Waveform Height

I was working just fine with the waveform of every audio file fitting nicely within the upper and lower envelope boundaries, then I must have accidentally clicked on something, because now the waveforms extend beyond the upper and lower bounds of the envelope on every file I open. I can still edit OK, but it is a lot more guesswork because I can’t see the upper and lower limits of the waveform. What can I do to get the waveform to fit again within the envelope? Thanks for the assistance!

To the left of the waveform do you see a scale that goes from -1.0 to +1.0 (for both left & right waveforms)? 1.0 or 0dB is the maximum for most formats, and for your ADC and DAC, so you shouldn’t be going above that.

You can left-click or right-click in that area to change that scale, but I don’t know how to change the default when you open a new file.

When I expand the scale to +2.0 and -2.0 the waveform cuts off at +1.0 and -1.0 and above +1.0 and below -1.0 there is blank space, i.e.,the waveform is clipped off. In other words, the positive and negative peaks of the waveform are chopped off along a horizontal straight line at +1.0 and -1.0. The audio file plays just fine; I just can’t figure out why the waveform is clipped off on the + and - sides.

The absolute maximum sample values that audio devices can handle is +/- 1.0.
This is because all sound cards work with either 16 or 24 bit integer data.

Audacity works internally with 32-bit floating point data, which can handle values beyond +/- 1.

By default, Audacity uses 32-bit float format for audio tracks, but that may be overridden in Preferences (NOT RECOMMENDED).

If you attempt to record at a level higher than 0 dB (+/- 1.0 on the linear scale), then the audio will be clipped because sound cards can’t produce samples beyond the +/- 1.0 range.

If you attempt to amplify a track beyond +/- 1.0 in Audacity, then provided that the track format is 32-bit float (look in the info panel on the left end of the track), then Audacity can correctly show the waveform beyond +/- 1.0, but on playback it will sound distorted (because it is beyond the range that can be handled by the sound card.

If the track format is 16 or 24 bit and you attempt to amplify beyond +/- 1.0, then the audio will be clipped at +/- 1.0 because +/- 1.0 is the maximum / minimum possible for 16 or 24 bit audio data.