Clipping happens when you distort a sound.

  • The waveform changes from a smooth, round wave to a square wave with hard corners.
  • This change of the wave’s corners will introduce the overtones as mentioned before. However, clipping can be used in other ways than just changing the sound.

As mentioned before, because of the overtones, the perceived volume of a distorted signal is louder.

  • You can use this to your advantage in the mix.
  • When a sound is distorting, and there are hard corners in the wave, it’s called hard clipping. You can clearly hear the bright overtones.
  • An alternative to this is soft clipping. By using a soft clipper, you can change the shape of the corners of the wave that are caused by distortion.
  • When you soft-clip a sound, the corners become rounded, and the overtones become much less audible, and you may not even hear a change in the sound at all.
  • The nice thing about soft clipping is that the perceived volume of the sound will actually get louder. So if handled properly, you can soft clip a sound to increase the perceived loudness, without creating any audible changes. So you can create more headroom in your mix.