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To clip or not to clip?

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To clip or not to clip?

Postby lovesexy » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:04 pm

I have a track that has a nice laid back groove but the snare and claps chop through the mix and cause it to clip slightly in cubase. However, it's kind of what makes the tune work and when I put a limiter on the snare and claps friends have said that it just doesn't groove the same.
The mix is fine and I'd like to master this baby. Is a bit of clipping generally considered ok before mastering (in wavelab). I've tried using a limiter on the whole mix but it just doesn't have the punch that i want. The clip isn't audible by the way.

Thanks in advance for any help.
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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby Richie Royale » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:22 pm

Cubase is forgiving when it comes to overs, but have you tried to bring all the faders down a few dB to keep the output level down below zero? Or grouping and then reducing the level of the group inputs.

You'll need some headroom for mastering as well.
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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby lovesexy » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:42 pm

Thanks for the reply. Should I just pull the main volume down before bouncing? If so what kind of headroom do I need?
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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby Richie Royale » Thu Dec 06, 2012 1:58 pm

You can pull down the main fader, but ideally you should be aiming at not maxing out the main fader when preparing the mixdown.
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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby lovesexy » Thu Dec 06, 2012 3:58 pm

What I dont get is that Cubase says I have a maximum of -2db when I bounce but when I place the wav in Wavelab it says I have -9db! What's that all about?
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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Dec 06, 2012 4:20 pm

Different metering ballistics.

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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby oggyb » Thu Dec 06, 2012 7:34 pm

I have found over the years that Cubase *appears* to lower the volume of mixdowns if the output is over zero on the master fader, seemingly just to keep things tidy when converted to fixed-point maths. The same happens with track bounces.

I have noticed a 3dB reduction in bounces/mixdowns many times, and it has nothing to do with metering ballistics.
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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Fri Dec 07, 2012 7:21 pm

I recommend not clipping your master output. It is not that clipping is good and that it by default sounds better than a limiter popped on the end. (Though it potentially can do but thats another kettle of fish) Moreso that unlimited can sound better than limited. This time, as advised pull the master out down by the required dB to give yourself a little headroom.

And for future times consider this way of working :

http://www.masteringmastering.co.uk/gainstructure.html

Are the Wavelab meters showing RMS values? Although that would be pretty hot for a completely unlimited mix and would be fairly heavily compressed. Is the fader at zero?

cheers

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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby Santarosa » Sat Dec 08, 2012 2:12 am

I was doing some experience in "mastering" (by that I mean pseudo mastering) some songs I mixed and I got better results, in exact the same regards of grooving, by clipping a bit in the plugin chain to get louder than using a lot of limiting. That means I was getting a punchier and fatter sound comparing too versions of the same song at same loudness with the one I used a bit of clipping in transient peaks and less limiting.

I hope my english words could be understandable.

That anyway was just a learning experience and I used only plugins in a home studio environment. I wasn't using cubase though and I know the way different softwares responds to clipping can lead to different results. I used Reaper. Anyway, by your reports it seems we had the same feeling about clipping and limiting.

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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Dec 08, 2012 9:20 am

Digital clipping creates anharmonic distortion, which means that it generates non-musically related distortion components, most of which are at frequencies below the fundamentals. This is a completely unnatural kind of sound effect, and a lot of people find it quite unpleasant... but it will certainly make a mix sound 'fatter' and louder.

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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby Santarosa » Sat Dec 08, 2012 2:36 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Digital clipping creates anharmonic distortion, which means that it generates non-musically related distortion components, most of which are at frequencies below the fundamentals. This is a completely unnatural kind of sound effect, and a lot of people find it quite unpleasant... but it will certainly make a mix sound 'fatter' and louder.

Hugh


I forgot to say that in my above mentioned experience I also compared the pseudo master versions with the mix itself (same "loudness volume" for all - sorry my non technical terms). The mix was always cleaner, punchier and groovier.

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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:24 pm

Santarosa wrote:The mix was always cleaner, punchier and groovier.

Digital clipping can not possibly result in a 'cleaner' mix -- it will always add non-musical distortions -- but then I'm assuming 'cleaner' means less distorted. Perhaps you have a different meaning for the term. I'm not entirely sure I understand your subjective terms 'punchier' and 'groovier'.. but if you like the results then that's fine.

I was simply trying to offer some technical background to what the process is doing at a technical level.

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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby Santarosa » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:18 am

Hello Hugh,

I was actually agreeing with you. When I said the mix was cleaner it was because I wasn't clipping it neither using limiting. I used digital clipping and limiting only in my pseudo master experience. Then I compared the three versions at the same loudness: mix versus master with clipping and just a bit of limiting versus master with limiting only.

When I say punchier my subjective feeling is that the low frequencies are tighter and transients seems to hit you in a more pleasant, stronger and cleaner way. By groovier I understand something like the bit feels more free (difficult to explain, even more cause I am not english).

I hope that was better to understand.

Cheers,
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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Mon Dec 10, 2012 2:19 pm

Definitely worth seeing how this clipping holds up in your chosen lossy audio codec, could be some unforeseen surprises there. Not saying clipping does not occur from time to time if you have been boxed into a corner perceived volume wise by a client who is adamant. But it is not done in a light hearted way without thought for the consequences. I personally see it as a last resort for those who have already made fidelity a second priority.

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Re: To clip or not to clip?

Postby Mixedup » Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:06 pm

Reading this SOS article might help the OP. Basically, you have to work at reducing the peak level of the snare/kick without screwing up the impression given by the attack portion of the sound.

I'll often clip the snare deliberately, but using my converters (sequencer>D/A>preamp applying boost>A/D), not in software. My guess is that it's the analogue stages before the actual converters overloading that makes this work *in some mixes*.
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