This occurs when an amplifier is being overdriven beyond it's power capacity.
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Clipping is a kind of distortion (maybe the most important kind) that is created when your amp does not have enough power to reproduce the wave form it is given. You have seen a typical sine wave that rolls along like a wave. If the amp does not have the power to generate the entire wave the top is cut off. The top of the wave form is "clipped" off. Sometimes they refer to this as putting a square wave through your speaker and the wave form does look more square. It sounds very unpleasant and can cause damage.
Sand amps clip hard. Tubes tend to roll off and not create a square wave and some folks think they therefore sound better when they are pushed.
The answer, if you have solid state amp, is not to run your amp so hard that it clips. But this can be harder than you might think. It is not a matter of just avoiding playing loud. Rather, clipping becomes a factor when you are playing music that is dynamic even at more modest levels. If you are running your amp at a nominal power of 10 watts, in order to produce a 20db peek without clipping your amp will need to produce 1280 watts! If you run at 5 watts you will need to produce 640 watts for a 20 db peek, at 21/2 nominal watts, 320 watts ....ect ect. Clipping happens more often than is thought.
Many folk thing this is the most important type of distortion in audio and I certainly think it is one of them.
Nice short explanation at www.rane.com/pdf/note128.pdf if you want a little more.
Sincerely, I remain
Clipping is not just a factor in power amplifiers. Any active circuit can be driven into clipping. When the signal is clipped, harmonically unrelated overtones at unnatural levels are introduced into the music. As a rule, analog circuits clip more gracefully than digital ones and tube circuits are more graceful than solid state. It is thought that a circuit's recovery from clipping is a key determinate of its sound.
As an aside, clipping in playback is to be avoided, but in music production it can be quite desireable. Anybody who has ever grooved to the sound of a Fender Black Face, Marshall, Mesa Boogie or other hi-gain design guitar amp knows how pleasant controlled clipping can sound.