How to Repair Audio Clipping

By Chris Anzalone

Updated September 22, 2017

Audio clipping can ruin an otherwise perfect recording. When engineers apply excess volume to an audio mix, the outcome contains a layer of static or distortion. The best way to remove clipping is to reduce the audio input levels during the recording process, but if you have an already-recorded audio file that contains clipping, you can reduce or eliminate the problem by performing a bit of audio surgery.

Load the audio file into a digital audio editing program. If you don't have audio editing software installed, download one of the many free programs available (see Resources). To open the audio file, drag it directly onto the software's icon, or open the software and select "File," then "Open" from the menu bar. Use the navigation window to select your file.

Lower the master volume on the audio file. Clipping occurs when the volume levels exceed the maximum decibel range of an output device. In some cases, you can reduce or completely eliminate the problem simply by lowering the volume. Look for a vertical slider or knob labeled "Volume" or "Level."

Apply compression to the audio file. Compression helps to stabilize the high and low volume peaks in a recording, improving its consistency. Since clipping most often occurs during high peaks, you can reduce the presence of clipping by applying compression. Compression is usually among the effects options, which may be on the menu bar, on a virtual mixer or in a separate effects window. If your software uses a simple linear compressor, apply as much compression as needed to reduce the clipping. If your software includes a multiband compressor, reduce both the amount of gain and the threshold.

Equalize the audio file. Clipping often occurs when a specific frequency range dominates the mix. For instance, if the mix contains excessive bass, these intense low frequencies may result in clipping. Open the "EQ" settings to view the low bass, high treble and medium mid-tone frequencies. If the high frequencies are causing clipping, reduce them in the EQ. If low-frequency sounds are causing the problem, reduce the bass frequencies.