The 10 Best Lo-Fi Plugins for Vintage Aesthetics

Lo-fi is the hottest trend in music production right now—for good reason.

The warm, lived-in tones of retro gear will give your mixes a nostalgic and emotional mood.

To get these satisfying textures right you’ll need a dedicated lo-fi VST. But there’s more lo-fi simulators out there than ever before.

That’s why I’m rounding up the 10 best lo-fi plugins for creating study-and-chill worthy tracks.

Let’s get started.

1. Goodhertz Vulf

Goodhertz Vulf is a unique compressor plugin that’s capable of some serious lo-fi goodness.

Vulf is a collaboration with Jack Stratton of the band Vulfpeck and models the famous “Vinyl Sim” algorithm from the vintage Boss SP303 sampler.

This oddball compression effect caught the attention of beatmakers like Madlib and J Dilla and inspired a generation of lo-fi beats.

Vulf offers a much more flexible take on the 303 Vinyl Sim that can go from smooth and stylish to squashed and scraggly.

2. XLN Audio RC-20 Retro Color

xln audio rc-20 retro color

XLN Audio’s RC-20 Retro Color is everywhere these days, and it’s easy to see why.

This top lo-fi plugin is a six module suite of sonic degradation tools that can take any sound back in time.

Add noise, pitch modulation, overdrive, bit reduction, ambience, and tape artifacts all in the same plugin and control the intensity globally with the magnitude slider.

3. Izotope Vinyl

Izotope Vinyl

Izotope Vinyl was one of the first lo-fi plugins around—and it’s completely free.

Vinyl recreates all the charm of an old school LP. That means mechanical and electrical noise, dust, scratches and all kinds of wear and tear.

It even has a decade switch that can transport your tracks back to the sound of the earliest commercial recording mediums.

The best part is that you can use Vinyl in your sessions without paying a cent.

4. Waves Reel ADT

Waves Reel ADT

Waves Reel ADT wasn’t built specifically for lo-fi, but it’s a great tool for old school tape textures with that sweet compression and warble.

ADT stands for “automatic double tracking.” It’s a technique developed in the 60s to reproduce the sound of an artist singing over their own performance to thicken the sound.

The legend goes that the Abbey Road engineers had to come up with it because John Lennon didn’t like the tedious process of overdubbing vocals.

Reel ADT nails the Abbey Road ADT sound, but it’s also a lo-fi secret weapon. ADT is essentially a tape chorus effect.

Its subtle modulation can create impressive wow and flutter and its tape grit is pleasing and warm.

5. Klevgr DAW Cassette

Klevgr DAW Cassette

Klevgr DAW Cassette is a simple plugin for bringing the magic of cassette tapes back to your DAW.

If you’re feeling nostalgic for that rounded frequency response and characterful noise that only cassettes can offer, this plugin is for you.

DAW Cassette is super simple to use with straightforward controls for the quality of the head, tape and motor of the virtual tape deck.

You can also choose the tape stock type to hear the difference between chrome, metal and plastic tapes.

6. D16 Decimort 2

D16 Decimort

D16 Decimort 2 is a highly advanced bit crusher. It specializes in degrading sounds by reducing their digital information in ways that make a sound pop.

A lot of the character of early hip-hop and electronic music came from the retro samplers artists used to make their tracks.

A lot of the character of early hip-hop and electronic music came from the retro samplers artists used to make their tracks.

These old school tools had limited storage and resolution but imparted their own special sound.

Decimort 2 lets you reach back and access those same digital artifacts in a controlled fashion.

With controls for quantization depth, dithering and resampling frequency you can emulate just about any vintage AD/DA ever with Decimort 2.

7. Baby Audio Super VHS

Baby Audio Super VHS

Sometimes lo-fi doesn’t have to be complicated.

Baby Audio Super VHS keeps it simple with direct access to the parameters that matter most for that retro classic coloration.

The three macro controls give you warble, ambience and distortion on a dial and the smaller sliders around the edge let you tweak the finer points.

Like some of the other plugins on this list, Super VHS is designed to emulate a specific medium. In this case it’s the good old fashioned sound of VCR tapes.

The audio track on a VHS definitely had a lo-fi flavor that’s great to rediscover in 2020…right?

8. AudioThing Vinyl Strip

AudioThing Vinyl Strip

AudioThing Vinyl Strip is another multi-module lo-fi solution in a single plugin.

Each stage lets you add another layer of processing to your lo-fi texture.

Aggressive compression, harmonic saturation, vinyl effects and downsampling let you get specific with your sonic destruction.

Each of these effects has a unique character and can be toggled in and out of the signal chain.

9. u-he Satin

u-he satin

u-he Satin is another plugin that comes at old school analog textures via tape.

After all, the most desirable lo-fi qualities come from some form of magnetic tape recording or reproduction.

Satin lets you dive right into the tape characteristics themselves to simulate all kinds of magnetic tape behaviour.

Mess with the bias, wow and flutter, cross-talk, asperity and even arcane parameters like the azimuth and gap width of the repro head—wild!

10. Goodhertz Wow Control

goodhertz wow control

Goodhertz Wow Control is a plugin that takes wow and flutter seriously.

As you’ve seen in many of the other plugins on this list, pitch modulation is a key component of the lo-fi sound.

It originally came from the subtle speeding up and slowing down of analog tape moving through a tape machine.

These fluctuations in the speed of the tape translate into pitch changes in the audio.

But the specific character of tape wow and flutter is tough to emulate. A tape machine is built like a Swiss watch with tons of moving parts.

The way they all interact to create that unpredictable modulation is what makes wow and flutter so magical.

Goodhertz Wow Control is a highly advanced take on the phenomenon of wow and flutter that lets you dial in every detail.

If you’ve been searching for the perfect pitch warping, Wow Control could be the sound you’re looking for.

Low fidelity

Lo-fi is here to stay.

This woozy, nostalgic production flavor is super satisfying in lots of genres.

Getting the right lo-fi texture in your DAW has never been easier.

Try any of these lo-fi plugins for a retro classic vibe in your next track.

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