Audio Clipping: What is It? How to Prevent Clipping in Podcast

If you’ve ever recorded something, and pushed the volume on the recording, you might have heard the clip of the microphone. If it’s bad enough, you might end up re-recording your whole show. Sometimes, you don’t have that opportunity. So let’s work on not clipping the microphone.

What is Audio Clipping?

audio clipping

A Soundwave with Audio Clipping. Notice how the top of the wave is flat.

Basically, the way a microphone works is by having a moving piece in the microphone. When you speak, that piece vibrates and turns sound into an electric signal. If you speak too loud, the core of the microphone is pushed all the way so it cannot vibrate. Therefore, it cannot translate the signal.

Because of this, you might get a distorted sound. Sometimes (if the sound is really loud), the signal will cut straight out.

Audio Clipping Example is below so you can hear what it sounds like. 

Can I fix Audio Clipping?

Even though there are some programs that say you can, you might not like the end result. Some of those programs rely on the fact that some sort of signal is still moving through the microphone. In that case, the software tries to take out the bad sounds and level out the rest. The end result might just be an uneven sound.

Other software will either remove the clip, or replace it with other parts of the audio – masking the original sound. Once again, this does not make a quality recording. If you cannot re-record the audio, these are your best bets.

How to Prevent Audio Clipping?

The best way to do so is to understand the limits of your microphone. If a microphone says it can record signals up to 120 db (for example), then don’t record over that.

You don’t have to have a loud sound to clip a microphone. Try this:  Cup your microphone with your hands. Get up to the mic real close and speak. You will find the microphone is more active than if you didn’t put your hands around it. That is because you are enclosing the sound so it doesn’t pass out of the mic.

Being a good distance away from the microphone helps. For most mics, I would suggest 6 inches separation of mic to mouth. I talked about this on Watch your Distance on the Microphone.

Speak Slower

How far away from your microphone are you?

Will a Pop Filter Help?

Yes, but you can still clip the mic with a pop filter on. It really depends on how much volume is coming into the mic.

Should I Get Another Microphone, then?

If you record from the microphone you got with your computer, you might find yourself clipping a lot. The better constructed the microphone is, the more it can handle louder and harsher sounds.

Older Microphones

If you own a microphone with over 5 years of use (especially if you use it in noisier environments, or don’t store properly), your might want to think about replacing it. There are microphones that do work for years with proper care. Eventually, the vibrating part might start to wear down.

A good example is an SM-58 microphone. Think of the mic like a speaker. When you talk in, you push that speaker down. If the paper on that speaker rips, you get a buzz sound.

In some microphones, you can get a replacement capsule. When the mic starts to sound off, just open up the mic and switch it out. If you have a $100 microphone, it’s better just to buy a new $100 microphone.

In all, even though some programs try to help reduce the clip, the better thing to do is re-record your podcast if clipping occurs. Make sure you have a microphone that can handle what you are doing. Don’t cup the mic, for that could cause unwanted clipping. Finally, take good care of your microphone so it doesn’t break from wear.

Have a question on Clipping? Ask the question at HTRP!

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