You’ve probably heard about the term “clipping” and might associate it with something bad or important to avoid. It’s true that generally speaking, you should avoid digital clipping on your channels and master bus. However, in this tutorial, we will focus on a “hard clipper” tool, and explain why and how you could use it to increase the overall loudness of your track.
Hard clippers don’t offer control parameters such as attack and release. In essence, the signal that exceeds the clipping threshold is simply chipped off the waveform. We could argue that this would make them more suited for guitars, instruments with harsh transients, and full mixes in general.
Let’s start by listening to a short sequence made in our SoundBridge: DAW. It contains most of the elements of a full mix.
Using a clipper on your master bus has a significant advantage. For instance, in the case of modern electronic music genres, loudness is often sought after. If you only use one limiter on your master bus and increase the gain, you will squash the transients and might ruin the track. Instead, you can clip a portion of the transients with the clipper and then use the limiter after it. This will unburden the latter and make things louder overall.
To demonstrate this process, we will use the StandardCLIP plugin by SIR Audio Tools as a clipper and the FabFilter Pro-L2 as a limiter on our track’s master bus. Let’s start by engaging the limiter and gradually increasing the gain.
Clipping before the limiter
As you can see in the picture above, we got -2.7 dB of gain reduction, which is about as far as we want to go with the limiting for now. If we would want to achieve increased loudness at this point, the clipper would be one of the tools for it.
Once set, we can tweak the clipper’s parameters. One of the most important is the slider on the left called “Clip,” which we’ll set to -6 dB. The mode selector, located in the center of the interface, allows us to choose between three different saturation modes. “Soft Clip Pro” sounds the best in our case. We’ve increased this parameter just a bit, around 15% to get some nice saturation. Furthermore, we increased the oversampling rate up to 16x to reduce the aliasing effect caused by the clipping process.
That’s it! We were able to increase the overall loudness of our track without introducing any unpleasant distortion or pumping effect by adjusting the values on our clipper. If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice that the limiter isn’t working as hard anymore, only going up to -1.4 dB of gain reduction.