Amp Clipping at Low Volume – How to Fix?

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A lot of manufacturers produce amps, equipped with incorporated circuits that prevent clipping. This circuit acts like a fast limiter that can involve at least a decibel before reaching the clipping point. However, the simplest and reliable way to reduce clipping is by minimizing the signal level.

Recently, we have seen many people, amp designers, using soft-clip which is a bit complex circuit since the 1980s. All the information you will get from this article, plus the reasons and ways to curb the situation. It’s a DIY project, but if you don’t have enough time, take your amp to an expert.

How amplifiers react when overdriven

Clipping mostly happens when the amp is unable to deliver a certain level of power. Once it reaches the optimal energy supply voltage, it won’t amplify any incoming signal. The only option will be to compromise its form and deliver it.

This implies that the signal will be delivered, but in unexpected form (distorted). Technically, the sine output signal will lose its rounded troughs and peaks. This issue occurs mostly when the lowest and highest sound points wave are clipped or cut off.

Therefore when the audio signal is distorted, it’s not only the sound that suffers but also the speaker system. Amp clipping can damage speakers and because clipping comes from overdriven amplifiers, available electronics can overheat. Besides, the clipping amp won’t leave your loudspeakers unharmed. In fact, this problem becomes more dangerous to your speakers compared to your electronics.

Impedance remains a major measurement to help you choose the right amp for your speakers. It’s measured in ohms (Ω) and it determines the amount of resistance any electrical appliance can provide to electric current. You need to understand that a loudspeaker with a minimum impedance value provides reduced resistance to the electric current.

This implies that such a speaker(s) will drain more energy from the amplifier. However, in occasions where the quantity of electrical resistance executed by every device is mismatched, there could be two negative results i.e., distortion and damage to your system.

Amp Clipping

Cause of amp clipping at a low volume

With analog audio devices, there are various leads to clipping:

  1. Shortage in power supply. The peak-to-peak solid-state transformerless amplifier output is affected by the energy supply voltage.
  2. An amp can feature an asymmetrical output swing and clipping can initiate earlier on waveform output a half.
  3. In audio amps using unfettered linear power sources, with a small filter capacitor, the amp might experience ripple voltage that could eventually lead to clipping, containing some AC line rate harmonics.
  4. In a switched-mode source of power, the switching frequency dominates in the external audio band and ripple voltage. But, when it comes to a regulated power source, the wave voltage is always rejected.
  5. The vacuum tube is only capable of moving a restricted number of electronic devices within a particular time, based on its temperature, size, and metals. The fall-off result in intensification with growing output current leads to soft clipping.
  6. Amplifying devices can also sometimes have input limits, for example; too much base current to the bipolar transistor and more than enough grid current to the vacuum tube. Working outside such limits may alter the input signal. In case it’s generated from a stretched impedance supply or destroys the amplifying electronics requiring a restricting circuit for defense; see below.
  7. An amp may restrict its input voltage or current output for both intentional reasons or not.

Purposeful limiting circuits wouldn’t be expected to affect the typical operation, but only happens when the output burden resistance is low. The consequence of such clipping form may not develop a flat-top-to-the-voltage waveform, but instead a flat-top-to-the-current waveform.

8. A transformer that’s mainly utilized at the tube equipment output and between stages will probably clip whenever the ferromagnetic core is electromagnetically saturated.

Fixing amp clipping at low volume issue

There are several ways one can put in place to handle clipping issues in his/her amp. They include:

Reducing signal level: We have seen from the introductory part that reducing the signal level is best and reliable for avoiding amp clips. This method is the best as you will match the signal level and the required power. Once these two arts are balanced, the chance of clipping to appear becomes minimal.

Improving the system: this action is essential as the best way to tackle amp clipping at low volume. Doing so will allow the amp to accept significant signal levels effortlessly; hence clipping won’t occur. We have some audiophiles that are known for energy outputs that are even twice the ratings of the speaker.

Using a limiter: employing a limiter is another suitable way of working on amp clips. This technology will dynamically reduce and equalize the signal levels; i.e., reduces loud parts to fit other parts like snare drums and bass.

Incorporated circuits: Many amp manufacturers equip their amplifiers with incorporated circuits that prevent clipping. The circuits can as well act as fast limiters that can involve at least a decibel before reaching the clipping point.

We have seen many people, amp designers, using soft-clip which is a bit complex circuit since the 1980s. The soft-clip mechanism will start to minimize clipping earlier at 10 decibels, which is below the optimal power output.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Is amp clipping dangerous?

Of course, you will not only get distorted sound, but your speakers can also get damaged. Besides, it won’t leave your electronics unharmed; it will destroy them. Hopefully, you now have the ways to solve the problem from this article.

Can low-voltage encourage clipping?

Clipping happens mostly when the amp tries to deliver more energy than it could. It might be affected by either voltage, ohm load, or rating. Try the above ways to fix the issue and enjoy suitable audio.

Conclusion

Yes, you should understand that it’s not guaranteed for any amp to power any loudspeaker. The input and output power should be compatible or matched. Else, what you will get is nothing more than distorting sounds. Knowing exactly the amplifier you’re using is essential in determining the right speakers to purchase. However, if you experience distortion at low volume, use this guide to tackle the issue once and for all.

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