How to fix audio clipping

What is clipping in music production? Let’s explore the different scenarios of clipped audio and how to avoid hard clipping ruining your tracks.

Even as a beginner producer, you’ll know audio clipping once you hear it. Just one clip or pop and you feel like you’ve ruined a whole mix.

To release your track with a digital distributor like RouteNote your release needs to be as high quality as possible, free of digital hard clipping and uncontrolled distortion. So how can you prevent audio clipping from happening in the first place?


What is clipping?

Clipping happens when an audio signal goes past the maximum limit that the system can handle. The signal gets too close to the “ceiling” of 0dBFS, causing distortion. A meter going into the red can happen when a pre-amp is overridden, or a vocalist is too close to the mic.  

Whether you’re working in a digital or analogue music production setting, audio clipping causes distortion.  

Soft clipping takes on the characteristics of the gear, which can be used to creative effect – think guitar distortion. In digital systems however, hard clipping squares off the top of the sound wave with abrupt, harsh results.


How to avoid clipping:

Lower the levels

Preventing clipping is sometimes simply fixed by lowering your audio volume. Clipping can happen when your levels are set too high, not leaving enough headroom when you record. By lowering the audio input levels in recording, you can avoid this problem altogether.


Gain staging

When recording each stage of the signal chain – the path the sound takes from instrument to the recorder – make sure your gain levels are correct. Too little gain at one point can mean that you add too much at the next stage, which causes distortion. Always keep the signal chain in mind when you’re recording.


Microphones

Make sure your microphone position is correct for what you’re recording. If you’re recording rap vocals, for example, a forceful tone of voice may cause more transients.  

Spending a little time getting the position of both the performer and the microphone right will save you the heartache of recording a fire verse that turns out to be unusable.


Fixing clipped audio:

Limiters and compressors

Use compression to lower high and low peaks and reduce clipping. Compression reduces the dynamic range of the recording, making clipping less pronounced.

You can combine a compressor with a limiter to tame peaks. Limiters prevent audio exceeding a certain threshold, applying a more abrupt gain reduction than compression.


Audio editing

Just a couple of distorted moments in your recording? Most DAWs have editing abilities powerful enough to single out a pesky clipped note for correction.

Zoom in and lower the volume of that one clipped waveform to hide the distortion. If that’s not possible, try replacing the section with another of a lower level.


Find a De-clipper plugin

Plugins can fix clipped audio, for example iZotope’s Repair Assistant. Depending on your DAW, a de-clipper might do the job nicely.


Use EQ

Take a look at the EQ settings of your track. EQ can be used to reduce whichever frequencies are dominating the mix and causing clipping. Try reducing low frequencies or high frequencies to remove the clipping.


Fixed the audio clipping and loving how your track sounds? Why not release your song so the world can hear it. RouteNote distributes music for free to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music and social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. You can upload your music for free and make money every time someone streams your track. Find out more and sign up here today.

I write about music for RouteNote, sharing fun stuff, news, and tips and tricks for musicians and producers. Also a saxophonist and hater of marmalade.

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