The clipping generated by an amp can be annoying and affect how we perceive the sound, turning an experience that should be pleasant into unsatisfying. On the other hand, clipping can also be an indicator that something is not working correctly in your amplifier.
Although, in most cases, clipping is usually associated with voltage imbalances within the device, the causes that generate this can be various, and it is important to identify the source of the problem to solve it in time and avoid possible damage to your devices.
Whether the amp is delivering less power than the speaker needs or delivering less than the required power, there is a chance that clipping may occur. The failure can be caused by impedance mismatches, so clipping will occur regardless of the volume the speaker is outputting. In this article, we will talk about how to solve this type of problem.
Why Is My Amp Clipping at Low Volume?
An amplifier can produce clipping by delivering a different impedance than the speakers requires, due to failures in one of its electrical circuits or by sending low-quality audio. Any of these problems can occur even when the amp runs at a low volume.
Clipping happens as a response from the amplifier to protect the components from taking damage. Cutting the signal, it prevents any component from being affected. Amplifiers are rated by the power they offer, measured in watts, and the impedance they handle, measured in Ohms.
So when an amplifier that has certain requirements is connected to a speaker with different characteristics, there is a risk of generating clipping. Speakers work with 2, 4, 8, and 16 ohms, so it is important to ensure that the amp you connect your speaker to has the same power and output impedance to avoid this problem.
Although impedance mismatch is the main cause of clipping, sometimes, even with compatibility between the components of your audio system, clipping can be perceived due to failures or failures within the amplifier. Amplifiers tend to wear out and fail over time and continual use, especially when they are routinely operating under overload or accumulating high temperatures. Due to this, clipping can also be generated by the amplifier’s deterioration.
Another factor that can cause both clipping and distortion is playing audio files that are unbalanced, or with poor audio quality. Although it is less frequent, when playing audio files of this type, it can cause the speaker to work with a lot of saturation and can even be damaged, especially if they are played with high gain levels.
Correct these types of errors when clipping appears, and if you can’t solve it yourself, check your equipment with a technician. Ensure that the audio you play is of standard quality, and use only speakers compatible with your amplifier. Clipping is a defense mechanism that equipment has to protect itself by limiting the signal it emits. At the same time, it indicates something is wrong, so solving it as soon as possible is essential so your amplifier does not get damaged or burn out.
Can Clipping Damage My Amp?
Clipping by itself does not pose a risk to your amp. However, clipping happens because something is not working as it should. Because of this, clipping is the first sign that your amp may require some adjustment or repair to function properly once again.
Sometimes clipping can be generated because the gauge of the conductor cable is not appropriate, because of a fuse with a lower capacity than required, or simply because the ground cable is not correctly connected. While these can all be small fails, in some cases, they are enough to cause your amp to clip. A failure that is not corrected in time can eventually damage your amplifier.
To understand it clearly, clipping can originate in two ways. Firstly, in the power stage, which is when the amplifier needs more voltage than it can handle to increase the received signal, and when it cannot do so, all signal peaks that are above those values are cut off. At the same time, they can produce distortion, directly affecting the speakers. Therefore we are talking about a lack of energy.
On the other hand, in second order, your amp may experience clipping or distortion due to excess power, which occurs at the speaker level. This happens when the amplifier delivers more power than the speaker can handle. Excess energy causes the speaker’s magnet to vibrate so high that it wears the rubber suspension that keeps the magnet in the speaker’s center. In other words, it is one of the best ways to damage your speakers.
Due to this, that kind of clipping is the most harmful since it directly affects your speakers. You must correct these technical errors in time to not compromise your devices and to continue using them normally.
How to Get The Best Performance From My Amp?
To keep your amp running at its optimum performance, you can look for the best possible equalization, use quality cables and connections, avoid overheating your devices, upgrade your speakers when necessary, and maintain regular cleaning of your amp and equipment.
An amplifier is a device that works in conjunction with other components, so everything must be perfectly set up and configured to achieve optimal performance. Let’s review some recommendations.
- EQ Adjustment
The EQ and the gain adjustment are key factors, which also need the user’s criteria to correctly adapt to the needs of each space or room where your sound system is used. Large spaces behave differently than small spaces in terms of how sound travels and is replicated.
You must be especially careful regarding the low frequencies, which are the ones that expand the most and produce reflections. Use your ear to increase or decrease the low frequencies your space needs and make the necessary adjustments until you find the sweet spot. The important thing is to achieve a balance where the bass can be appreciated without being too invasive.
As for the mid and high frequencies, controlling them is somewhat easier than the low frequencies. Look for the point where the sound is clear without being too bright or sharp. If this happens, your high frequencies are above the recommended. The middle frequencies are the most flexible, you need them to be there, but you don’t need them to stand out since, in that case, they will generate a stiff sound. Find a middle ground, and you will get a sound that is easy to appreciate.
Doing these procedures patiently will not only help you better understand how the sound from your devices behaves, but it will also train your ears and allow you to appreciate when it is necessary to make equalization adjustments.
- Quality Connections
Using cables that offer the necessary connectivity and durability is a key factor and is sometimes underestimated by users joining the audio world. The cables are in charge of transporting the signal that the amplifier is in charge of improving and replicating, for which the connections we use must be up to the level of your other devices. Using cheap cables or plugs that will deteriorate in the short term may not be an option if you are looking to get the best performance from your amplifier.
On the other hand, it is also very common to find amps or speakers that offer a wireless Bluetooth connection. Although this type of connection can offer advantages in terms of comfort and space, since you do not need to worry about where the cables will be located, in terms of sound quality, the wireless connection is a step behind the wired connection.
This is because it is common for wireless connections to have a loss of signal, some cuts, and the gain decreases during certain periods, while with wired connections, the sound remains faithful, stable, and correctly isolated throughout at all times.
- Avoid High Temperatures
Avoid overheating your equipment is another point to consider if you want to get the best performance from them. This happens when the equipment is exposed to many hours of daily operation and is further aggravated when it is done at high gain levels.
If you see the amplifier as a muscle that works to emit sound, you can understand that with more power, it will generate more effort, which is reflected in faster and more pronounced fatigue. In terms of electronic equipment, the same thing happens; the difference is that once you reach that point where your equipment is working beyond its capacity, it starts to run the risk of failure and damage.
One of the main enemies of amplifiers is high temperatures since these can cause damage to the internal circuits of the amplifier. The higher the power, the amplifier will work at a higher temperature, and if this variant is sustained for long periods, the greater the wear and tear and the risk of some component failing. Although most electronic equipment is prepared to deal with that intensity, it is clear that in the long term, the device’s useful life will be much shorter.
Stay within the gain levels recommended by the manufacturer while allowing the devices to rest for certain intervals, which will be useful to dissipate the heat that can accumulate inside.
Adding new speakers to your amplifier is a good way to improve the sound, especially if your old speakers have lost definition and clarity due to wear and tear. A new speaker will enhance all your amplifier’s virtues and facilitate optimum performance.
Likewise, replacing your amp when it can no longer deliver the same performance it used to is sometimes the way to spend your money. Each device has a certain durability, and once you start to approach its limit, the quality of the sound that the amp offers can start to decrease.
Maintaining proper cleaning of your amp and your equipment will allow them to function normally. The accumulation of dirt and dust can store moisture, which is the main enemy of electronic circuits. Prevent dirt from accumulating by removing dust from time to time and take special care in devices with their internal components exposed or with easy access to dust that flies through the air.
Clipping is a common fault in amplifiers and audio devices that handle analog signals. Although sometimes they can be corrected with a simple adjustment, other times it takes time to find the component responsible for the failure, so being patient and knowing how your amplifier behaves can be very useful when solving these types of problems.
Always go to professionals or qualified personnel if you do not have the necessary knowledge to solve it, and do not expose yourself to risky situations. Remember that the amplifiers work with high voltage, which can be dangerous for your integrity if you do not take the necessary precautions.
Although clipping is not something you should be alarmed about, you must take action to avoid damaging your equipment. Maintenance and care are key factors to which you should dedicate time to save yourself future problems. I hope this article is helpful to all those who are experiencing technical problems with their amps or audio devices. Thanks for your time!
I am a composer, session musician and producer based in Argentina, with more than 20 years of experience in music. I play guitar, bass, keyboards and sax, I was part of different projects and I am familiar with musical genres like rock, pop, soul, reggae, funk, r&b, cumbia and others. Read more..