Normal distortion is a part of everyones playing repertoire. Everybody likes to bang on their instruments from time to time to give the louder harmonic structure associated with near overload conditions. Every natural sound creates more harmonics as it is driven hard.
Clipping is one of a zillion ways of doing it. Probably not the best one for every sound available in the universe. Imagine if that was the only way to distort! No stomp boxes, no preamps to smash, no toobes, no hard driven amp stacks to mic up, nothing but converter clipping. Would be quickly become boring and fatiguing, wouldn't it?
The biggest problem though is that we have no control over the effect. It's very random. Some playback devices will render the audio quite fine, some will distort nicely, some distort more harshly and most just sounds like crap. The studio technician have no control over the final output when clipping it.
Given the radio treatment things really go havoc. Phase rotation moves the distortion from the peaks to somewhere else, making it sound more like cross over distortion than flat topped distortion. The difference in likeability is huge. Radio haven't 'figured it out' and I guess they won't either. Phase rotation to achieve louder voice transmission will still be important as long as spoken word is a driving factor in the radio community.
Mp3's aren't much easier. Try this: clip something, flat-topping it. Change gain by -3dB. Render this to a Mp3 and decode it back to the wave editor. Check the peak levels! They'll be far above the previous limit of -3dB.
Now think about the battery size of the ipods and other tiny little players. How much headroom there is available in a 1 volt DC portable audio system. Or a regular CD player with about 1VAC max output. Compare this to the typical +-15Volt driven studio gear. Digital can have 'hidden' overshots up to 10dB above the maximum sample value. That's a lot of voltage to ask for.
No sane manufacturer will spend time, energy and money to develop more headroom in their gear when all it takes to playback perfectly fine is a bit of (un)common sense when setting the digital level in the source. Why should gear manufacturers raise the prices of their product to cope with illegal
samples? They won't. They spend the finances to get more of whatever they need more of to sell more. Tiny physical size, larger storeage capacity, better hardware protection, better design and so forth.
Nika Aldrich on the 'hidden overs': http://www.cadenzarecording.com/pape...distortion.pdf
Several TC papers on the subject: http://www.tcelectronic.com/TechLibr...olandMastering