The Art Of 8-Bit Sound Effects

April 27, 2023| We Sound Effects

Creating 8-bit sounds is a fun and creative process that involves using simple waveforms and basic synthesis techniques to create nostalgic sounds reminiscent of classic video games from the 1980s and 1990s.

The creation of 8-bit sound can be traced back to the early days of digital audio technology, which dates back to the late 1970s and early 1980s. During this time, electronic instruments such as synthesizers and drum machines were becoming increasingly popular, and digital audio technology was being developed to enable the creation of more complex and realistic sounds.

The specific individuals or companies responsible for creating 8-bit sound are difficult to pinpoint, as this technology evolved over time and was influenced by many different people and organizations. However, some of the key figures and companies involved in the development of early digital audio technology include Robert Moog, Dave Smith, Sequential Circuits, and Roland Corporation, among others.

The creation of 8-bit sound is attributed to a number of individuals and companies who were involved in the development of early digital audio technology.

One of the earliest examples of 8-bit sound was the Atari TIA (Television Interface Adaptor), which was used in the Atari 2600 video game console. The TIA was designed by a team of engineers at Atari, including Jay Miner, Joe Decuir, and Steve Mayer.

Other notable contributions to the development of 8-bit sound include the creation of the MOS Technology SID (Sound Interface Device) chip, which was used in the Commodore 64 computer. The SID chip was designed by Bob Yannes, who later founded the Ensoniq Corporation.

Overall, the development of 8-bit sound was a collaborative effort involving many engineers and companies, and its roots can be traced back to the earliest days of digital audio technology.

Here are some steps to get you started:

  1. Choose a software synthesizer: There are many software synthesizers available that are specifically designed for creating 8-bit sounds. Some popular options include Plogue Chipsounds, 8bitz, and Magical 8bit Plug.
  2. Select waveforms: Choose simple waveforms, such as square, triangle, and sawtooth waves. These waveforms are the building blocks of 8-bit sounds.
  3. Use low sample rates: To recreate the sound quality of classic video game consoles, use a low sample rate. A sample rate of 8 kHz or 16 kHz can create a distinctly 8-bit sound.
  4. Experiment with pitch: Adjusting the pitch of your waveforms can create different tones and sounds. Experiment with different pitch settings to see what sounds best.
  5. Use arpeggiation: Arpeggiation is a technique where notes in a chord are played in a sequence rather than simultaneously. This can create fast and complex sounds that are commonly heard in 8-bit music. Arpeggios and portamento (glide) are common techniques used in 8-bit music to create fast, repetitive patterns and smooth transitions between notes.
  6. Play around with parameters: Explore the different parameters of your synthesizer, such as filter cutoff, resonance, and modulation. These parameters can be used to create unique and interesting sounds.
  7. Use chiptune percussion: Chiptune percussion is typically created using basic waveforms and noise. Use short, percussive sounds to create a variety of drum sounds, including kicks, snares, and hi-hats.
  8. Experiment with effects: While classic 8-bit sounds were typically unprocessed, you can experiment with effects such as distortion, reverb, and delay to create a more modern take on the 8-bit sound.
  9. Listen to examples: Listen to classic 8-bit music to get a feel for the sound you’re trying to achieve. Pay attention to the different elements that make up the music, such as the melody, bassline, and percussion.

By following these steps and experimenting with different techniques and tools, you can create your own 8-bit sounds that are unique and nostalgic.


There are many great audio plugins available that can help you create 8-bit sounds. Here are some popular options:

  1. Plogue Chipsounds: Chipsounds is a software synthesizer that emulates the sound chips of classic video game consoles, including the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Game Boy, and Commodore 64. It comes with a library of presets that recreate the sounds of these consoles, as well as a variety of editing tools that allow you to create your own sounds.
  2. Magical 8bit Plug: Magical 8bit Plug is a free VST plugin that emulates the sound chip of the Nintendo Famicom (the Japanese version of the NES). It includes a variety of basic waveforms and noise generators, as well as a simple interface that makes it easy to create classic 8-bit sounds.
  3. YMCK Magical 8bit Plug 2: YMCK Magical 8bit Plug 2 is a more advanced version of Magical 8bit Plug that includes additional features such as a filter, delay, and arpeggiator. It also includes a larger library of presets that recreate the sounds of various classic consoles.
  4. NES VST: NES VST is a free VST plugin that emulates the sound of the NES. It includes two wave channels and a noise channel, as well as a variety of editing tools that allow you to create your own sounds.
  5. u-he Diva: While not specifically designed for 8-bit sounds, u-he Diva is a powerful software synthesizer that includes a variety of classic oscillator and filter types that can be used to create classic 8-bit sounds.

Remember that the best audio tools for creating scary sounds will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Experiment with different options to find the ones that work best for your creative vision.

8-bit sounds have a unique and nostalgic quality that can be used in many creative and interesting ways. Here are a few examples:

  1. Music production: 8-bit sounds can be used to create chiptune music, a genre of electronic music that uses retro video game sounds to create catchy and memorable melodies.
  2. Video game development: 8-bit sounds are often used in retro-style video games to create an authentic vintage gaming experience.
  3. Sound design: 8-bit sounds can be used as sound effects in various media projects, such as animations, videos, and podcasts.
  4. Mobile apps: 8-bit sounds can be used to create unique notification sounds, ringtones, or alarm tones for mobile devices.
  5. Educational purposes: 8-bit sounds can be used to create interactive learning experiences for children, teaching them about music, sound design, and video game development.
  6. Film and TV: 8-bit sounds can be used to create a retro vibe in film and TV productions, especially for scenes that evoke nostalgia for classic video games or pop culture from the 80s and 90s.

Overall, the use of 8-bit sounds can add a distinctive and fun touch to a wide range of creative projects.



Get 5GB+ Free Royalty Sound Effects on any order at We Sound Effects. Find Out More

Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest news, interviews, jobs, tutorials, resources and much more.


Categories: Game Audio, Sound Design Tutorials, Tutorials
Subscribe to We Sound Effects Newsletter



We respect your privacy.