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What is chiptune, chipmusic, 8-bit sound ?

I will explain it with simple words and examples. And why is it in english ? Because most of resources are in english (and japanese too !). Commonly on Internet, "chiptune", "chipmusic" and "8-bit sound" mean the same thing. But for me, it is a little bit different.

Just one thing before to start : the difference between the terms "chiptune" and "chipmusic" is not very important ! ;) We do not need to debate during long hours. Historically, the term "chiptune" came before "chipmusic". Today, these terms mean same thing.


So, in general, Chiptune Wikipedia define music written in sound formats where all the sounds are synthesized in realtime by a computer or video game console sound chip, instead of using sample-based synthesis. The 'golden age' of chiptunes was the mid 1980s to early 1990s, when such sound chips were the most common method for creating music on computers. In short, it is the sound of the first demos and video games.

Screenshot of Big Chuj Demo, on ZX Spectrum

Screenshot of 'Big Chuj' demo by Hooy-program, on ZX Spectrum

Historically, the chips used were sound chips such as :

Wikipedia MOS Technology SID 6581/6582/8580 on Commodore 64 (C64)
Wikipedia General Instrument AY-3-8910 or AY-3-8912 on Amstrad CPC, MSX and ZX Spectrum
Wikipedia Analog-digital hybrid Atari POKEY on the Atari 400/800 and arcade hardware
Wikipedia Yamaha YM2149 on the Atari ST and ZX Spectrum
Wikipedia Yamaha YM2612 on Sega MegaDrive/Genesis
Wikipedia Yamaha YM3812 (aka OPL2) and YMF262 (aka OPL3) Wikipedia on IBM PC compatibles
Wikipedia Paula on Amiga
Wikipedia Ricoh 2A03 on Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) or Famicom

For the MSX several sound upgrades, such as the Konami SCC Wikipedia, the Yamaha YM2413 Wikipedia (MSX-MUSIC) and Yamaha Y8950 Wikipedia (MSX-AUDIO, predecessor of the OPL3) and the OPL4-based Moonsound were released as well, each having its own characteristic chiptune sound.

The Nintendo Gameboy do not have a separate soundchip. It uses digital logic integrated on the main CPU.

Also, there is no soundchip in the Apple II, but there is a 16 channel 8 bit Ensoniq ES5503 DOC wavetable soundchip in the Apple IIGS (GS = Graphics and Sound).

More informations about soundchips on

MOS Technology (SID) in Commodore 64

MOS Technology (SID) in Commodore 64

Comparison of two soundchip processors (Sega MegaDrive/Genesis) :

[mp3] Sonic the Hedgehog - Music track of the famous video game
[mp3] Track using only PSG processor Wikipedia
[mp3] Track using only FM processor Wikipedia


Example of a 'real' chiptune :
[mp3] Chris Huelsbeck - 'Shades' - Original chiptune composed in 1986 on Commodore 64 and directly recorded

In 1991, few artists (as 4-Mat and Random Voice) composed modules (MOD, IT...) with big chip influences, on digital trackers. They used really short samples. These chiptunes are 'sample based' because no real soundchip are used. However, they respect demoscene and video-games spirit, and sometimes specificities of a real soundchip.

Example of a 'sample based' chiptune :
[mp3] Random Voice (Edvin Fladen) - 'Monday' - Original module (MOD) composed on Amiga, in 1991. Download it !

Today, many composers continue to use computers or consoles with real soundchip (Nintendo Gameboy is one of the favorites but Atari ST, Commodore 64 and others are used too !).

Example of a modern and 'real' chiptune on Nintendo Gameboy :
[mp3] cTrix - 'Live Tek House Set' - Original chiptune composed on lonely one Gameboy, in 2009

LSDJ on Nintendo Gameboy

Moreover, when the sound is less than 8-bit (1, 2, 3 or 4 bit) it is generally considered as chiptune too. Sound of Nintendo Gameboy is not 8-bit sound at all. The Gameboy sound chip offers four channels with 4-bit sound.

Also, many emulators exist : chiptrackers, audio plugins (VST, AU, RTAS)...

Example of a chiptune in a synthesis emulator :
[mp3] Sz1l1 - Benny Hill Theme - Original remix created with GXSCC on Windows, in 2008

More and more modern machines implement real soundchip. MOS Technology SID (from the Commodore 64) is the most implemented soundchip Wikipedia.

ymVST : a free VST plugin to emulate Atari ST soundchip

ymVST : a free VST plugin to emulate Atari ST soundchip
[mp3] Audio demo by IJS


This term define all music genres referring more or less to 8-bit sound. For me, it means a global term. Inside 'chipmusic' term, we can find other terms :
- 8-bit music Wikipedia
- Amigacore Wikipedia
- Bitpop
- Blippblopp or Blip-blop
- Chipbreak or Chipcore
- Chiptune Wikipedia
- Chip Metal or Bleep Metal
- Chipnoise
- Chipstyle
- Bitpop
- Fakebit Wikipedia
- Gameboy music Wikipedia
- Lo-fi or Low-Fi music Wikipedia
- Low-bit
- Microchip
- Micromusic
- Nerdcore or Chip-hop Wikipedia
- Nintendocore
- Retro-music
- Skweee Wikipedia

Sure, all styles are represented. The success of chipmusic/chiptune grow each year. More and more professional and non-professional artists use these typical 8-bit sounds !

Few examples :
[mp3] Anamanaguchi - 'Jetpack Blues Sunset Hues' - Original Rock tune (Check video here !)
[mp3] Astor - 'So What' - Original 8-bit Jazz remix from the Kind of Bloop album dedicated to Miles Davis
[mp3] Benjamin Bear - 'Boxed In' - Original Chip-hop, Nerdcore tune
[mp3] JKP - 'Desinfection' - Original Chipnoise
[mp3] I Fight Dragons - 'Overture 1.0' - Original tune composed like a trailer or a movie soundtrack
[mp3] Machinae Supremacy - 'Zogrim Ate My Hamster' - Original Chip Metal
[mp3] Mister Beep - '1 Bit Chase' - Original 1-bit (not 8-bit !!! only one !) tune
[mp3] Pupajim - 'I Am A Robot' - Original Reggae tune with vocal, from the Jahtari label
[mp3] She - 'Chiptune Superstar' - Original Disco tune with vocal, from the free album Superstar
[mp3] Vincenzo - 'Tuesday 44' - Original Funky tune from his free album Chip Drops
[mp3] YMCK - 'A Crimson Rose and a GinTonic (Katamari Tribute)' - Original Jazz tune with vocals
[mp3] YTCracker - 'Dugdig' - Original Chip-hop, Nerdcore tune from his free album Nerdrap Entertainment System

Dubmood vs Facteur - Hypnodisko
(Tulle, France, in 2008)

8-bit sound

Often, there is a confusion between sound relative to chiptune/chipmusic and 8-bit sound from 8-bit computers or consoles. On this following example, samples are all coded in 8-bit but it's not a chiptune/chipmusic at all ! Note that on this website I use '8-bit sound' term to define chiptune/chipmusic because everybody do it. For your knowledges, now, you know the difference. ;)

[mp3] Romeo Knight - 'Rise Up' - Original module (MOD) composed on Amiga, in 1989. Download it !


Shame on all plagiarists, opportunists and non-creative people (artists ? I do not think so) !

Reading Plagiarism - ChipFlip
Reading Oh No Another Plagiarism - ChipFlip
Reading Ripper / Plagiarism Reports - MOD Archive
Reading Stolen Goods -

Just two examples :

Timbaland, a famous opportunist producer, ripped off a chiptune of the artist named Janne Suni (aka Tempest). Shame on him ! Read 'Timbaland plagiarism controversy' Wikipedia PDF Document Reading

[mp3] Tempest - 'Acidjazzed Evening' - Original tune made in 2000. Download this module (MOD) or this one (SID) !
[mp3] Nelly Furtado (Feat. Timbaland) - 'Do It' - Tune made in 2006

... and the other one example :

[mp3] Crystal Castles - 'Courtship Dating' Wikipedia - Tune made in 2006 (then released in 2008)
[mp3] 50 Cent ft. Justin Timberlake - 'Ayo Technology' (Instrumental version) - Tune made in 2007

Timbaland and Nelly Furtado : plagiarists

Famous Chipmusic/Chiptune communities Micromusic


Reading Chipmusic definition - ChipFlip
Reading Chipmusic timeline - ChipFlip
Reading Endless loop : a brief history of chiptunes - Transformative Works and Cultures. ES and FR translation : Endless_loop_-_a_brief_history_of_chiptunes_(EN_ES_FR).zip
Wikipedia Video game music
Reading Old soundcard emulation - Anapan8
Wikipedia Sound chip
Reading Sound generators of the 1980s home computers - Srcf Ucam
Reading Basic sound theory and synthesis - DrPetter's
PDF Document A modern implementation of Chiptune synthesis - Phill Phels
PDF Document A study into the music and culture of chiptunes - Alex Yabsley
Reading Authenticity and emulation : Chiptune in the early twenty-first century - Little-Scale
Wikipedia Types of synthesis

A chipmusic studio !!!

A chipmusic studio !!! ;)

Thank you to all members of the chiptune/chipmusic forums who helped me.


Tags : chiptune, chipmusic, 8bit music, 8bit sound, chiphop, blipblop, micromusic, video-game sound, soundchip, lofi music, retromusic, gameboy music