In the good old days of analog audio, you could push the volume of your amp past its limits and make it sound cool, a practice known as distortion. Early blues guitarists would boost the volume of their amplifiers until the internal circuitry was no longer able to recreate the sound. Instead, it would come out “fuzzy” or “dirty“. This sound, while not being useful in all circumstances, has found a home in modern music. Now, there are all types of effects pedals and plug-ins which recreate this famous sound. Contrary to analog distortion, digital distortion has not been well received. In the digital world, a sound which exceeds the limits has run out of 1’s and 0’s to be reproduced. At that point, instead of a warm distortion, the listener is met by an abrupt popping noise, known as “clipping“.

There are still holdouts in the recording world who remain faithful to their analog roots. So, if you are recording to tape, skip this article and have a happy day. If you are among the vast majority that is recording onto a computer, let us get to the bottom of this clipping business.