Find out all about the best samplers, drum machines, and synthesizers for making lo-fi hip hop with our complete gear guide
Want to know how to start making lo-fi beats? Read on for our guide to the best gear for producing lo-fi hip hop and how to get started with hardware synthesizers and sampling.
What is Lo-Fi Hip Hop?
Lo-Fi hip hop refers to a hip hop production style that stems from sampling old jazz and soul records that carry a distinct flavour in terms of their fidelity and overall mood.
Nowadays we can replicate these types of beats using both software and hardware, utilising modern technology and sampling techniques to create beats that stay true to the sound of the genre’s originators.
The surge in popularity of the “24/7 Beats to Relax and Study To..” radio stations on YouTube has led to more and more people developing an interest in using these types of sounds in their own productions.
Carry on reading to see some of our favourite bits of kit and find out how to make chill lofi beats..
How To Produce Lo-Fi Beats
When learning how to produce lo-fi hip hop it’s important not to get too caught up in making everything sound exceptional. The appearance of imperfect sounds is a part of what gives low fidelity music its unique charm and characteristics.
There are no rules on whether you should use Hardware, Software, or both - we’ll be looking at different types of beat-making instruments that can be used independently of a computer, but using a DAW to chop up and edit your samples is recommended and can be a preferred workflow for a lot of producers!
Lo-Fi hip hop beats also make extensive use of instruments such as electric guitar, bass guitar, and acoustic drums - so if you already play then try to incorporate them into your beats!
Without further ado, here are our favourite pieces of gear for beat-makers and producers..
Akai MPC Studio Two
For those who want to use hardware for their beat-making, nothing comes close to the Akai MPC Series.
Noted for being used by a whole host of artists including J Dilla, DJ Shadow, and Dr. Dre, the most recent MPC’s have been kitted out with a whole host of modern conveniences for producing in 2021 and beyond.
This machine delivers the ultimate MPC DAW experience for producers who want to stay on the cutting-edge of technology but still use dynamic and expressive controllers.
The 16 velocity-sensitive pads on this machine are teamed up with a LCD interface for an intuitive workflow that is still completely reminiscent of the famed units of previous generations.
With seamless Splice integration you can now pull sounds from one of the most extensive sample libraries in the world, meaning your beats have practically unlimited potential for fine-tuning and experimentation.
For DAW-less beat-making, you can’t beat an MPC. But with modern iterations such as this one, you can also use the unit to control VST’s and MIDI devices - and they also feature signature synth engines and built-in drum sounds.
A lo-fi producer's dream!
Teenage Engineering PO-33 KO Pocket Operator
If you’re in the market for a lo-fi hip hop sampler then the Teenage Engineering PO-33 KO Pocket Operator is a fantastic option.
Featuring a 40-second sample memory, built-in microphone, and Line-In capabilities, this surprisingly powerful unit is versatile and tonnes of fun.
With its array of controls you can play chromatic melodies with your samples, as well as using the ‘Drum Mode’ to punch in your beats.
After you’ve layered up your samples, use the sequencer and range of effects to spice things up and create something truly unique.
Korg MicroKorg XL+
The Korg MicroKorg XL+ is the industry-standard for analog-modelling synthesis.
Packed with a variety of classic Korg sounds that are ready-made for laying down some lo-fi jazz chords, the addition of Kaoss Effects and a Vocoder means the sounds are perfect for chopping up, re-sampling, and adding your own flavour to them.
Once again, this modern synth has USB capabilities for accessing vast sound libraries online - something that all producers and beat-makers will appreciate.
With its endlessly playable natural-touch mini keyboard and a powerful engine as standard from Korg, this synth is an awesome choice to add to your armoury.
Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine
The Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine is a wonderful option for sequencing, sampling, and performing with a drum machine.
In addition to the six all-analog sounds (Kick, Snare, Lo Tom, Hi Tom, Open Hi Hat and Closed Hi Hat) there is a PCM sound engine for the extra flourishes that will make your beats stand out from the crowd.
Boasting a sequencer that is directly inspired by the much-lauded Korg Electribe, the 16 active steps are intuitive and allow for truly creative and inspired beat production.
Using the Click, Pitch, and Decay knobs grants you the ability to sculpt each individual drum tone, and with the sequence edit and effects functions you can make each pattern that you create totally unique.
Take advantage of the DAW-compatibility and MIDI-functionality to re-sample your favourite patterns, generating lo-fi beats that will stand out from the rest whilst retaining the classic analog edge that is so highly-sought after.
Korg Volca Bass Analog Bass Synthesizer
Another synth from the Volca Series comes next, with the incredible Korg Volca Bass Analog Bass Synthesizer.
Having a dedicated synth for your low-end needs isn’t entirely necessary, but this pocket-sized unit is surprisingly powerful and definitely worth the investment!
Featuring the same Electribe-inspired sequencer from the Volca Beats, the Bass model uses 3 analog oscillators for a versatile bass tone that can be moulded in a variety of different ways.
Set the oscillators to separate detuned pitches for beautifully thick chords, or layer one of the oscillators to play a melody on top of the groove - the options are endless.
Due to its compatibility with separate Volca units and other pieces of hardware, the Volca Bass is great for resampling and shaping further when producing.
As with the rest of the Volca range, it can run on batteries and has a built-in speaker for on-the-go music making!
ElectroHarmonix 'The Worm' Analog Wah/Phaser/Vibrato/Tremolo Pedal
Whether you’re using guitar, bass, or synths on your latest beat, add some modulation with the Electro-Harmonix Worm for the most authentic lo-fi sounds.
Lo-Fi beats often rely on the simulation of tape machines or samples of old recordings for their warm and nostalgic vibe.
With a multi-use modulation pedal such as The Worm, you can add fluttering Vibrato and filtered Phaser sounds to your recordings for an effect that can be difficult to replicate fully in a DAW.
Take a look at our other Multi-FX pedals too - with modulation, tape delay simulation, and a selection of reverb effects you can record your instruments to sound like they have been re-sampled and filtered before they even reach your DAW:
Still not sure how to make lofi beats? Need some extra help with guitar loops and production techniques? Call us on 0151 448 2089 or check out your local store to speak to one of our Experts about your needs.