A distortion is the alteration of the
original shape (or other
characteristic) of an object, image,
sound, waveform or other form of
information or representation.
Unwanted or wanted?
BAD: Digital Clipping,
distortion of CLEAN sounds
GOOD: Guitar tube amp,
tube outboard gear,
Clipping is a form of distortion that
completely limits a signal above a certain
This can occur in digital signal, or on digital
Is often a hard and harsh sound at the
Hard clipping results in many high
soft clipping results in fewer higher
order harmonics and distortion
VACCUUM TUBE DISTORTION
Some audiophiles believe that the clipping behavior of
vacuum tubes is superior to that of transistors
Vacuum tubes give a gradual ‘clip’ with comes off as
Audiophiles often use Tube Amplifiers:
A circuit designer may intentionally use a clipper or clamper to keep a
signal within a desired range.
When an amplifier is pushed to create a signal with more power than it
can support, it will amplify the signal only up to its maximum capacity,
at which point the signal will be amplified no further.
An integrated circuit or discrete solid state amplifier cannot give an
output voltage larger than the voltage it is powered by (commonly a 24-
or 30-volt spread for operational amplifiers used in line level
A vacuum tube can only move a limited number of electrons in an
amount of time, dependent on its size, temperature, and metals.
A transformer (most commonly used between stages in tube
equipment) will clip when its ferromagnetic core becomes
In DSP, clipping occurs when it wants a
VALUE higher than the given range
It can’t go any higher than the
Remember 0 dbFS?
It is completely clipped and distorted
Solutions for Clipping
Leave HEADROOM: Space at
(24 bit helps because of a lower
Use a LIMITER to compress
instead of clip!
Frequency response distortion
Simply when frequency response is altered
in the signal chain
Happens ALL the time. Sometimes can be
Audio Cables / long runs
A more complex distortion
It occurs in certain audio
This ties into Frequency Response
For example: An amplifier amplifies
signal at different levels in the