Why use a Low Pass Filter (and what it's good for)

Low pass filters allow low frequencies to pass while attenuating highs, helping you find smooth audio, remove noise, and create unique effects.

Why use a Low Pass Filter (and what it's good for)

There's lots of detail in making music, but few things come across as "subtle" when producing. What's one? The low pass filter (LPF) and how it shapes tracks. When done correctly, it has a subtle application that improves the quality of samples and tracks. Regardless of the genre and style. Let's take a look at the low pass filter, what it is, how you can use it, and its creative potential.

What does low pass filter mean?

Low pass filter allows frequencies below a certain cutoff point to pass through, while attenuating frequencies above this threshold. This cutoff frequency is the pivotal parameter that determines the extent of the filter's effect on the sound signal.

The Technicalities

Low pass filters separate low-frequency content from high-frequency noise using decibels per octave to control how sharply frequencies are reduced beyond a cutoff point. Steeper slopes like 24 dB/octave create a clearer distinction between kept lows and reduced highs.

Active low pass filter

Active low pass filters allow low frequencies to pass while attenuating high frequencies. They are used to smooth audio signals, remove unwanted noise, and create special effects. The cutoff frequency determines the boundary between low and high frequencies allowing to shape the sound.

  • Allows low frequencies to pass while attenuating high frequencies.
  • Cutoff frequency determines the boundary between low and high frequencies.
  • Used for smoothing audio signals, removing unwanted noise, and creating special effects.

High pass vs low pass filter

High pass filters allow high frequencies to pass, low pass filters allow low frequencies. In sampling, high pass filters remove low-end rumble, low pass filters smooth harsh highs.

low pass filter

Why use a low pass filter

  • Principle of Frequency Selection:
    • Low pass filters function by allowing low-frequency signals to pass through while attenuating high-frequency noise or harmonics.
  • Frequency Discrimination:
    • They differentiate between desired low-frequency content and unwanted high-frequency components.
  • Slope Steepness:
    • Measured in decibels per octave (dB/octave), the slope of a low pass filter determines how rapidly it reduces frequencies beyond the cutoff point.
  • Effect of Slope Steepness:
    • A steeper slope, such as 24 dB/octave, results in a more abrupt transition between the passed low frequencies and the attenuated high frequencies.
  • Filter Performance:
    • The steepness of the slope influences the filter's ability to effectively separate and isolate the desired signal from unwanted noise or interference.

Types of Low Pass Filters

  • Butterworth: Known for its flat frequency response in the passband, ensuring that the retained low frequencies are not colored or altered.
  • Chebyshev: Offers a steeper slope at the cost of slight ripples in the passband, affecting the sound's purity.
  • Bessel: Prioritizes phase linearity over slope steepness, preserving the timing and coherence of waveforms.

What is a low pass filter good for?

At the beginning we said low pass filters serve a subtle function. This is for both practical and creative use.

Removing High-Frequency Noise

Samples may sometimes carry unwanted high-frequency noise or artifacts. A carefully set low pass filter can clean up these samples, ensuring they blend smoothly within a mix without introducing harshness or clutter.

A Corrective Tool

By adjusting the cutoff frequency, producers can alter the timbral qualities of instruments, making them sound warmer, softer, or more distant. This technique works for genres like lo-fi hip-hop, where the warmth of the sound is created by rolling off the high frequencies.

Creative Effects and Transitions

Low pass filtering can also be used to create sweeping effects that build tension and release in electronic music. Automating the cutoff frequency can simulate the feeling of a sound emerging from beneath the surface, perfect for transitions or drops.

Low Pass Filters with Sample Focus

To effectively utilize low pass filters within the Sample Focus framework, consider the following tips:

  1. Start with goal: Are you cleaning up a sample, shaping its texture, or creating an effect?
  2. Choose Your Filter Type Wisely: Based on your objective, select a filter type that complements your desired outcome. A Butterworth filter might be ideal for general use, while a Chebyshev could introduce interesting harmonic changes.
  3. Refine the Cutoff Frequency: Experiment with the cutoff point to find the perfect balance. Too low, and you might lose vital character; too high, and the effect might be negligible.
  4. Play with Resonance: Adding a bit of resonance (boost at the cutoff frequency) can emphasize the filter's effect, adding a unique character to the sound.
  5. Experiment with Automation: For dynamic effects, automate the cutoff frequency and resonance parameters. This can breathe life into static samples, making them more engaging.


  • Low pass filters allow low frequencies to pass while attenuating high frequencies, enabling producers to smooth audio, remove noise, and craft unique effects.
  • The cutoff frequency is the crucial parameter that determines the boundary between passed low frequencies and attenuated high frequencies.
  • Steeper filter slopes (e.g., 24 dB/octave) create a clearer distinction between retained lows and reduced highs, improving the filter's ability to isolate the desired signal.
  • Low pass filters can be used for practical purposes like removing high-frequency noise, as well as creative applications like shaping timbres and generating dynamic effects.
  • Mastering low pass filters involves setting clear goals, choosing the right filter type, fine-tuning the cutoff frequency, experimenting with resonance, and exploring automation for dynamic results.

Final Words

The low pass filter is a testament to the beauty of simplicity in music production. With its foundational role in shaping the sonic landscape, mastering the LPF is essential for any producer looking to refine their craft. Through the Sample Focus library, producers have the space to experiment with low pass filtering – to use the potential of this tool across various samples and genres.