Peak Clipping is a much-used technique for achieving smoother masters with a rich sound. Hence, this article brings you the 7 best clipper plugins available in 2021.
Clippers are dynamics processors used for either controlling transients or for generating harmonic saturation. Instead of avoiding distortion as limiters do, clippers utilize it. Furthermore, they often retain the tone and punch of a mix better than limiters do to a certain level.
Due to the distortive nature, people often find the masters done using clippers sound “brighter,” “thicker,” or “richer.” It is similar to how exciter plugins work as they also introduce distortion to add clarity and “sheen.” If you wish to learn more about the difference between a limiter and a clipper, click here.
Now, let’s check out some of the best clipper plugins available in the market:
The 7 Best Clipper Plugins 2021
1. SIR Audio Tools StandardCLIP Review
When it comes to clippers, you will want more control and reliability, which this plugin delivers.
StandardCLIP is an advanced clipping plugin that you could use in two ways: as a dynamic effect for mastering or as a harmonic generator for distortion/saturation. Its multiple clipping modes, extensive oversampling, and linear phase mode make sure that your audio can be manipulated in the way you want, without introducing unwanted artifacts or phaseshift.
- Multiple Clip Modes
There are three modes of clipping in this plugin: Soft Clip Classic, Soft Clip Pro, and Hard Clip. The first two are designed to add saturation as the audio nears the clipping level until it finally clips, whereas Hard Clip doesn’t add any saturation at all until it clips. It makes the latter sound much more drastic compared to the previous two.
- Soft-Clip Saturator
The slider below the clip mode selector lets you adjust the amount of soft-clipping applied to your audio. For the Soft Clip Classic mode, it acts as a mix parameter. However, it adjusts the threshold in Soft Clip Pro mode, which compresses the audio by half and adds equal makeup gain.
Oversampling is an essential feature for a clipper. So, StandardCLIP features up to an incredible 256x oversampling to eliminate any aliasing. In addition, it also had advanced options that let you adjust the filter cutoff, order, and filter kernel size (for linear phase mode). Note that higher levels of oversampling will consume a lot of CPU power.
- Output Gain Assistant
This feature helps you find a reasonable headroom between the calculated clip level (indicated by a red arrow on the output gain fader) and the ceiling level. Simply play the loudest part of your audio while the assistant is open, and then click on “Apply New Output Gain” to set the output gain. It helps ensure that none of your peaks are shooting over the ceiling, which might cause aliasing despite oversampling.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
There are plenty of features in StandardCLIP as far as clippers could have, so it will keep you quite busy. However, the user interface may not be the most intuitive for people who aren’t familiar with all the technicalities of clipping and sonic distortion. Then again, the fair pricing and the number of features make this plugin a considerable choice.
2. Venn Audio V-Clip Review
V-Clip is one of the most intuitive yet highly configurable clippers featuring detailed audio analytics.
You could use this plugin as a creative saturation stage or as a mastering clipper. It features a user-friendly interface with an audio visualizer with zooming features. The visualizer shows you the gain reduction, the input audio, and the output audio. Furthermore, it can be enabled or disabled.
Similarly, it also features automatic gain adjustment, which ensures that your output audio isn’t peaking. If you prefer RMS over dB, you can switch the scale as well. On a side note, the main clip shaper view shows your audio’s RMS (green) and peak (yellow) levels independently.
- Extensive Clip Types
There are nine types of standard clip shapes and three complex shapes that add distinct character to your sound. The standard shapes range from very soft clip shapes to hard ones. In addition, you can adjust each shape with the soft-knee knob next to the drop-down menu.
- Custom Clip Shape
With the Custom Shape mode, you can control the positive and negative samples independently, which allows for asymmetric saturation. It also lets you add both odd and even harmonics to your distortion for a richer and thicker sound.
- Built-in Oscilloscope
V-Clip has a built-in oscilloscope and test tone for analyzing the effect your clip shape has on audio. These features are advantageous when creating a custom clip shape, and you want to see what you are doing with the waveform.
This plugin supports up to an incredible 256x oversampling. In addition, it has independent oversampling controls for real-time and offline modes. Another thing worth noting is that it features double DSP processing, which adds precision to the audio processing if your DAW supports it (most do).
V-Clip is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Despite being highly configurable and feature-rich, V-Clip remains intuitive and easy to use. We like its custom clip shaping, internal test tone, and oscilloscope features the most as they are relatively rare. Furthermore, its extensive list of clip shapes ensures that you will have plenty to play around with before you have to start creating custom shapes.
3. Newfangled Audio Saturate Review
With merely two significant sliders to tweak, Newfangled’s contender is probably the easiest yet very musical-sounding clipper to master.
Saturate was first integrated into Newfangled’s limiter called Elevate. However, the clipper is now available discretely to use as a mixing effect or for mastering. According to Newfangled Audio, the clipper utilizes a complex signal processing chain under its hood to deliver transparent and clear sound no matter how hard you drive it.
At the far left and right of the interface, you will find meters and numeric labels displaying both the peak and the RMS levels. The center part of the interface shows the main clipper’s shape. Unfortunately, the default symmetrical clip shape is the only one available in this plugin.
- Easy to Use
Many people want a ton of features in their plugins, but an equal number want a simplistic tool that just gets the job done. If you are one of the latter folks, the lack of an interface that looks like a cockpit will be a welcome change from most of the entries on our list. Saturate claims to give you anything from a hard clip to the smoothest curve feasible with a single slider called Clipper Shape, and its excellent sound confirms it.
- Plenty of Drive
The plugin features a whooping drive gain of 24 dB. You’ll likely be using far less for purposes like mastering, but if you are someone who enjoys super distorted bass or guitars, Saturate has you covered and then some. Furthermore, since this plugin is a spectral clipper, it makes sure that any amount of drive will keep the sound tonally the same.
- Automatic Gain Adjustment
Above the output peak meters, you can set the output gain to Auto. It will adjust the output gain automatically and make sure it doesn’t overshoot over 0 dB. Unless you are okay with manually checking the levels to confirm, having this feature turned on makes mastering much easier and alias-free.
This plugin is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
While the default sound of Saturate is musical and smooth, if you ever wish to get creative with asymmetric distortion or even a different symmetrical shape, you won’t have any choice. So, in a way, a similar price gets you much deeper features. However, we suggest downloading a trial, listen to how it sounds, and if you love it, it’s worth it.
4. kazrog KClip 3 Review
With multiband features and extensive clip types, KClip 3 offers much more than meets the eye.
KClip focuses on every aspect of music production. So, it can be fully transparent for mastering and busses, or it can be as characterful as needed for creative uses. The right part of the interface displays extensive LUFS metering with variable scales from -12 to -24 dB LUFS. The lower values are instrumental when you are utilizing the threshold parameter instead of the input gain.
Furthermore, its clip shapes are designed for clean mastering, emulating analog units, and even oddities like germanium diode saturation, guitar amps, and blown speakers. They help get creative sound effects without tweaking too many knobs.
Other than the default clipping view, you can switch over to a multi-band mode with four bands. You can adjust the crossover between the bands freely and, if so desired, disable the saturation per band. Each band has all the controls you find in the default single band view, so it’s easy to have a certain kind of saturation on the lower frequencies with another trait in the higher ones.
- Mastering Grade Sound
KClip features spectrally transparent clipping shapes as well as oversampling to avoid aliasing. You can have a different oversampling value for online and offline mode each so that you can prevent too much CPU usage during real-time monitoring.
- Coherent Clip Modes
There are eight clip modes in this plugin: Smooth, Crisp, Tube, Tape, Germanium, Silicon, Guitar Amp, and Broken Speaker. The first two are designed for mastering and will make the sound smooth and transparent. And the rest of the modes range from analog sound to creative choices. Of course, you can also adjust the soft knee of almost every type of clipping.
- Mid/Side Control
KClip still takes clipping one step further with a knob for adjusting mid and side mode with all the extensive features. It’s handy when you are trying to apply clipping only to a specific element in your mix while mastering. For example, setting the mid/side knob towards the mid signal and using a band focusing on the mid frequencies will result in the vocals getting saturated while the rest of the mix remains untouched.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9.5 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
In conclusion, KClip is undoubtedly one of the best clipping tools in the market, and this new version with multi-band mode makes it an almost no-brainer choice. We highly recommend giving it a try, and make sure you watch out for a sale; you’ll often find a generous price drop.
5. Boz Digital Labs Big Clipper Review
There’s no such thing as a messy distortion with Big Clipper, and the reason is simple.
Big Clipper combines a clipper with a standard limiter in four blend modes to achieve a whole new world of dynamics processing. The interface features an input gain (Push), a threshold (Pull), and a Shape parameter. The Shape fader lets you adjust how hard or soft your clipper is.
Note the Attack and Release faders, which you can’t find in any of the other clipper plugins, at the bottom right of the interface. It’s because those faders belong to the limiter algorithm. Overall, the interface feels quite comprehensive but not overwhelming.
- Crossover Blend Modes
The crossover blend mode lets you divide your audio into two ranges of frequencies and apply the limiter/clipper in each. There are two crossover blend modes available: Clipper | Limiter, and Limiter | Clipper. Each places the two processors in the mentioned order. You can select the crossover frequency using the Blend fader (from 100 Hz to 20 kHz).
- Other Blend Modes
You can have the limiter and the clipper in parallel or series routing. In the series mode, the Blend fader acts as a threshold offset for the Clipper. So, if you have the Pull knob set to -16 dB, the Blend Fader is set at 6 dB, your Clipper will have a threshold of -10 dB only.
- Stereo Processing
You can have Big Clipper process in stereo mode, mid/side mode, mid only, and side only. In the first two modes, the plugin processes the mentioned signals independently. Note that a single instance of this plugin will not let you adjust the mid and side signal separately. You will need an instance for each.
- Frequency Sensitivity
This section lets you adjust how much sound from each of the three bands enters the signal detector. It isn’t precisely multi-band, but it does allow you to specify how saturated or clipped each band is. It is useful when you are clipping a full mix and don’t want the kick introducing too much distortion, for example.
Big Clipper is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit and macOS 10 or higher 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, AAX, and RTAS formats.
The technique of using a limiter alongside a clipper has been around for a long time, but it’s rare to use them in specific ranges of frequencies. And if you think about it, it does make sense. However, the features come at quite a high price tag for a clipper. So, we suggest trying it out and making sure the features are worth it – keep in mind that the concept is better suited for mastering than any other use case.
6. IK Multimedia Classic Clipper Review
IK Multimedia focuses on making its plugins sound analog and pleasant, and this plugin shows it well.
Classic Clipper has a simple interface over a well-designed signal chain that you could use for anything from mastering to heavy saturation. The interface features a saturation indicator, which lights up whenever your audio hits the nonlinear zone set by the Slope parameter.
Of course, if your input is loud enough, even a hard shape will cause much saturation. However, if you don’t want that, you can lower the gain, which goes either way by 15 decibels. Also, just to clarify, the output meters display the left channel on the top and the right channel on the bottom. We recommend this clipper if you are after clean and pleasant clipping for mastering purposes.
- Stereo Control
The three buttons on the far left of the interface let you select whether you want the clipper to apply on both the left and right channels simultaneously or independently. Using the L and R buttons, you can set a different setting for each of your stereo channels as needed. It can be handy for, say, drum busses when you want to add some mild saturation, but the ride cymbal has rendered the stereo balance askew. This feature is only available in Classic Clipper on our list.
- Digital Overs Indicators
The two L and R Over LEDs at the top of the interface indicate digital clipping of your output. In general, you don’t need to worry about it if your output gain is at 0 dB or below because the internal ceiling of Classic Clipper is set at -0.05 dBfs. However, if you have the output gain turned over 0 dB, keep an eye on those indicators. In addition, when they light up, they don’t turn off until you click on them. So, if you find them lit after playing your song throughout (even with the interface turned off), you need to find the spot where it clipped digitally.
- Slope Control
The clipping shape or the slope is adjustable using the Slope parameter. It is continuously variable from an ultra-soft non-clipping mode for saturation to a straight digital hard clip. Which shape you require depends on your specific music/audio and how apparent you want the clipping to sound.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
In general, clippers are used for mastering, and that’s the end this plugin serves best. You could use it for creative distortions, but it doesn’t have multiple clipping shapes or asymmetric distortion. So, it sounds like the saturation you might find in hardware units. If you are looking for an alternative mastering dynamics tool, we highly recommend Classic Clipper.
7. JST Clip Review
Aiming for bolder sounds with the bare essential parameters, JST Clip offers super quick results.
This plugin fits well as both a mastering tool and a distortion plugin. The huge knob at the center controls the input gain to drive the saturator. There is also a trim knob that controls the output gain. Keep in mind that the clipper already keeps your audio below digital 0 dB even with the trim at default.
- 2x Gain
The plugin features a 2x gain multiplier, which takes the default maximum of 12 dB gain to 24 dB. Enabling it transforms this plugin into a heavier distortion plugin compared to the default subtle saturation. This feature could be useful for saturated snares, kicks, 808, and even heavy guitars.
With only a gain knob, a trim control, and a mix knob, there are barely any controls at all to tweak. While some may take this approach as terribly limited, there are plenty who prefer a “one-knob” solution any day. So, it’s probably a good idea to give it a try before judging; you might be in for a pleasant surprise.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.8 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
There isn’t much to explain about this plugin – it’s a clipper designed to sound symmetric and musical. So, if you like the sound of it, it’s a no-brainer for the price and simplicity. And if you don’t, there isn’t much you can do about it. Trying it is the only way to decide.
The 4 Best FREE Clipper Plugins 2021
1. Venn Audio Free Clip Review
Free Clip is a convenient soft clipper that allows a wide variety of clip shapes.
This plugin is an excellent tool for adding some saturation or volume to your tracks without overshooting peaks. You could use it on drums to lower their peaks while adding richness or even for mastering as a limiter. All you must do is select a clip shape and pull down the ceiling. In addition, there are input and output gain controls as well.
- Variable Soft Clip
The dial at the center of the interface controls the type of your clip wave. When dialed fully to the left, it does hard clipping, and turning it to the right makes the clip shape softer and softer. The shape is also indicated by the graph on the background of the interface.
This plugin features a maximum of 32x oversampling to remove any high-frequency aliasing. However, it introduces some peaks over the ceiling level. You can counter this issue by enabling “Post-Oversampling Clip” below the Oversampling knob.
The bottom of the interface shows a visualization of your input audio and clipping. So, for example, if you see a squashed-out waveform while you’re mastering, it’s probably best to lower the input gain somewhat.
Free Clip is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10 or higher, both 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
For a free plugin, the features it offers are pretty impressive, and so is the sound. The user interface may be a little unpolished, but it gets the job done excellently. The extensive oversampling feature ensures that you can use this plugin even for mastering or bus mixing.
2. J1000 CL36 Review
The CL36 is a significantly feature-rich clipper that deserves a try.
This multi-band clipper separates the audio into three frequency ranges: low (LF), mid (MF), and high (HF). The interface contains identical controls for each range and some master controls. The X-Over knob controls the crossover frequency for all three bands at the same time.
This parameter might take a little getting used to. It calculates the LF-MF crossover by dividing the parameter value by 4, whereas it multiplies the value by 4 for MF-HF. So, the default position .75 kHz gives out an LF-MF crossover of 750/4=188 Hz and an MF-HF crossover of 750x4=3 kHz. Why this strange behavior, you ask? Our best guess is that it serves to keep the audio artifact-free because the values fit the filtering algorithm.
- Mid/Side Processing
CL36 features an M+S button that activates the processing independently in the mid and side signals. This feature doesn’t allow you to adjust the clipper in each part, but it functions independently with the same controls. Note that this feature might turn the volume up slightly.
- Asymmetric Distortion
The Bias knob lets you emphasize the clipping in the positive or the negative side of the signal, creating an asymmetric effect for creative uses. Asymmetric distortion alters the tone of your sound, so try using it on instruments like bass, lead synths, and guitars.
Another feature worth mentioning is the Mod button, which activates modulation in the clipper. Vintage tube amps, guitar amps, and other hardware units have transformers inside them. And they change tonality constantly due to power fluctuations. To emulate this, the Mod button introduces a subtle random LFO signal.
CL36 is available for Windows 7 or higher, 32-bit only. It comes in VST 2 format.
Despite being a multi-band, its strange crossover selection makes it somewhat inconvenient and limited to use. However, the good news is that you can use it to apply saturation on the entire spectrum. It’s considerable for its unique modulation and bias features.
3. GVST GClip Review
GVST is known for its free effects plugins like GSnap, and GClip is one of the effects available.
If you aren’t familiar with clippers yet, this free plugin is a great place to start. The interface contains an input gain, a clipping threshold, and a soft-knee adjustment knob. If you use this clipper as a mastering limiter, try setting the Clip knob to 99% (100% is 0 dB, which causes digital clipping).
- Stereo Visualization
The plugin features a separate visualizer for each stereo channel – the top one is the left channel, whereas the bottom one is the right channel. You can also adjust the vertical zoom level of each using the slider displaying 1.00x in the screenshot.
- 2x Oversampling
GCLip has a 2x oversampling switch at the top of its interface. While it works just fine for general use cases, you might want to avoid using this plugin if your audio contains a lot of high frequencies (above 12 kHz).
- Softness Adjustment
The plugin has a Softness knob, which controls how soft or hard your clipper is. For example, when mastering, you will generally want to use a value less than 10%, if even that, to keep the clipper sharp and instantaneous.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher 32-bit and 64-bit, macOS 10 or higher 64-bit, and Linux (Debian) 32-bit and 64-bit. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
GClip is a basic clipper plugin that lets you explore what you could do with such plugins quickly. You could use it on bass, vocals, drums, etc., to make the sound richer and fatter. However, keep a sharp ear when using it for mastering, as the oversampling isn’t quite enough to catch all alias issues.
4. de la mancha ClipStar Review
Unlike other clippers, this one attempts to remain subtle at its approach, making it a good choice for mastering.
ClipStar uses a soft clipper primarily for its limiting/clipping. However, it also features a Hard Limit toggle switch to catch any transients that slip past the soft clipper. This Hard Limit is positioned after the output gain as well, so you could use two limiters together to get louder masters.
- Low-Frequency Bypass
Using the Lo Freq knob, you can set the frequency for the high-pass filter that bypasses the clipper. Generally, it is the lower frequencies that create distortion. So, if you use a high-pass filter in the signal detector, you will get a much more predictable saturation.
- Vintage Style
The sound of this clipper is notably inspired by vintage hardware units, and not only that, but the metering is also reminiscent of the past. It features a needle meter that can display input, output, and gain reduction. The screw just below the meter adjusts the peak hold time.
ClipStar is available for Windows 7 or higher, 32-bit only. It comes in VST 2 format.
This plugin’s sound is pleasing for subtle saturation as well as heavy. However, the lack of oversampling makes it unsuitable for extreme levels of clipping and distortion, especially in the high frequencies. So, you’ll probably want to use this as a subtle limiter instead of as a distortion plugin.
Nembrini Lofi Vintage Clipper Review
With two styles of signal processing, LoFi Vintage Clipper makes interesting sounds with almost no effort.
This plugin focuses on becoming more of a saturator than a clipper, but its classic sound makes it a deserving contender in our list. As the name suggests, it’s often used as a LoFi effect to emulate analog grittiness and saturation in busses as well as full mixes.
The first knob it has is the Distortion knob, which adds a soft clip designed to limit the transients using an emulated analog signal path. It helps increase the richness and thickness of your audio. When overdone, it sounds satisfyingly heavy, befitting growling bass, lead synths, guitars, etc.
The Saturation knob, however, behaves like vintage analog tape machines or mixing consoles. It is excellent for adding warmth to your mix. Give it a try on vocals and other mid-range instruments to give them character and some heat.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
If you prefer a simpler plugin, then this is a viable candidate. It features two kinds of signal processing, and mixing the two gives you interesting sounds balancing dynamism with saturation. Also, its emulated analog sound could be a key for evoking nostalgia.
In general, almost all clippers do the same thing. The difference lies in idiosyncracies and the level of flexibility they offer. For example, StandardCLIP and V-Clip offer the most level of flexibility. However, KClip 3 has a multi-band feature, which is rare for clipping plugins.
Similarly, if you prefer straightforward plugins that deliver quick results, we can’t recommend Newfangled Audio Saturate enough. And if you are looking to add a clipper to your mastering chain as a limiter, Boz Digital Big Clipper and IK Multimedia Classic Clipper are unbeatable.
For getting started, we also suggest dabbling with a free plugin like Venn Audio Free Clip, which is immensely versatile and impressive. It also features up to 32x oversampling, which is a feature generally only found in paid plugins.
Anyway, when it comes to plugins like clippers, our choices should always be based more on personal preference than people’s opinions. However, we hope our general classifications help you find your clipper of choice quicker.
K. M. Joshi is a multi-award-winning composer and sound designer, specializing in film, game, and TV audio. He enjoys making cinematic music, rock, blues, and electronica.