Updated: Nov 30
In the world of music production, clipping can be a powerful tool for enhancing audio signals, but it can also ruin them if used improperly. Understanding the nuances of clipping is essential for producers and engineers who want to sculpt their sound with precision. Here are our top picks from this year, and why they've made it into our ITB processing chains.
· Key features: high quality clipping, oversampling, single-band clipping, mix control, oversampling up to 256x, advanced metering.
· GUI quality and usability: the GUI is user friendly and intuitive.
· Clipping algorithm: transparent soft and hard clipping with an adjustable curve shape (hard/soft knee).
· Main strength: SIR Audio Tools Standard Clip is known for its transparent and precise clipping capabilities.
· Why: great versatility, if used with care, the plugin can serve a wide variety of musical styles and audio material, useful for both digital streaming and broadcast use.
· Key features: 3 versatile clipping options (Brick Wall, Open, Low Freq. Clip), advanced metering, separation knob for wideband and multiband clipping control.
· GUI quality and usability: the GUI is well designed and offers a high level of usability.
· Clipping algorithm: hard clipping with an adjustable curve shape and knee, can specifically target lower frequencies to relax further processing modules.
· Main strength: TDR Limiter 6 GE Clipper Module offers a comprehensive set of features, including dynamic compression, which allows for precise control over the clipping process.
· Why: often overlooked, but efficient and transparent, when used alone it is ideal for extracting the last few dBs of headroom, think of it as your mastering limiter's best friend.
· Key features: transparent clipping, oversampling, L/R and M/S mode, single band clipping, mix control, oversampling up to 32x, integrated saturation with different modes, allows A/B level matched testing and auditioning of information lost from clipping.
· GUI quality and usability: the GUI is visually appealing and easy to use.
· Clipping algorithm: transparent soft and hard clipping with an adjustable curve shape.
· Main strength: Brainworx Clipper is known for its transparent clipping algorithm, which helps to preserve the dynamics of the audio while adding saturation.
· Why: A new player in the game, but already crushing it in a tasty and crispy way. Great for single tracks and groups and a wide variety of full mixes that need extra grit and a powerful harmonic boost. Definitely a Swiss Army knife to keep in your plugin pocket.
· Key features: single band clipping, straightforward with adjustable threshold and output gain, range of selectable waveshapes.
· GUI quality and usability: the GUI is minimalistic and easy to use.
· Clipping algorithm: soft to hard clipping with adjustable waveshapes.
· Main strength: Venn Audio Freeclip is a free plugin that offers simple yet accurate and effective clipping solutions for audio processing.
· Why: compact and light on the CPU, it provides easy access to a reliable and solid sound for full mixes that need that extra spark without losing punch and transients. Experimenting with its standard curves can produce streaming-ready results at the mastering stage, or add that extra touch to single tracks. Not bad for a freebie.
· Key features: versatile saturation and distortion effects with adjustable parameters, peak and RMS metering.
· GUI quality and usability: the GUI is visually appealing, minimal, and offers a high level of usability.
· Clipping algorithm: hard/soft clipping with an adjustable curve shape. The latest release includes an anti-aliasing mode, clipping threshold control, and more harmonic enhancement options with the "symmetry" slider.
· Main strength: Saturate offers a wide range of saturation options, allowing users to achieve various tonal characteristics and colorations.
· Why: straightforward and musical, despite the minimal interface, harmonic nuance and control are still at the heart of the plugin. With an impressive +24db of possible output gain, this versatile clipper is sure to stay around for both your mixing and mastering sessions.
Bonus Plugin: Elysia Alpha Mastering Compressor Soft Clip Limiter built-in module
· Key features: Transparent soft clipping integrated into the mastering compressor.
· GUI quality and usability: The GUI is well designed and offers a high level of usability.
· Clipping algorithm: Transparent soft clipping suitable for variable peak material, works in M/S mode depending on the compressor settings.
· Main strength: The Elysia Alpha Mastering Compressor's built-in soft clipping module allows for precise control over the clipping process during mastering, ensuring transparent and controlled results.
· Why: placed directly in front of the compressor outputs, this clipper module can be used to complete and boost the post-compressed sound, or simply to add some extra punch to the signal with Elysia's astonishingly rich sound. A soft clipper that rounds transients with care and musicality, rather than chopping them up uncontrollably.
Used judiciously and with a keen ear, clipping can take productions and mixes to new heights, adding character, depth and impact. Like any powerful tool, however, it demands respect and restraint. The art of clipping lies not only in knowing how to use it, but also in knowing when to pull back, ensuring that the end result is a sonic masterpiece that captivates and resonates with the listener.
Thank you for joining us on this sonic journey. We hope this brief exploration of Clipper plug-ins has been informative and inspiring. As you continue your musical endeavours, remember to always do your research and read the manuals. Happy producing, and may your music always find its perfect balance.