Wave form not clipping / Level meter in red

When opening and playing a music file, the waveform does not show any clipping and it is at a nice level, but the level meter is sometimes going into the red. Shouldn’t I see clipping in the wave form too?


Is “Show Clipping” enabled in the “View” menu?

The “digital maximum” is 0dB can you can get [u]clipping[/u] if you “try” to go over.

The meter seems to start showing red around -3dB… Just an “alert” or warning, I guess. A true (analog) VU meter is red above 0dB but analog can (usually) go over 0dB whereas digital is (usually) hard-limited to 0dB. (Analog-to-digital converters, digital-to-analog converters, regular WAV files, CDs, etc. can’t go over 0dB.)

The only way to know for-sure if you have clipping is to zoom-in on the peaks and look at the waveform.

If Audacity is set-up to “show clipping” it’s showing potential clipping. Audacity itself can go over 0dB without clipping but it will still show red. Or if you have a clipped waveform and you lower the volume it will no longer show red but the wave is still clipped.

MP3s (and floating-point WAV files) can go over 0dB so they often show red when not actually clipped. However, if you have a file that goes over 0dB and you play it at “full digital volume”, you’ll clip the digital-to-analog converter.

If you have just finished a recording and the waveform shows red, it’s clipped because the analog-to-digital converter clips at 0dB.

An easy way to check the peak levels is to run the Amplify effect. It will default to whatever gain or attenuation is needed for 0dB peaks so if it defaults to +3dB your peaks are currently -3dB, etc. If it defaults to -3dB your peaks are +3dB and if you have Audacity set-up to show clipping the waveform will show red for potential clipping. If it defaults to 0db (no change) your peaks are currently 0dB and it may be clipped or it may be 0dB normalized. You don’t have to run the Amplify effect… You can cancel if you just want to check the peaks.

Or, the optional ACX Check plug-in will give you the peak & RMS levels. Or there are 3rd-party plug-ins like dPmeter or Youlean Loudness Meter that can give you more statistics. These tools “scan” the file which is a lot easier and more accurate than trying to carefully watch a meter…

Yes, I have the “Show Clipping” enabled.


You can use this Plugin to locate your audio peak and confirm whether or not there is actual clipping: Find peak