An effect that produces a characteristic distortion in a signal by sampling it at a reduced bit width. The bit width of a analog to digital converter has the effect of quantizing the voltage level of the signal from point to point; a low resolution bit width will transform the input signal into a staircase shape. Today, nearly all samplers and digital audio systems sample at a bit width of at least 24 bits, but early sampliers such as the Fairlight CMI and the E-mu Systems Emulator only sampled at 8 bits, due to the technology limitations that existed at the time they were designed. Over the past decade, vintage synth collectors and restorers, in re-vising these early samplers, found that they had a unique sound that differs from modern units, and this was the inspiration for bit crushing.

Compare with downsampling, which is often performed along with bit crushing.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.