What Does Clipping Sound Like?

  • a couple of years ago
  • / Tips

In an actual situation, if you try to push your speakers beyond their abilities, occasionally mentioned as overload, your audio released from them would be clipped. That occurs since there is a limit to the power used to supply the speaker’s amplifier. So, what does clipping sound like?

If you see it happening, instead of a smooth sinusoid emitted for ordinary audio, a clipped shape of a wave produced by the amplifier due to the sound distortion. Are you still confused? Here is a deeper look at an audio clipping!

What Is Audio Clipping?

Everyone always says that digital clipping is bad, but in reality, it’s not a big deal at all. And opposite to what you thought, it might be a great thing. In detail, it enables you to push the audio further than its true limits so that you can achieve something you wouldn’t have been able to.

Clipping does happen once the signal starts to surpass the maximum dynamic range (DR) of your audio channel. When recording a sinusoid, that clipping will appear like someone cuts the top and base of the sound wave.

The simplest way to explain “clipping” is when we reach the point where you raise the volume on a receiver, the audio signal begins crapping out. The picture below shows a clipped sine wave:

A form of wave distortion (Via: www.wikimedia.org)

Those digital clips are fully chopped or squared off, but in analog, such clipping seems to round every edge off. In other words, your sound could feel less abrasive and offer something good to the sound. If so, what does clipping sound like?

For digital clipping, it’s pretty much like hitting a brick wall where the analog feels more like slamming into a pile of mattresses in the wall. Before figuring out why clipping is not that bad, come to learn more about its effects.

Most Common Effects of Audio Clipping

Distortion and shortage of bass (Via: www.gmarts.org)

An audio clipping is divided into soft, hard and limited forms. When it comes to hard clipping, you’ll see it gives the greatest loudness but also the highest distortion and lack of bass. For soft clipping, it sounds smoother with a few distortion. Meanwhile, the limited form might distort the least, but it decreases the loudness remarkably, triggering a shortage of punch.

Clipping Sound is Not That Bad!

Well, from the start, we’ve been taught that clipping in a DAW while mixing is just horrible thing against our music, so we’re told not to do it at all. Thus, most of us tend to follow this rule and basically trust that the more sinusoidal a beat gets, the more pleasant it sounds.

A signal with and without distortion (Via: www.soundphysics.ius.edu)

But in some cases, you might find that even every beat clips the output, though it remains punchy, it’s not broken apart by distortion once the clipping takes place.

With what you’ve been told, clipping is not indeed a bad thing, thanks to the 32 and 64-bit floating-point signal processing. Better than that, you’re given an endless amount of headroom as long as the audio is right inside the digital realm.

Besides, it’s not necessary to convert that 24-bit audio file when your digital audio workstation can do everything internally and gets converted back at the output phase. Before actually approaching that kind of clipping, the initial thing you must do is to diminish your thought that audio clipping is only bad since it’s not like that.

Sure enough, clipping annoys some of us; we just want to stay away from it as much as we can. Remember that when something clips, it just turns out to be a huge problem only if it influences the sound badly. Thus, you shouldn’t care too much about clipping and instead of fixing the problem, let’s get to know how to prevent it!

How to Remove Clipping

We suggest you to consider the most effective ways to prevent clipping rather than curing it. To do that well, it’s highly recommended to have that digital audio recorded by maintaining that signal within limits. In case that you’ve already got your audio files you love to boost, it’s fine to avail some audio tools to remove that clipping as much as you can.

To help you to get the right audio software which can perform this effectively, here’s a list of our best recommendations:

Software Media Players

Find the right media players to download on your computers such as Windows Media Player, iTunes, JetAudio, or Winamp which all own the normalization function that can process your audio files to prevent any song from getting clipped.

Third-Party Normalization Tools

You can use MP3Gain known as a freeware program that can help to normalize all of your MP3 tracks without losing the true quality of the audio in your music library. Better than this, it does not only adjust your song’s loudness but also helps to lower the clipping sound.

Audio Editors or Sound Editing Software

A screenshot of sound editing program

They’re the programs delivering different ways to process one particular audio file digitally. Imagine that you have some songs downloaded from many sources, and some of them need a slight processing to make them sound more decent. Use one of these: Wavosaur, WaveShop, Power Sound Editor Free, etc.

Replaygain or Mp3gain

It has the same features as the MP3Gain, especially as it might come in handy for dodging the extremely loud audios or songs from getting clipped by the internal sound to the analog amplifier.

Disc-Burning Software

These types of software always arrive with one choice to make when it comes to normalization of tracks. It will help to broaden a lot of more capabilities for availing and storing digital media as well. Some popular programs to bear in mind are Free Audio CR Burner, BurnAware Free, CDBurnerXP Pro4, etc.

In general, sound or audio clipping can destroy a good recording. Once applying excess volume to one audio mix, the result will have distortion. The most favored way to remove that clipping is to lower your sounding input levels throughout a recording process. But if you’ve got your recorded file that has clipping, it’s alright to decrease or remove the issue by just conducting a bit of an audio surgery.

What to do here is to load one audio file into your chosen digital audio editor. In case you do not own that kind of software, install of our suggested free programs mentioned above. To get that audio file opened, you need to move it straight onto the software icon, or simply open it and choose “File”, next select “Open” from the menu bar. Avail the navigation window for file selection.

Clipping happens as a particular frequency range takes up the audio mix. For example, if it has the excessive amount of bass, the strong low frequencies could result in clipping. Let’s open up the “EQ” setting to see the low bass, treble, and mid-tone frequencies. Once the high frequencies trigger clipping, lower them in the setting. If the low-frequency sounds cause the issue, lower the bass frequencies.

Larger Amplifier Can Prevent Clipping

Photo credit: AudioClassic 

First of all, distortion is seen as the high energy shape of a wave gets input into one amplifier. This can’t re-release it because of some power limitations. As a result, the output waves are sliced off. And clipping makes up distortion that can damage your speakers if it happens often.

The more power any amplifier owns, the more likely it is to prevent clipping. In other words, big amplifiers offer better sound quality at even the loudest listening levels.

Besides, this clipping is probably caught in loudspeakers no matter if it’s non-musical or abnormal audio. It feels irritating and even can ruin your speakers. Such an issue occurs since your speaker is unable to release the flat-topped shape of a wave by the clipping amplifier.

Utilize the biggest amplifiers because they will be less likely to clip and ruin your speakers. Apart from this, it’s a big risk to clip any loudspeaker with a little amplifier that is short of power than to avail a big amplifier.


When playing higher frequencies, audio clipping turns out to be more obvious. In this case, as the wave is created, it will hit the top, not enable the wave to go any higher. For this reason, your amplifier can’t re-make the rest of the wave rising above the top, then it’s cut off.

What does clipping sound like? It’s much like a buzzing noise in a plenty of ways. It indeed sounds mechanical. To avoid it from happening, do not try to play your sound system at the excessively loud degrees and ensure your amplifiers to be sufficiently large.

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