the frequency content of the input signal.
- In post, the filter follows the resampling modules and reduces imaging. You can also tweak the cutoff frequency of the filter.
The right side of redux is the bit reduction side, here there are also 3 controls:
- Bits: Changing this parameter allows you to simulate the process of converting an analogue signal to a digital one, with different levels of bit depth. The lower the value, the less defined and more aggressive the audio becomes.
- Shape: This control changes the bit reduction behaviour from a linear to a logarithmic scale, which is a feature from early samplers that affects the sound of the distortion.
- DC Shift: Adding DC shift also changes the sonic characteristics of the distortion
The final parameter, that has been introduced in Ableton 11 (thank god), is the dry/wet knob.
This is a common feature of audio effects that lets you adjust the balance between the dry input signal and the wet output signal. If you are using Live 10 or earlier, then your redux will not have a dry/wet knob. Here, we would recommend putting your redux effect on a bus and we will go into more detail with this later.
How To Bitcrush Audio in Ableton (Step by Step)
1. Insert Redux onto the track you want to bitcrush
I've inserted Redux on the mix bus so I can bitcrush the entire mix for a really strong effect. If you're using Live 10 or earlier, then we recommend creating a redux bus track and inserting the effect on the bus, because it doesn't have a dry/wet knob.
2. Set the parameters until you achieve your desired sound
I've reduced both the bit depth and the sample rate, but kept the signal 100% dry as I want to automate this parameter over time.
3. Use automation to change the amount of bitcrushing over time (optional)
I want to bitcrush my entire mix during the final section of my song and for the effect to gradually become more apparent. Therefore, I've automated the dry/wet parameter to be 100% dry until the start of the final section then to gradually rise to 100% wet by the end of the song.
Is Redux Different To Bitcrushing?
When compared to something like Logic Pro/s bitcrushing effect, Redux is similar but lacks the same quality. It has a different sound/feel to it and tends to be more of a lo-fi effect than most other bitcrushers.
Logic's bitcrusher is also more detailed than Redux, with better control due to more settings. It comes with three modes (fold, clip, and wrap) which manipulate the distortion in different ways. Logic's bitcrusher has always come with a mix knob, unlike Ableton who only introduced this in Live 11. There is also a waveform display, so you have a visual representation of how your audio material is being processed, a drive knob that sets the amount of gain applied to the input signal, and a clip level handle that sets the
Bitcrusher Alternatives To Redux
Most daws will come with a stock bitcrusher but there are other free and paid alternatives that you can look into.
Here's a list of great bitcrusher plugins:
- Camel Audio – CamelCrusher (free)
- TAL Software – Bitcrusher (free)
- Tritrik – Krush Pro (a free version with fewer features is also available)
- Denise – Bite Harder
- Fabric 70 – Crush (free)
What's The Difference Between Live 11 Redux & Live 10 Redux?
The main difference between Redux in Ableton Live 10 & 11, is the dry/wet knob. This is a new addition to Live 11.
We mentioned earlier that if you're using Ableton Live 10 or earlier, your redux plugin will be missing the dry/wet knob as this was only added in Live 11. Without this switch you can't control the balance between the dry input signal and the wet output signal, meaning your track will be 100% wet. A solution to this is, instead of placing the redux effect onto an instrument or audio track, you should put it onto a bus track. Then you can send the desired amount of the dry signal to the bus track and blend both the dry and the wet signal. If you're using Live 11, this won't be a problem for you.
To conclude, Ableton does have a bitcrusher audio effect called Redux. However, it lacks the same quality as other bitcrusher plugins, especially if you're using older versions of Live. There are numerous alternatives, both free and paid for, that you can choose to use instead.
If you are an Ableton Live 11 user and want to understand better how to use Redux, then we recommend this video from Ableton's youtube channel where they explain how to use the plugin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71A5FC272L0