How to: Clipping

Clipping is a form of distortion that cuts off the peaks of audio signals. It usually occurs in an amplifier when the input signal is too large or when the voltage rails of the power supply can’t deliver the necessary voltage to the amp. If a clipped wave is viewed on a waveform monitor, or oscilloscope, the tops are flattened, or squared off, rather than rounded; because of this, high frequencies are increased.

Essentially it produces harmonics at higher frequencies than the unclipped signal. This additional high frequency energy has the potential to cause overheating in the tweeter.

Clipping can be prevented by using an amplifier that has sufficient power to drive the speakers. The most frequent cause of clipping is pushing an amplifier beyond it’s safe operating range. If other electronic components are used, keep an eye on their output as well to ensure that they are not producing excessive levels. A limiter can also be used to reduce, though not eliminate clipping.