By: Paul Eres

On: March 17th, 2012

LabChirp by Labbed is, like Bfxr (which we posted about previously), a tool for synthesizing sound effects. LabChirp is lesser-known than Bfxr/Sfxr, and each program has options the other program doesn’t. I’m not an expert in sound generation at all (although I have used both programs quite a bit, and create the sound effects for my games using them), so here’s my ignorant appraisal of it:

They appear to take different basic approaches to sound effect synthesis. Both have the same basic waveforms: sine, triangle, saw (saw up and saw down in LabChirp’s case), square, and noise. Bfxr in addition has breaker, tan, and whistle waveforms. LabChirp allows you to make custom waveforms, as well. The main distinction between the two seems to be that LabChirp separates its waveforms or channels into three parts: main, frequency modulation, and volume modulation, and each of those can be *different* waveforms, so you can have a square wave with sine frequency modulation and noise volume modulation, and you can adjust the frequency, amplitude, offset, length, etc., of each of those three parts individually. Bfxr on the other hand doesn’t seem to use separate waveforms for volume and frequency modulation, but it has many more ways to modify a waveform: bit crush, flanger sweep, harmonics, sustain vs attack time, and so on, which LabChirp lacks. Both also allow you to combine several channels at once (LabChirp limiting you to eight, Bfxr to five).

But what matters most to me are the randomization / preset features. I feel that Bfxr is easier for casual users here, whereas LabChirp is more customizable (you don’t look at numbers or waveforms directly in Bfxr the way you do in LabChirp, it’s all sliders). For instance, Bfxr has some basic presets (pickup/coin, laser/shoot, explosion, power-up, hit/hurt, jump, blip/select) that most games need. Bfxr also has a very useful “mutation” feature which allows you to slightly randomize the current sound effect by changing its values very slightly up and down, rather than randomizing a completely new effect. LabChirp on the other hand has similar presets (a slightly larger variety of them, including footsteps, snares, etc.), but what really makes it interesting–and the star feature of LapChirp for me–is the ability to design your own presets. To create or edit a preset, you select which waveforms it’ll use for each of the three parts (main, frequency, volume), and the maximum and minimum values for length, delay, frequency, etc., and also many channels it’ll have (unlike Bfxr, LabChirp lets you randomize several channels at once, and create presets that can be of up to eight channels). The presets in LabChirp also seem to allow more varied results than the presets in Bfxr do: if you randomize a “pickup/coin” preset in Bfxr, eventually they all begin to sound very similar, whereas in LabChirp using one of the basic presets feels as if it produces a much greater variety of sounds.

So basically both have a lot of great features, but there isn’t much overlap between those features. Bfxr is easier to use, and LabChirp is more customizable. I’d recommend game developers (and chiptune musicians, presumably) try out and use both, since each can do a lot of things the other can’t. I also kind of wish that each of them would implement some of the features from the other (e.g. LabChirp with a mutate feature or a harmonics slider, or Bfxr with the ability to create your own presets or to randomize several channels at once).

  • A-10

    So that’s how Nintendo does their Pokémon cries.   /Hmm

  • A-11

    how can you export the generated wave?

  • Guyfawkes

    exactly what i was thinking too

  • Schoq

     A .WAV file is created in the same folder when you save the .LCH file.

  • Anonymous

     of course; both programs allow you to do that. they wouldn’t be very useful programs otherwise. that’s like asking if GIMP and photoshop let you save images to file

  • Lilo

    Just saying: I’m loving the more frequent updates these last few days.  Nice!

  • jph

    yes,. some nice noise from this,.  . agree with adding a mutate button. 

  • Andrew Sum

    The ability to make your own presets is really cool! It’s like a customizeable version of SFXR.

  • Dorian Patterson

    Bfxr has the advantage of being open source as well as being a library itself. If anyone with the chops feels like improving upon it, they can.

  • Gnurf

     And it runs in a browser, while LabChirp seems to be windows only.

  • News

    Steve Jobs cocksucker

  • Labbed

    Holy smokes! LabChirp is on the front page of TIGSource!! Aaaah!

    Anyway, uh, for the next version of LabChirp I will make the WAV-export more obvious, I’ll also make the envelope editing a bit more intuitive, and the mutate button is a great idea!
    Thanks for the feedback everyone! And thank you Paul for the great article!

  • Dick Move

    “They appear to take different basic approaches to sound effect synthesization.”Hate to be a pedant, but the correct term is ‘synthesis’.  Sorry bout that :/

  • Anonymous

     thanks, edited

  • Rodrigo Cardoso

     So, you like Bill Gates, heh? =]

  • GGringo

    Ok… I’m going to talk about the elephant in the room… if I wanted to play freaking MINECRAFT I’d play minecraft… what’s with all these minecraft clones now that minecraft’s successful? 

  • boomlinde

    Your reasoning might have made sense if this was to audio editing what GIMP/Photoshop are to image editing.

  • Anonymous

    i’m not sure what would be the purpose of a program which creates sound effects if it doesn’t let you save the sounds, though

  • Anony

    Umm… You just commented on an article about a sfx synthesis program. Not a game, and certainly not Minecraft. All Minecraft related rantings belong in the forum, thank you.

  • Anon Y Mouse


  • adrian toncean

    LabChirp lets you generate way more complex beeps than Sfxr. I used it for Cube Cube Cat and was very happy with the results

  • Arne Döring

    just found out, it works with mono on Linux very well, no wine needed.

  • Arne Döring

    it works on Linux very well, no wine involved.

  • TheMan

    Very nice program must add it to my list!

  • Iwan ‘qubodup’ Gabovitch

    The question was valid, it might have been designed as a VSTi only or proprietary format only with intention to require you buy an upgrade or another software to be able to use the sounds further.

  • DrAngelMachine .

    Im thinking it’s also how Squaresoft did their Final Fantasy sound effects for the NES and SNES.