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 2023.
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 2023
1. Venn Audio V-Clip
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.
V-Clip comes with a pre-equipped “Visualizer” which could be considered an oscilloscope tool.
You will abundance of presets that should suit your clipping needs. The first folder is equipped with “Standard Shapes”.
The second one comes with “Complex shapes”. As you can see, it comes with a different main screen:
Finally, here is what the “Oversample” tab comes with:
- 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.
2. SIR Audio Tools StandardCLIP
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.
Same as with the V-Clip, StandardCLIP also offers oscilloscope mode:
And finally presets that come with StandardCLIP:
- 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.
3. Newfangled Audio Saturate
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
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 on 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. Signum Audio SKYE CLIPPER
SKYE Clipper by Signum Audio is a clipping and saturation plugin.
The clipper can add more perceived volume and energy to your sounds. It clips sounds at a certain threshold, creating harmonics that increase the sound’s thickness and introduce a unique texture. In addition, you can use it as a saturation plugin to add grit and crunch to your sounds.
- Anti-aliasing technology
The plugin uses a real-time anti-aliasing algorithm to create the distortion effect, which has a unique and fresh sound. You can use it on electric guitars, synths, snare, or the mix bus. You can also use it on the master to emulate analog to digital-conversion clipping.
- Removes aliasing artifacts
SKYE Clipper’s proprietary anti-aliasing algorithm makes it possible to remove aliasing artifacts produced by clipping. So you can use it to clean audio signals, use a lower sample rate, and put less load on your CPU.
- Automatable controls
All the parameters in the plugin, including Pre-gain, Threshold, Clipping Type, Gain Link, Post-Gain, and Dry-Wet Mix, are fully automatable. Hence, you can have different settings for different parameters at different points in your timeline.
- Other features
The plugin has features like seven types of clippings, pre, and post-gain linking, mix control for simplified parallel clipping/saturation, and a resizeable audio interface.
SKYE Clipper is available in AU, AAX, VST, and VST 3 plugin formats.
Overall, it’s a one-of-a-kind plugin with great sound and utility. In addition, it has presets for drums, synths, guitars, and mastering. The tone it gives you is unique and hard to get from anything else, as it uses a unique ADC clipping algorithm.
6. IK Multimedia Classic Clipper
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. Integraudio & Sixth Sample Clips
More Info & Price (Trial Available)
A clipper, compressor, and gate are housed inside this neat sonic toolkit.
Made in partnership with Sixth Sample, Clips is one of the plugins that bears integraudio’s seal of approval. This package consists of a compressor, a clipper, and a gate effect, all of which are ready to be used in your next mixing or mastering session.
In times where loudness war exists, to be able to monitor and set the proper loudness in your track is a valuable asset to have nearby. Clipping is one of the best techniques to even out your project’s loudness with other tracks, and Clips can get you going on that. You can even use it as a maximizer effect by selecting the “Out = Ceil” button.
- Processing management
Clips allow you to process only the necessary parts of your audio without analyzing extra areas that don’t need adjustment. You can count on a multiband selection that easily handles the problematic frequencies into three distinct bands with complete monitoring.
- Dark theme
Using very bright screens for an extended period of time might be extremely harmful to your eyesight. Thinking of this, Sixth Sample included a dark mode in Clips that’s very friendly to stare at without retaining the visual quality behind each segment inside this plugin.
- Transient shaping
Due to the multiple ways you can analyze your track’s frequencies, it’s expected that a plugin bundle such as Clips could handle transient shaping well. The compressor, allied with the multiband processing of the frequencies in your track, can help smoothen out some ends while boosting the warmth in others.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.9 or higher (64-bit only) and Windows 8.1 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in VST3 and AU plugin formats.
The simple yet straightforward look of Clips is one of the best points of using this plugin. You almost forget at times that you’re dealing with compression, clipping, and metering, simply because it’s all very friendly and simple to achieve.
The lightweight aspect of this plugin’s interface also helps make it friendlier, occupying a considerable small portion of your screen.
5 Best FREE Clipper Plugins 2023
1. Initial Audio Initial Clipper
Initial Clipper sets the bar of free plugins a notch higher with its elegant user interface and simplicity.
When using a limiter to master a track, we often want transparency. That might even involve using many parameters, additional compressors, etc. However, Initial Clipper seeks to simplify the process and provide you only the vital controls related to limiters. Instead, it offers saturation.
So, I prefer using this plugin either when soft limiting is adequate or when I want a saturated sound.
The user interface shows the input audio signal graph, and you can use it to dial in the parameters accurately. First, you’ll find an input gain. Second, the threshold knob controls the level at which the limiter starts processing. This parameter is also reflected on the input graph.
You’ll find a built-in LUFS meter at the bottom right of the user interface. You can use this meter to see how loud your audio is without switching over to an analyzer plugin. Also, you can drag the bottom right corner of the interface to resize the GUI.
There are two saturation knobs on the interface. One is labeled Positive, whereas the other is Negative. The Positive saturation adds extra harmonic saturation, often found in analog hardware gear like tape, tube amps, etc. Conversely, the Negative saturation adds inharmonic saturation. A mix of these two could provide novel results.
Initial Clipper is available for Windows 7 or higher and macOS 10 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2 and AU formats.
I’ve yet to see another developer providing two types of saturation in a limiter plugin. Furthermore, this limiter feels designed to help producers get results quicker. So, while Initial Clipper may not be the most transparent and flexible limiter around, it’s undoubtedly an excellent choice for people who want something straightforward and time-saving.
Likewise, the saturation stages make the plugin ideal for clipping drums and other instruments in a mix. Doing so will let you get louder masters without excessive pumping and annoying artifacts.
2. Venn Audio Free Clip
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.
3. J1000 CL36
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.
4. GVST GClip
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.
5. de la mancha ClipStar
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 at the high frequencies. So, you’ll probably want to use this as a subtle limiter instead of as a distortion plugin.
1. Boz Digital Labs Big Clipper
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.
2. Nembrini Lofi Vintage Clipper
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.
3. JST Clip
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.
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.
Closely Related Topic:
Top 6 Limiter & Maximizer Plugins 2023 (And 4 Best Free Limiters)
1. Softube Weiss Compressor/Limiter
Softube’s Weiss Compressor/Limiter is based on the Weiss DS1-MK3 and is a versatile mixing and mastering tool.
This miniaturized version of the original makes for a speedier workflow. The simplified interface tackles the most important parameters of a compressor/limiter in a multi-band approach. The plugin offers Mid-Side and independent channel processing, as well as auto-release and three filter options.
- Three Displays
You can use each mode to control different parameters. The Waveform display shows the gain reduction. Frequency lets you act in band selection mode. Finally, Knee shows the shape of the compressor’s knee.
- Hidden Side-Menu
Here, you can adjust advanced and general parameters, such as knee range, release delay, and sidechaining. You can also enable the dither and select the safety limiter’s mode.
- Auto Release Offset
You can control all three release types from a single knob on the front of the interface. You can also turn off Auto Release and set them all manually on the side menu. The three release types are Average, Fast, and Slow, and when in Auto mode, the proportion between them is controlled by the Fast value.
- Release Delay
This hidden feature works just like the Hold in a gate would. It’s meant to push the beginning of the release further from the transient.
You can use a Low Pass at 3520 Hz or compress just one band with Band Pass mode. For example, in a bass guitar, this would help focus the compression on the instrument’s body while also tackling the lower frequencies.
Character & Sound:
The Weiss Compressor/Limiter is an industry-standard in transparency with utmost transient precision. The filter options will give focus to the compression, while the M/S mode ensures its mastering capabilities. Overall the plugin adds no coloration to your tracks, which lets you add several units while mixing without having to worry about added character.
This plugin is available for macOS 10.12 and newer and Windows 7 and up in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
The Weiss Compressor Limiter, by Softube, is a go-to plugin for its clean sound and simple approach to compression. Using the Auto Release is like driving an automatic car, and the different displays ensure you’re aware of what’s happening to the audio. Meanwhile, the plugin is as invisible as it gets, not getting in the way of your mixing—definitely a worthy addition to your collection.
2. FabFilter Pro-L2
FabFilter’s Pro-L 2 is a versatile tool suited for all music genres for either mixing or mastering.
Each of the plugin’s styles offers different transparency and punch levels. You can go from clear-sounding to extreme pump just by changing the algorithm. Additionally, the advanced controls allow the necessary fine-tuning to avoid any artifacts.
- Real-Time Level Display
Here, you can visualize how your audio’s being processed. It’s great to help you decide which attack and release values to use.
- Limiting Styles
The eight algorithms available make limiting highly straightforward. They are program-dependent, which means they’ll adapt to the input signal while still preserving their character.
This knob will help shape the limiter’s attack. Lower values can cause a clipping effect, while higher values will generate superb gain reduction.
- Channel Linking
If you want to process each track independently in a stereo file, you can do so by unlinking the channels. This will make the limiter work as two separate units instead of being a single limiter for both channels.
- Unity Gain Output
By clicking the “1:1” button at the output menu in the lower bar, you’ll activate the Unity Gain function. This will lower the output volume by the same amount that you raise the input gain, keeping the resulting sound always at the same level. It’s great to help you hear and fine-tune the limiting without the extra volume.
- Surround Mode
You can go up to 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos, and the interface will automatically adapt to the extra channels.
The Pro-L2’s selection of built-in presets offers limiting options for most musical genres in comprehensible categories.
Character & Sound:
FabFilter’s Pro-L2 can add some character to your sound, especially in the Punchy and Aggressive algorithms. Otherwise, the plugin sounds clear and artifact-free. Moreover, the up to 32x oversampling eliminates distortion and aliasing, while the True Peak technology avoids digital clipping. When it comes to professional transparency, this is one of the more advanced plugins in the market.
This plugin is available for Windows XP and higher and macOS 10.8 or newer in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
The Pro-L2 is a professional-grade limiting solution for every mixing and mastering engineer. The extensive metering section lets you hear and tailor your sound to your needs. The different display modes are a bit distracting, but nothing that you can’t turn off. Overall this is a go-to limiter for every occasion.
3. Brainworx bx_limiter True Peak
The bx_limiter TP, by Brainworx, was designed from the ground up with True Peak technology in mind.
The plugin offers straightforward parameters in a comprehensible UI, but it sounds way better than it looks. You can meter both in the input and output signals and solo individual parts of the audio. The balance and correlation meters are beneficial to ensure mono compatibility and the metering section is really precise.
Modern will suit any kind of modern music, while Classic will be great for old-school genres.
Higher values give you a more bass-heavy foundation, creating a huge-sounding foundation, which will benefit most genres.
- Dynamic Range Meter
This helps you determine the density of the track. Numbers below 6dB mean you’re applying too much compression in your mix, making your track sound lifeless.
- Solo Buttons
Here, you can choose which part of the output signal is being monitored. If you choose either the L or R channels, they’ll play in the center unless you click the S.I.P. button, which will make the audio play in its respective position.
This saturation unit adds smooth harmonic distortion to the output signal.
Character & Sound:
Brainworx markets this plugin as “the ultimate mastering limiter,” claiming you can also use it for mixing on individual tracks. Its most impressive feature is the perfect transient clarity and punch, due mostly to the lack of an Attack control. The limiter adapts to the source material in a very musical way, delivering a lot of precision with a pleasing stereo field.
This plugin is available for Windows 7 and up and macOS 10.9 and newer in AAX, AU, and VST formats.
The bx_limiter True Peak is an outstanding plugin that gives the user straightforward controls, while most of the action happens behind the scenes. If it can be considered the best limiter on the market, I’m not sure. But it delivers on its True Peak promise, and that alone makes it a worthy addition to your collection.
4. Sonible smart:limit
Limit the loudness of your tracks without worrying about unwanted artifacts with this AI limiter.
Sonible has been creating a range of “smart” plugins that help you produce and engineer audio faster. These include EQs, reverb, compressors, etc. And the latest is smart:limit, a limiter designed to be as transparent as possible by analyzing the input audio and reacting appropriately in real-time.
In addition, the plugin provides you with plenty of information about your audio using various loudness analyzers. So, you don’t need to rely on a third-party analyzer software while you’re using smart:limit to process your audio’s dynamics. And like a true smart plugin, this plugin provides interactive “Quality Check” feedback and hints. They could be handy for inexperienced people.
This AI-powered plugin analyzes your audio signal and determines appropriate limiting parameters that ensure your track stays as unchanged as possible. Furthermore, you can assign a genre profile in the plugin to achieve a specific style and character. These profiles help beginners, and intermediate people produce the nuances in a particular genre without having complete knowledge about limiters and dynamics.
Likewise, smart:limit allows you to import a reference track. The plugin analyzes the reference and dials in the parameters automatically to emulate the limiting style you want. Of course, you can also turn off the automatic mode if you’d rather work manually. Or, you can save time by using the smart features to create a working draft before customizing it by hand.
- Beyond Dynamics
The plugin features more than merely limiting features. Four knobs at the bottom of the user interface equip you with various sound sculpting features that let you introduce exciting flavors. First, the Style dial changes the limiting style from soft to hard. Soft limiting can sound more “glued” but also pumping, whereas hard limiting can cause some artifacts. Second, the Saturation knob boosts a subtle distortion stage to add warmth.
Similarly, the Balancing knob uses spectral processing to create a sense of balance in the frequency spectrum. It avoids sharp peaks and provides a polished feel. So, it’s essentially like mixing but done over the entire track. Lastly, the Bass Control knob tightens up your bass and adds richness.
Sonible smart:limit features a Loudness Monitoring section, which you can extend to get comprehensive information about your audio’s loudness and dynamics. It offers the following metrics: LUFS, LU, dynamics in dB, True Peak, and gain reduction. LUFS measures the perceived loudness of your audio using metrics weighted for human hearing. Similarly, LU measures the loudness range. And if you’d like to learn more, have a look at this informational article.
Sonible smart:limit is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Packed with excellent features that help you get results faster, smart:limit is one of the best modern limiters available today. It uses intelligent algorithms to set up its internal parameters based on your audio signal. Similarly, you can use genre-based profiles and reference tracks to help bring the sound closer to your idea. The sound-sculpting controls at the bottom of the interface let you modify the audio in-depth with a minimal set of parameters. Furthermore, it offers all the relevant information necessary when you’re mastering a track. So, you can conform your music to the loudness standards of various streaming and publishing platforms.
5. Devious Machines Boost By UrsaDSP (Best Limiter Plugins)
A common headache within the mastering side of post-production is achieving a balanced, smooth sound that retains the mixing phase’s carefully sculpted tone. Because of how the human brain interprets sounds and the differing structure of the ear from person to person, a balanced frequency range no matter the person or volume is nigh impossible.
If you’re familiar with the Fletcher-Munson Curve—or Equal Loudness Contour—you’ll know that the balance of perceivable frequencies changes as volume increases, which is further augmented by the increase in harmonics when saturation is introduced to a sound.
This is where UrsaDSP’s Boost comes in. It is an upwards compressor/limiter plugin that offers surprisingly clean gain, the ability to accent transients for a punchier tone, clean up the stereo image with mid/side filtering, and slightly more.
- Peak & RMS Meters for Input & Output
The sides of the plugin are bordered by controllable input and output meters. Within the meters, two levels are displayed: The light outer bars display the RMS level, and the highly saturated inner bars display the signal’s Peak level.
- Gain Focus
Boost offers a fader to control where the gain is used for increasing a signal’s level. By default, it will increase the level of the entire audio signal for a complete increase in volume. However, once the focus control is used, you can set the gain to direct its attention to the quietest sections of the signal. An example of where this could be useful: if you insert it onto a track with reverb, you can use the focus control to adjust how prominent the reverb tail is.
- Character Control
UrsaDSP’s plugin offers two features for adjusting the character of any audio signal passed through it: drive and emphasis. Both features introduce a small amount of saturation into the signal but differ in where they introduce it. Drive enhances the body of the signal to create a thicker overall sound, while emphasis focuses on enhancing the signal’s transients to create a dynamic and punchy tone.
- Stereo & Mid/Side Processing
By default, the plugin processes the audio as a left and a right channel, but you have the option to process it as mid and side. By filtering the stereo information separately from the mid, you can create a cleaner, direct low end by removing bass tones from the stereo image’s side channels.
The plug-in supports Windows 7 and higher and Mac OS 10.7 and higher. Also, it supports VST3, AU, and AAX formats (64-bit AAX for windows).
Boost is like finding water in a desert. It’s refreshing, it’s satisfying, and it’s helpful. It won’t fix anything but fulfills its purpose like water in a desert. If you are looking for that missing piece of your mastering or compression/limiting puzzle, you may have found it.
6. Newfangled Audio Elevate By Eventide
Newfangled Audio’s Elevate is a user-friendly one-stop powerhouse for mastering.
At the heart of the plugin’s signal processing is a 26-band adaptative limiter. You can craft a fully-fledged master from there or open the other pages to fine-tune your results. The plugin lets you control each band’s transients and overall gain, as well as the filter curves for each band. But the plugin’s brains are its Adaptive algorithms, which use machine learning to fit the processing around the input signal automatically.
- Main Parameters Page
This section holds the primary elements that let you make the input signal louder. You get five parameters to fine-tune your limiting and avoid artifacts.
- Filter Bank Sub-Module Page
Here, you get to pick the number of bands the plugin will use for mastering and their filter shapes. The more bands you choose, the more effective the Adaptive algorithm will be.
- Limiter/EQ Sub-Module Page
You can adjust the gain levels and see the gain reduction being applied to each frequency band from this menu. You can either adapt each band slider individually or draw a curve to shape the EQ.
- Transient Sub-Module Page
This multi-band transient designer lets you tweak each band separately or also draw a single gain curve across the spectrum. This feature is excellent when you need to add life to a snare or kick drum that’s buried in the mix.
- Clipper Sub-Module Page
If you’ve allowed any fast transients through, here’s where they’ll stop. You can design the clipper shape from soft to hard and add up to 12dB of harmonic distortion to your master.
The plugin comes with several presets by well-known mastering engineers, including Matt Lange, Eric Beam, and APS Mastering.
Character & Sound:
Like most one-stop solutions, Elevate was designed to be as transparent as possible. The fact it adapts to the input signal helps with its clarity. Of course, the more you tweak, the higher the probability of artifacts happening, especially if you’re new to the plugin. The key to avoiding this is as incremental as possible with the parameters. Set the Adaptive Speed to slower values while keeping the multi-band transients consistent. While raising a slider from the Transient Sub-Module Page, one good tip increases gently around the focal band. That will generate a more transparent result than just pumping a single band a few dBs.
Newfangled Audio’s Elevate is available for Windows 8 and higher and macOS 10.9 and newer as an AAX, AU, and VST plugin.
Eventide’s Elevate mastering suite allows you to craft quick masters with minimum effort. The slider controls are super intuitive and straightforward, and all the modules ensure you can give as much attention to detail as needed. Even so, it takes some time to learn all the plugin can do to craft professional-sounding masters.
Other Plugin Roundups:
Reverb & Delay Plugins:
Amps & Preamps:
Audio Restoration, Calibration & Utility:
Processing & Sound Design: