Mostly used in Distortion Plugins, hard clipping and soft clipping produce different sound effects. Knowing these two can further your sound and precision!
Clipping occurs when the signal is too strong for the device to handle it. This signal can come from an instrument or a device like an iPhone. When signal is too strong, a sharp distortion happens and can damage ear drums.
You can measure the mount of input a signal delivers by checking a meter, likely when the signal goes into the high area of red, there is some clipping happening.
When the sine wave from your instrument or device reaches the maximum threshold it cuts the wave to save the speaker. Hard clipping will modify your signal and sharply distort the sound to accommodate the device. Thus a sine wave will likely turn into a square wave. Although the modern new wave of music introduces this hard clipping sound minimally, it should usually be avoided. To avoid clipping, you may use tools like compressors and limiters.
Soft clipping is very similar to hard clipping except it does not cut so abruptly! The sine wave / waveform is still chopped off except it allows a small amount of frequencies to push through. Instead of a forced square shape, it’ll have a somewhat round shape. This will likely introduce a more warm distortion and can lead to a cleaner sound compared to hard clipping. Tube amplifiers can create these kind of clippings.
To conclude, using hard or soft clipping depends on the type of sound you are going for. Hopefully this explanation helps your knowledge with the different types of clipping, how to avoid it, and how to solve it. Clean up your sound the right way or distort it lightly with these soft or hard clippings!