Term: Clipping

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Clipping is a type of audio distortion that occurs when the signal’s amplitude exceeds the maximum allowable level. The highest and lowest waveforms are simply cut off or clipped, creating high-frequency harmonic distortion. Clipping can occur in an amplifier if the signal exceeds the amplifier’s power rails or in a digital system if the signal exceeds the headroom of the digital system. While hard-clipping generates harsh-sounding squared-off waveforms, soft-clipping generates a more pleasant sounding saturation effect that adds high-frequency harmonics, and also slightly compresses high frequencies.