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Clipping: A relatively easy-to-beat enemy of noise

30 May, 2022

Clipping: A relatively easy-to-beat enemy of noise

Reproducing your voice truly will make you feel like fighting shoulder to shoulder with your teammates when communicating in games, or will grab the attention of the audience when podcasting. But sound is not visualized. So waveform diagram is used to represent audio signal and to tell whether the reproduction is nicely done. When the waveform contains all the information of the audio, you will obtain a smooth and continuous curve.



If the audio is too quiet, there is lower amplitude in which the waveform will rise and fall less drastically. But if it’s too loud, the top and the bottom of the waveform will get chopped off. And the impact of distortion caused by clipping to the audio quality maybe more uncontrollable.


  • What is Clipping

Each equipment you use has its limitation. When the level or volume reaches a certain threshold, the extra audio not be captured. The peaks and troughs of the sound wave beyond the limitation become "lost signal" and are clipped into sharp squares, which will eventually cause "clipping". Your equipment weakens and converts these sound signals into a humming noise, resulting in a harsh, unnatural noise that not only sounds unpleasant, but can damage your device.



The intensity of different audio signals is measured by different meters. Analog signals are monitored by VU Meter, which is usually displayed via front-end devices such as amplifiers or interfaces. While we use Full Scale Meter to measure the digital signal, which is available in most audio-related software such as the Audacity for recording or OBS for live broadcasting. You will see the Full Scale Meter in green, yellow and red to indicate the decibel range. For most people who do not dig their feet deep into audio field, the easiest way to tell whether clipping is happening is that the digital audio reaches the limitation or not. When the meter gets to the red area, it means that your audio is facing clipping. Sometimes a small amount of distortion may be difficult to be detected by the ear, and when you start noticing a loss of audio clarity and detail, the distortion is beyond repair. But the meter shows it intuitively and you just can not neglect it.



  • How to Avoid Clipping

To avoid clipping, for users who use analog microphones, they have to adjust the signal strength of both the front-end and back-end equipments to a proper level, which is essential for ensuring the quality of the reproduced audio. But for USB microphone users, the analog part have been fiddled with before they leave the factory. Manufacturers may have different calibration, but will make sure that the analog signal has enough headroom before clipping at the front-end. You only need to set the gain or the volume of the microphone and computer right and keep a good talking distance. The proper strength of the audio means that when you suddenly get excited and speak loudly during the game, teammates can still  hear your voice clearly without any harshness or distortion, as for podcasters, you can have headroom for audio post-editing.

As a rule of thumb, when the digital signal bounces around -16dB and peaks at -12dB on a Full scale meter of OSB or recording DAW, you are getting pretty decent loudness of sound. All in all, if you are using a USB microphone and trying to get the best out of it, try speaking to the microphone within 5 inches and adjust the volume to keep the meter between green and yellow. The sweet spot is approximately -16dB to -12dB.



If you do not want to bother much with all sort of setting, the Ampligame A8 USB microphone with nicely-tuned analog signal processor and convertor is the choice for you. And the mids are quite neutral, and the treble and bass are handled without excessive sharpness or boominess, so the AmpliGame A8 will not easily get clipping as long as the volume settings are not put to the most extreme level.

Either way, it will take several sound checks to find the settings that work best for your voice and usage. This way, you have to prepare yourself with some time to find the sweet spot that suits the condition of your voice today before the game starts or when it is about to go live. Or better yet, have the AmpliGame A8 now and say goodbye to the distortion caused by clipping.