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What is Lo-fi?

 , updated on September 03, 2016
Lo-fi is the production of music using old equipment or diy methods that produce a sound that contains technical flaws such as distortions, noise and low frequency response. The term implies a sound that is significantly lower quality than the state of the art in the year it was produced. This is often done intentionally as such flaws represent a unique aesthetic such as a raw feeling or nostalgic sound. Lo-fi may also result from a lack of resources such as a bedroom recording with a limited budget.
In the early years of recording, lo-fi was something to be avoided as recording quality was far behind a live sound. The term high fidelity emerged as a marketing term for high-end stereos in the 1950s. It wasn't until the mid-1960s that anyone considered intentionally producing audio of low quality.
The Beach Boys album Smiley Smile produced in Brian Wilson's home studio in 1967 is considered an early example of an intentionally lo-fi sound. The album reached number 9 on UK record charts despite its minimal approach, rough feel and crackling technical flaws. A number of unique methods were used in its production. For example, Brian Wilson's large swimming pool was empty due to a leak and several voice tracks were recorded at the bottom of the pool in place of an echo chamber.
Overview: Lo-Fi
TypeLow Tech
DefinitionThe use of old equipment or diy methods that produce a lower quality sound than the current state of the art.
Also Known AsLow fidelity
Etymology A play on the term high fidelity, a marketing term for high-end stereo equipment that emerged in the 1950s.
Related ConceptsLow Tech


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