Digital and Analogue Clipping - what is it, and what does it sound like? Analogue versus digital? Blatant fault or creative decision? Better or worse than limiting? Some engineers deliberately clip their analogue gear or analogue-to-digital converters, some never clip anything, some use gentle clipping - what's the best answer?

There's so much discussion about this topic, and more often people are confused about exactly what clipping actually is in the first place. So, Ian Shepherd from has made this video to give his own perspective, and some clear examples of how hard digital clipping sounds, compared to soft-style clipping, and also how it sounds compared to limiting.

The short version

Hard digital clipping gives the highest apparent loudness, but also the most distortion and the biggest loss of low bass.

Soft ‘analogue’ clipping – gives smoother, more “musical” sounding distortion, and retains more “punch” or thump. It’s still distorted, though.

Limiting – usually gives the cleanest, least distorted results, but also reduces the apparent loudness the most, with the biggest loss of “punch”.

So, as always – you can’t have your cake and eat it! The harder you push any kind of clipping or limiting, the more compromise there inevitably is – either in terms of added distortion or loss of ‘punch’.

Clever processors like the Slate FG-X do their best to trade the two factors off against each other, but at the end of the day it’s up to you to choose the perfect balance for your own music.

About Ian Shepherd

Ian Shepherd is the founder of Production Advice and a professional mastering engineer and owner of Mastering Media Ltd, specialising in High Definition audio services, Blu-ray and DVD authoring.

Over the last fifteen years Ian has worked on literally thousands of CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays for major record labels, TV stations and independents, including several number one singles and award-winning albums.

His extensive artist and client list includes: Keane, Tricky, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Deep Purple, The Orb, Leslie Garret, Culture Club, Porcupine Tree, Andy Weatherall, The Las, Ozric Tentacles, Christine Tobin, New Order and King Crimson amongst many others.

For more info and music tutorials visit


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