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Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

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Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby Hippie162 » Tue May 04, 2021 9:45 am

Hi All, Newbie here! Pls bear with me.

So I haven’t used a DAW in 15 years since I was at Uni, back then I used Logic Pro but had used Cubase prior to that so am familiar with the ancient version (i think it was 5).

I have spent the past 4 weeks creating a song, agonised over getting the vocals layered and the mix perfect, then I mixed it down and BOOM! It sounds TERRIBLE when played through Media player, I tunes etc.

First the Problem: The mix sounds great in Cubase, but when I open the exported file in a player it is very very loud, almost pop your ear drums loud, and the volume is dipping as if a compressor / limitor is trying to ground the levels… also the volume is fading down and up as if there is automation (but there isn’t).

My set up FYI: So I am using Cubase Artist 9.5, software only no external hardware. I have the maximum 68 audio tracks in the project, which are routed through to 6 separate group channels (drums, strings etc.) which then route through to my Stereo out. The files within the project have already been mixed down separately from a previous project that was very plug in heavy to render midi and amalgamate parts, and then imported back into Cubase in a fresh project for mixing in this current session. I have added a couple of plug ins to individual tracks before routing to the group channels such as Reafir to subtract noise, some compression and a bit of reverb. I have added a compressor on the vocal group track too so there is a little bit of compression, lots of times (as the original files mixed down from a prev session were also compressed).

In this final mix session there is no clips, and the stereo our bus is showing levels at no more than -15db (as I am leaving headroom for mastering). I am mixing down at 24 bit 44 hz, WAVE, and have tested it on Mono Stereo and L/R with same result.

What I have tried:

Turning the Stereo our Pan law to -6db NO EFFECT
I have tested mixing down with the Stereo out fader right down so I can just hear it in Cubase - still the mixdown is ear popping loud?
I have muted all my input channels, checked and turned off all automation (there was none) - NO EFFECT
I have mixed down bypassing all plug ins: NO EFFECT
I have tested sperate tracks such as lead vocal only, drum only etc. - The mixdown is still far far too loud.
Adding a limitor to Stereo out - NO EFFECT
I have tried Itunes, Media player and Groove sound to play back with same results.
I have imported the mixdown back into Cubase - SOUNDS GREAT!
So… Has anyone got any ideas? Another point to add is that my laptop has Beats Audio software on it… I have read elsewhere that this can effect mixdown would that be possible? I am thinking of bypassing the audio driver for this software next.

Could there be a problem with the soundcard? Bleeding the output into the input?

Could my mix somehow be doubling or trebling the output on mixdown? Have I messed up by using mixed down files into a new project somewhow? All the audio waves and levels look perfect in Cubase?

Any suggestions are welcome as I am pulling my hair out (and there is lots of it).

TIA.
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby manwilde » Tue May 04, 2021 10:07 am

Based on what you say it seems the problem might be related to playback software outside the DAW. I´d bypass the Beats Audio first (don´t know what that is, some kind of "enhancer"?).

What happens if you play a commercial release through your media players?. Also, do you have any plugin inserted as a monitoring-only effect in Cubase?
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby The Elf » Tue May 04, 2021 10:16 am

Welcome! :thumbup:

I think the first thing we need is an audio example to begin to make any suggestions.

There are many, many variables to this, and it sounds like you are throwing all kinds of ideas at this to see what sticks. We need a clean start!

Begin with an absolutely *clean* Project. Make sure *all* faders are set to unity - including the master fader - and do not move the master fader from unity! (ever!).

If you are importing mixed material it will probably be way too loud. Use Cubase's gain to trim them all down to -10dBFS peaks.

Do not use any plug-ins of any kind - at this stage you don't need them. Ditch *all* audio 'enhancement' (ugh! :lol: ) features from the audio chain!

Now make some exports (File=>Export=>Audio Mixdown...) and see how they sound.

Although importing and exporting audio within Cubase isn't affected by the hardware you are using, you could give yourself an easier life by getting even a basic external audio interface. The on-board audio hardware on any computer is pretty dire - and although it's not necessarily the main culprit here, it won't be helping.
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby Hippie162 » Tue May 04, 2021 10:18 am

Hi thanks for response...

I would call myself a lamen compared to all of you, how do I know if plug ins are routed as monitor only?

Beats came with the laptop, it's "beats by Dre" and has Audio enhancement and EQ. I have read that it changed audio settings when disabled to make sounds superficially "tinny" when it is not in use as a naughty way to keep custom... that's why I was thinking of bypassing it's driver.

Could my gain staging be causing an issue? the levels look fine on individual tracks but could I be overloading them through plug in's without seeing this effect in the mixer?

TIA!
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby Hippie162 » Tue May 04, 2021 10:26 am

The Elf wrote:Welcome! :thumbup:

I think the first thing we need is an audio example to begin to make any suggestions.

There are many, many variables to this, and it sounds like you are throwing all kinds of ideas at this to see what sticks. We need a clean start!

Begin with an absolutely *clean* Project. Make sure *all* faders are set to unity - including the master fader - and do not move the master fader from unity! (ever!).

If you are importing mixed material it will probably be way too loud. Use Cubase's gain to trim them all down to -10dBFS peaks.

Do not use any plug-ins of any kind - at this stage you don't need them. Ditch *all* audio 'enhancement' (lol!) features from the audio chain!

Now make some exports and see how they sound.

Although importing and exporting audio within Cubase isn't affected by the hardware you are using, you could give yourself an easier life by getting even a basic external audio interface. The on-board audio hardware on any computer is pretty dire - and although it's not necessarily the main culprit here, it won't be helping.

Hi!

I will certainly try that. Would I be starting a fresh project and importing the mixdown from the Stereo out of this mix or seperate tracks? This could be where I went wrong as I originally did this (for each seperate track) but did not clip the gain at all.

I can add an audio clip if you are brave enough! It will blow speakers it is so loud. I am not sure how to add audio to the thread?

I hope I can sort it as I was so excited to get the mix finished!
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby The Elf » Tue May 04, 2021 10:27 am

Hippie162 wrote:Beats came with the laptop, it's "beats by Dre" and has Audio enhancement and EQ.
Spurn it as you would spurn a rabid dog. Switch it off and leave it off.

And as I said, remove *all* plug-ins, no matter what and no matter where they are. You need to start clean. Without that you are trying to roller skate in a hammock on a moving ship... in sunglasses.
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby Hippie162 » Tue May 04, 2021 10:39 am

Lol.. A rabid dog is indeed what I have heard it is!!

OK so I will try all of this as I have an inckling you are onto something regarding the gain on each track waveform after importing the previously mixed down versions..

How come an issue like this isn't made apparent while using the DAW though? :crazy:
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby The Elf » Tue May 04, 2021 10:58 am

Hippie162 wrote:How come an issue like this isn't made apparent while using the DAW though? :crazy:
I'm sure it will be - but maybe you haven't as yet learned to interpret what it is telling you.

Try some clean audio - not anything 'mixed', no matter where it came from; maybe a vocal and piano, for instance. I know Mike Senior has some multi-tracks you can import as a starting point.

The point here is to start with the simplest example you can - not something that is already questionable.

Try here: https://www.cambridge-mt.com/ms/mtk-newbies/.
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby manwilde » Tue May 04, 2021 11:00 am

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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby The Elf » Tue May 04, 2021 11:04 am

manwilde wrote:Here´s the link:
https://cambridge-mt.com/ms/mtk/
Thanks, mate! :thumbup:
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby manwilde » Tue May 04, 2021 11:48 am

The Elf wrote:
manwilde wrote:Here´s the link:
https://cambridge-mt.com/ms/mtk/
Thanks, mate! :thumbup:

That was easy, it´s my bookmark #2 (SOS is #1) :D
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue May 04, 2021 11:49 am

Hippie162 wrote:I can add an audio clip if you are brave enough! It will blow speakers it is so loud. I am not sure how to add audio to the thread?

The SOS forum can't host audio files.

Instead, you need to upload it to a service like SoundCloud, and then post a link to that location back here.

I'd suggest starting with your original mix file which sounds good in Cubase. Let's see if the file itself is okay (implying a problem with your other replay software/soundcard), or whether the export itself is causing problems.
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby Hippie162 » Tue May 04, 2021 12:19 pm

Ah Ok super.

I will do this this evening then and post the link to see what you guys think. I will make sure to put a warning about the sheer volume I am getting!

In the meantime I will try the suggestions and sort my gain staging etc...

I get the best way to learn is from mistakes!
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby Wonks » Tue May 04, 2021 12:20 pm

Note that your group tracks will also need to have their input gains adjusted so that the signal comes in at a reasonable level. If you are sending it ten signals at -10dBFS, then the mixed resulting incoming signal will be at 0dBFS.

And likewise for multiple group basses feeding the master bus, so the master bus input gain can also be adjusted. Cubase makes this easy by having such a function on each channel (though you have to enable its display to adjust it). In many other DAWs, you need to add a gain control module as the first insert on each channel to do so.

The internal structure of the DAW will happily cope with signals that are at higher levels, but you'll get issues with a) plug-ins that mimic analogue devices and start to clip or distort at a similar input level to the hardware they mimic and b) anything over 0dBFS will be truncated to 0dBFS when exporting the mix (and sound bad).
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Re: Mixdown Sounds Awful! Cubase Artist 9.5 - HELP ME PLEASE!

Postby Mike Shand » Tue May 04, 2021 12:36 pm

I have tested mixing down with the Stereo out fader right down so I can just hear it in Cubase - still the mixdown is ear popping loud?

This seems key. It looks like the mix down is output from something other than the main stereo bus. Perhaps something at a very high level?
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