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  • Mastering Tip: Don’t Clip

    Posted: November 16th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Music, Tips/Tutorials
    Tags: , , , , , ,

    I should get back to posting content, so here’s a quick tip if you’re making music, working on a voice track, or pretty much any audio you’re dealing with.

    Digital audio has all kinds of fixed limits, one of which is amplitude or volume. If a sound is too loud, the wave will become ‘clipped‘, causing an obvious change in the sound that most people would identify as distortion.

    The first thing I would do when I start a blank music or audio project is add a basic compressor to eliminate clipping as much as possible. As an example, this is what I stick on the master FX channel in FL Studio. It’s pretty much the default preset, but the attack and release are all the way down, and the ratio is up. When listening to any sound, quiet or loud, it seems to do the least modification while protecting from clipping. Any compressor should have about the same knobs or settings available for tweaking.

    Later on if I’m going for a specific final sound, I could use a more powerful chain of compressors, equalizers, etc, but always have some kind of a compressor on the final master output. Let’s take a look at the difference this makes:

    Here is a kick sample where I increased the volume way beyond the original. If left alone, you can see how it is clipping when the limits are hit. It almost looks like a square wave, which is quite a different sound from the original sine. With the compressor enabled, the wave does still change a bit, but it’s not as harsh and won’t be as obvious to the listener’s ears.

    Now you may want to have a distorted sound like the drum track or a voice that sounds like it’s on a walkie-talkie. I would stick the distortion chain on a separate FX channel and still have a light compressor on the master channel. This leaves room for other sounds that need to be untouched.

    Last Modified: March 30th, 2011

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