Types of distortion

What is distortion?

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You often wondered that distortion is a negative term in sonics. You wondered, it is an undesirable music effect and bad quality that ruins a suitable waveform and becomes edgy on the ears. You must be familiar with the Drive-Thru speakers whose audio waves burst when the employee speaks. Yeah, you guessed it, right! That is distortion. But the concept has more versatility to it.

Distortion is a divergence in an audio signal between two points. These deviations are mostly peaks in the sound signals. In music production, it has gained itself the status of a creative tool that can add warmth and attitude to your tracks. Distortion can either be good or undesirable. Being a useful concept in modern music, this is used during the recording, production, and engineering stages of a song. Proper usage of the different types of distortion can complement any sound.

Types of distortion

There are many types of distortion but we will discuss a few principal distortions in this article.


Clipping is a type of distortion in which an audio signal crosses the maximum output threshold and distorts the waveform. It forces the amplifier to generate an overridden sound signal beyond its capability, thus causing clips in the sound. The audio signal starts to break, causing a dry noise. To deal with it, audio engineers use their creativity and adjust the clipping in a way that adds texture to the sound.

Harmonic distortion

As the name suggests, this type of distortion creates harmonics in the deviated sound signals. Chiefly, harmonic distortion thickens the audio signals by enriching them with echo. This is also creatively used by music producers to add character to the distorted parts of the waveform.


Saturation results from the combination of distortion and compression. This distortion happens when the input audio signal is not matched with the output signal. Thus, creating a fluctuation in the frequencies. Saturation brings a smooth fuzz to the audio. However, music producers use this effect to deal with high frequencies and produce a pleasing and soft tonality in the tracks.


Bitcrushing is also a type of distortion. Bits are the information packs of music signals that can be manipulated to produce geniality. Music producers adjust the bits of the waveform. Though this digital distortion can reduce the dynamic range of an audio signal. Sound engineers use it so creatively that they create lo-fi remixes of the songs.

A few other notable types of distortion are Aliasing, Hardclip, Waveshaping, Noise, Overdrive, Digital Clipping, Intermodulation, and Envelope distortion.

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