Crushing the Mix: The Art of Clipping in Modern Metal Mastering ModernMetalSongwriter graphic

Crushing the Mix: The Art of Clipping in Modern Metal Mastering

In modern metal music, achieving a powerful and aggressive sound is paramount. As a metal musician or songwriter, you want your tracks to be loud, intense, and impactful. That's where the process of mastering comes into play.

Mastering is the final stage of audio production, where the mix is polished, balanced, and optimized for distribution across different streaming platforms, and listening devices. In this article, we will delve into a technique known as clipping and explore how it can be effectively used for mastering rock and metal music.

Mastering with NovaClip | Advanced Peak Clipper

What is Clipping?

At its core, clipping occurs when an audio signal surpasses the maximum level it can be represented as. When a waveform hits a "ceiling," it becomes flattened, resulting in distortion and loss of transient details. While traditionally, digital clipping is generally perceived as an undesirable artifact, it can be harnessed to enhance the aggressive and heavy characteristics of modern metal tracks and can be a quite forgiving way to achieve incredibly loud and clear songs through mastering.

There are two primary types of clipping: digital clipping and analog clipping

  • Digital clipping occurs when the audio signal exceeds the available headroom in the digital domain, typically represented by a fixed number of bits. 
  • Analog clipping, on the other hand, happens when the audio signal exceeds the maximum voltage that can be handled by analog circuitry, such as converters, tubes or transistors. 

Clipping Representation

In both cases, intentional and controlled clipping can be used to shape the sound and density of the final master on your song, and give you the perceived volume that is expected in modern heavy music.

Using Clipping in Modern Metal Mastering

When applying clipping in modern metal mastering, it's crucial to maintain control and balance. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Preserve Dynamic Range: While using clipping can bring a sense of loudness and intensity, it's important not to sacrifice the dynamic range completely. Pay attention to the overall balance of the mix and ensure that certain elements still have room to breathe.
  • Avoid Over-Clipping: Excessive clipping can result in harsh and distorted artifacts that may detract from the quality of the music. Use your ears and monitoring tools (such as a LUFS/RMS meter, or the gui visual if applicable) to find the sweet spot where the clipping enhances the mix without becoming overpowering.
  • Experiment with Different Levels of Clipping: Clipping is not a one-size-fits-all technique. It's worth experimenting with different levels and intensities of clipping to find the desired effect for your particular track. Start with subtle amounts of clipping and gradually increase it until you achieve the desired amount of aggression and impact.

For example, mix engineer Lance Prenc (Alpha Wolf, Thornhill, Void of Vision) has mentioned how he likes to add multiple instances of clipping plugins on top of one another. Each clipper only does a little bit but they add up to achieve a huge sounding master

By applying these techniques and using clipping strategically, you can unlock the true sonic potential of your modern metal mixes during the mastering process.

Applying Clipping Techniques

When it comes to applying clipping techniques in modern metal mastering, there are several methods and tools at your disposal. These can help you shape the sound and achieve the desired level of aggression and intensity. Let's explore a few of them:

  • Clipping Plugins: Audio plugins specifically designed for clipping can provide precise control and flexibility. Our plugin NovaClip is a great example of a clipping plugin that is designed for heavy productions.
  • Analog Clipping: Clipping doesn't necessarily have to be applied inside of your DAW either, although this option comes at a higher cost. As mentioned earlier, some mastering engineers opt to clip their audio through hardware while mastering. While many of our readers aren’t looking to spend a few thousand dollars on hardware for louder music, it’s always an option to hire a mastering engineer who uses analog clipping in their workflow, or look into this gear yourself, if analog clipping does interest you!

Remember, the goal is to use clipping as a creative tool to enhance the impact and intensity of your modern metal tracks. It's essential to trust your ears and make adjustments based on the specific needs of each song, and not just follow numbers, and templates from online.

Best Practices and Considerations

While utilizing clipping techniques in modern rock and metal mastering, it's important to keep a few best practices and considerations in mind. These will help you achieve the best possible results while maintaining the integrity of your mix:

  • Use Monitoring Tools: Monitoring is crucial when working with clipping. Keep an eye on the meters and ensure that the clipped sections are not causing excessive distortion or artifacts. Additionally, listen to your mix on different listening systems and devices to ensure it translates well across various playback environments. Take advantage of tools like the Delta feature, and Plugin UI’s that allow you to visually see what you’re doing with the clipper, for even more insight.

NovaClip Mastering Chain

Clipper GUI showing the amount of Gain Reduction being applied.

  • Good Mixing: Before applying clipping, make sure your mix is well-balanced and any necessary equalization adjustments have been made. Clipping is not a substitute for proper mixing techniques but rather a final touch to enhance the track and it’s perceived loudness.

By following these best practices and considerations, you can harness the power of clipping while preserving the overall quality and impact of your modern metal music.


In conclusion, understanding the concept of clipping and its application in metal mastering can greatly enhance the aggressiveness, and give you the volume that is expected for modern metal. Clipping, when used correctly and with a keen ear, can truly help you take a great sounding mix to the next level, helping your music stand out in the competitive world of modern metal.

Remember, mastering is an art form that requires both technical knowledge and creative exploration

Clipping is just one tool in your arsenal, and its effectiveness lies in how well you integrate it into your overall mastering process. Stay tuned for more educational content, tips, and resources for helping you make your music sound better at home!

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