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What Is Clipping In Audio? Learn Causes, Effects, And Prevention Tips

by Stuart Charles Black
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Greetings mate and Welcome aboard!

Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions, so…

What Is Clipping In Audio?

Clipping in audio refers to a distortion or distortion of sound that occurs when an audio signal exceeds the maximum level that can be accurately represented by the recording or playback equipment.

It occurs when the amplitude of the audio waveform exceeds the limits of the available headroom or dynamic range.

Here’s how clipping typically occurs:

Amplitude Limitation

Every digital or analog audio system has a maximum amplitude level it can handle without distortion.

In digital audio, this is often represented as 0 dBFS (decibels relative to Full Scale), which is the highest level that can be represented in a digital audio file.

In analog systems, it’s typically related to the voltage levels that the equipment can handle.

Overdriving the System

When the audio signal’s amplitude surpasses the maximum allowed level, the system is unable to accurately represent the waveform.

Instead of smoothly reproducing the waveform, it cuts off the peaks of the signal, resulting in a flattened or squared-off waveform. This creates a distorted sound.

Audible Effects

Clipping can produce a harsh and unpleasant distortion that often includes a noticeable “clipping” sound.

This distortion is often characterized by a sharp, buzzing, or crackling noise, which can be particularly undesirable in music, voice recordings, or any other audio application where fidelity is important.

Clipping can occur at various stages of audio production, including during recording, mixing, and playback. Common sources of clipping include:

  • Recording Levels: If the input levels during recording are set too high, the signal can clip as it’s recorded onto a digital audio workstation or analog tape.
  • Digital Audio Processing: When processing audio with digital effects or software plugins, it’s essential to monitor levels to avoid digital clipping.
  • Amplification: In analog systems, amplifiers, and other equipment can clip if they are pushed beyond their maximum levels.

To prevent clipping and maintain audio quality, it’s important to monitor and control signal levels at each stage of audio production.

For instance, my Universal Audio Volt 2 has 2 LED lights near the monitor’s volume potentiometer that show you where you’re at.

What Is Clipping In Audio?

Avoiding red at all costs is obviously what you’re aiming for.

As the music plays, it will light up green which indicates everything is copasetic. Yellow isn’t terrible, but if you’re getting any red, you’ll definitely want to go in and adjust whatever the culprit is that’s causing the issue.

This involves adjusting input levels, using appropriate gain staging, and ensuring that no part of the audio chain exceeds its limits.

Additionally, many audio editing software programs provide tools for detecting and reducing clipping after it has occurred, such as by using a “clip gain” function or applying soft clipping to round off the clipped peaks more smoothly.

If you’re interested in an article covering this sort of thing – with regard to a program like Cockos’ Reaper, let me know down below!

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this What Is Clipping? short discussion and came away with some valuable insight.

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!

Have you had issues with clipping in the past? How did you deal with it? Are you new to the world of audio? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,





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