ValhallaDelay 1.8.2 Update: LoFi Mode

The 1.8.2 update of ValhallaDelay introduces what might be my favorite delay algorithm I have ever written: LoFi. The LoFi mode allows me to get the delay sounds I have been hearing in my head for decades, and is a way of adding layers of patina and depth to any sound.

The Inspiration

LoFi was originally inspired by a tape echo I bought back in 2019. The Univox EchoChamber EC-80A is most famous for being used by Eddie Van Halen in his early guitar rig. It is also (in)famous for using tape cartridges that are very difficult to track down, and tend to break on a regular basis. 

The Univox EchoChamber EC-80A, complete with the strange cartridge used for the tape loop.

My Univox tape echo works, but barely. Sometimes it doesn’t make an echo sound when turning on, and I have to turn it on or off again or reach around the back and wiggle the tape cartridge. When it does work, it sounds broken. Lots of distortion, lots of wow and flutter, as well as a faster flutter that reaches up into the audio rate. This flutter is where the magic lies in this unit, in my opinion. It takes any input sound and creates a halo of fuzzy noise around it. The moment I tried the Univox EchoChamber in the store, I knew that I had to buy it. And I knew that I had to create a delay mode inspired by it someday.

The deeper underlying inspiration for the LoFi mode was the low fidelity sounds I grew up with in the 70s and 80s. As a kid, I watched movies in school played on warbly 16mm projectors. In the 80s, I watched movies on VCRs, where the audio would hitch and wobble. I recorded vinyl records onto cheap cassettes, that would jam in my Walkman or car stereo. The tapes could be salvaged by prying them out and rewinding the spools with a pencil, but the tape would inevitably be chewed up and wrinkled, creating all sorts of wow and flutter. If you were a child of the 70s or 80s, you grew up in a lo-fi world.

We’ve incorporated the LoFi concepts into a ValhallaDelay mode that is essentially the mirror image of the HiFi mode, hence the color scheme.

ValhallaDelay LoFi GUI

LoFi vs. HiFi

LoFi shares the same controls as HiFi, but with drastically different sonic results:

  • Age adjusts the amount of higher frequency flutter. This is sometimes called “scrape flutter” in the literature, but it is best viewed as flutter at audio rates. As you turn up the Age control, the amount of “scrape flutter” increases, which creates a roughness to the sound. Try setting this to 50%, and then going up or down from there.
  • The modulation waveform of the LoFi mode is similar to the modulation adjusted by Age, but at lower rates. This is a chaotic noise function, that displays the sort of “self-similarity” I talked about in a blog post a few years back. ModRate controls the base frequency of this random function, while ModDepth allows for much higher wow and flutter depths than most of the other ValhallaDelay modes. 
  • The Drive knob adds both odd and even harmonics. Even with Drive at 0 dB, there is still a fair amount of distortion in the LoFi sound. 
  • The Era control allows the user to select between different flavors of lo-fi tape. Past is a dark tape loop, similar to the Tape mode. Present is a brighter tape, similar to the Duck Tape mode. Future is similar in brightness to HiFi, but it isn’t high fidelity by a long shot – the brightness can make the noisiness stand out more starkly than the darker Eras.

So, what is LoFi useful for?

Naturally, the LoFi mode excels at tape echos, especially ones that are crustier than the more commonly found RE-201s. Honestly, the LoFi mode sounds more like your average tape echo than the Tape mode, as your average tape echo is about 10 minutes away from completely breaking down. We also like to use LoFi for warbly dark reverbs, strange chorus sounds, and a bunch of different sounds best described as “bees.” Personally, I use LoFi to artificially age my music. I use one LoFi instance for echoes, another for reverb, and a third instance on the mix bus with a short delay and no feedback to add tape wobble to the sound:

I’m very excited to share LoFi with the world! If you already own ValhallaDelay, just log into your user account and grab the latest installer. If you don’t own ValhallaDelay yet, feel free to check out the demos!

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