Audacity Effects: Amplify (2) – Allow Clipping

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When we work with audio in Audacity, we basically work with relative scales. With a particular calibrated system, the linear amplitude of 1.0 (or 0 db in log scale) represents the maximum amplitude before distortion or clipping occurs. While we don’t want our audio to go beyond this amplitude especially during the recording stage, this happens occasionally during editing.

In amplifying an audio signal using software, it is easy to go beyond the 1.0 maximum, and Audacity will try to prevent us from doing that, or at least give us some warning about it. That is what the option “allow clipping” is for.

Shown below is a generated signal with an amplitude of 0.8, which is approximately -1.9 db. That means if we amplify the signal by 1.9 db, we will reach the maximum amplitude.

Amplify2_0

The dialog below shows what happened as we tried to amplify the signal by 2.0 db, which would have amplified the signal to go beyond maximum amplitude. Notice that the “OK” button becomes disabled because Audacity does not allow us to go beyond maximum amplitude, unless we deliberately choose to do so.

Amplify2_d1

In fact, as soon as we check the “allow clipping” button, the “OK” button will be enabled, as shown in the figure below. Audacity considers that it has given us the warning, but we insists on going into the
clipping/distortion region.

Amplify2_d2

But what will we lose, or will we really lose anything, if we go beyond maximum amplitude? I think this article is at an awkward length: short on its own but might be too long if I get into the details, so let’s do that in our next article.


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