Originally Posted by ambesolman
I've heard what I ASSUMED was clipping at high volumes when sometimes watching movies. It sounded like a loud and short TICK sound that would start coming from random speakers in my setup. As soon as I would quickly turn it down it would stop. Am I right?
It's hard to say. Clipping is simply driving an amplifier beyond it's maximum stated current output. Some people intentionally over drive their amps to get a desired sound level. In the very simplest terms clipping only really refers to driving a signal, or current beyond what the amplifier is rated at. For example if an amplifier is rated at a max current of 100 watts x 2 channel at .01% distortion, you can bet that at 90% gain you will get a slightly altered waveform. This is a lot of gain for signal attenuation, but not really enough to notice too much distortion. A good power supply will have enough clean voltage in it's stored reserves that it will not produce much of any noticeable clipping or signal cut off, as long as the peaks in the waveform are short term. But if you have an amplifier that is rated at 100 watts x 2 channels rated at 1% distortion, then at 90% gain you can also bet that you will exceed what that power supply is capable of producing with noticeable distortion.
It's best to use an amplifiers gain with in common sense boundaries. Using more efficient speakers will allow you to reach a desired sound level without having to push an amplifier to these limits.
Still though clipping in and of itself is not really enough to damage a speaker. A lot of this depends on what your speakers are rated for power handling. For example, a speaker rated at 200 watts max, being driven by an amplifier with a maximum signal current of 40 watts per channel @ .01% distortion levels will produce clipping if you exceed 90% gain or even 100% gain @ 1% distortion. Those 40 watts can easily double to 80 watts with that much gain, and you are already at high levels of distortion and well beyond normal clipping and cut outs. Still though even 80 watts of clipped programe is not going to produce enough thermal heat to do any damage to speakers rated at 200 watts unclipped programe.
Heat is the real destroyer of speakers and voice coils. You are far more likely to damage speakers rated at 200 watts max unclipped programe by using an amplifier that is rated at say 150 watts at 1% distortion levels and pushing that amplifier beyond is current limitations, because the power supply is going to produce a lot more heat, especially if that amp begins to oscillate. Once oscillation starts your speakers will be damaged. Basically oscillation produces way too much heat that causes bad distortion, and can also destroy an amplifier by causing thermal decay to the power supply. Still though I would put my money on the amp being destroyed, long before the speakers.
It has been my experience that all these things are very hard to do, unless a person intentionally sets out to do it. As long as you use some common sense and stay within the boundaries of both your amps maximum ratings and your speakers maximum acceptable current, even if you do have peaks of distortion, the heat will not be enough to damage your speakers.
The tick that you heard or are hearing, may be as much from the source as the amp. Even the lossless audio formats we listen to are still prone to sampling errors and all kinds of other inherit flaws. I wouldn't worry too much. In most cases severe clipping will destroy the power supply in your receiver long before it destroys your speakers. And you will know it when your hear it. Lots of signal cut outs and major distortion to the point where you are no longer hearing normal sine waves and hearing nothing but distortion.