Audio Mixdown - poor WAV quality


This is probably a much discussed topic in the forum but I could not find a solution. Any help is much appreciated.

Here is my problem…
After spending a lot of time in recording, editing and mixing, I get a decent outcome in the monitor / headphone when I play all tracks in the Cubase. But when I play the WAV file, after doing Export -> Audio Mixdown in WAV, the quality is real bad. It sounds muddy, effects are cloudy and volume is way down.
Now my questions are …

  1. Is there a solution within Cubase to overcome this ?
  2. Without mastering by a Mastering Program like Wavelab etc. what can be done ?
  3. If Mastering is the only solution by using a Mastering software - what is the best cheap program to get CD like quality ?

Thank you.

The answer to questions 1+2 is: Learn how to use your gear and learn how to mix.
If your mixdowns sound different (via the same gear) then you´re certainly doing something wrong. Either in the mix, or during the export.
The answer to question 3 is: Mastering is not the solution to your problem…

"The answer to questions 1+2 is: Learn how to use your gear and learn how to mix."
Can you please elaborate what specific skill I need to learn. I have gone through ASK Video to learn the Cubase program. I do not use any external hardware EQ, Compressor etc. When new tracks I created I mostly have used presets. For example vocal tracks came up with Compressor, EQ, Mono to Stereo etc. presets INSERTS. During Mixing I created some FX channel where I used Reverbs, Delay etc. for the Vocal tracks for example.
Appreciate if you can indicate what I am missing here.

"If your mixdowns sound different (via the same gear) then you´re certainly doing something wrong. Either in the mix, or during the export."
No different gears have been used. I recorded 44.1Khz and 24 bit and exported in 44.1 Khz, 16 bit in the Export Audio Mixdown menu. Anythin I am missing here ?

The answer to question 3 is: Mastering is not the solution to your problem…

What are you using to play the mix back on? WMP?

Have you tried playing it back in cubase?

Hi ,dont forget to dither if you change the bit rate from 24 to 16.

Yes, playing back in Cubase is absolutely fine.

I had similar problems when I first got started years ago. Here is a couple of things to look at:

  1. When you do a mixdown, check that your output is 24 bit and not 32 bit float. Even if you go to master the 24 bit file, your are fine.

  2. Try just one track of your mix: guitar, keys or vocals, etc. See what that alone sounds like. Then output 2 tracks. Listen for the response and they should be identical.

  3. Some EQs can weak havoc on mixes. I had a freeware EQ plug in that sounded excellent within cubase, During mixdown, something happen that created a fuzziness to the sound. Anyway, now I only use plugins I purchase. Freeware is, well you get the picture.

Let me know how you make out. Also, if this does not help, then maybe you can email me your audio tracks, cubase file name and I will do a mix on them with the tools I have (mostly UAD).


So if the mixed file plays back fine in Cubase and rubbish on something else (on the same computer) it would indicate that the other playback software has some settings that are corrupting the playback.

Thank you Rick.
Let me try these options and I will get back to you soon.
Appreciate your time.

Like said - remember to dither! Even if you have recorded 32 bit audio you must dither.

And again - if exported file sounds nice in cubase problem lies elsewhere.


I figured out how to use the gears… Now I am using Multiband Compressor, EQ and Limiter in the Stereo Out Master Fader and getting nice out put after mix down in 24bit. But could not find the dither. Where should I look for dither ?

Also would like to give more bass to the overall mix. Do you know what should I use ? I am not using any third party VST plug-ins.

Thanks Rick… I figured out how to do this… Do you know how to give more bass to the overall mix ? Appreciate your help.

Sounds like you may need to acoustically treat your mixing room if you having issues hearing bass.

In terms of adding overall bass, it could be as simple as EQ. You might use a buss compressor or multiband compressor to push down the mid bass area slightly. This can help accenuate the lower frequencies. On the other hand, between your actuall bass tracks (bass, synth bass, kick drum, etc), you might want to individually isolate these to see what each one could give you. More punch would be in the 30 to 42 hz range. For example a 22 inch kick drum that was mic’d properly can yeild that. I use a Beta 52 inside of my kick drum and it always yeilds a nice sound.

I also use the UAD Precision HZ Enhancer to sometimes add upper mid bass where there is none. I sometimes notch a specific frequency to obtain just the right sound. It is a lot of trial and error, but stick with it and you can get it.

Have you tried using the “Real Time Export” mode when you mixport to .WAV?

Sometimes when you export, some of the plugins crap out and can often lead to an overall muddying of the mix.

You might hate some of my answers (because I have asked similar questions to yours over the years)
but some of this may work for you, in which case it’s an easy fix.

  1. If you’re working in 24- or 32-bit (or whatever Cubase is up to now) and then rendering out your song to a
    lower bit rate, make sure in the ‘export mixdown’ window you have DITHER turned ON.
    If you were working with all 24- or 32-bit, and you export to a lower bit rate without Dithering, it might
    sound like crap no matter what software you’re using, that’s just how it is.

  2. Cubase loves bass, meaning: Cubase will retain each track’s FAT bottom end if you don’t EQ it out. So Shelf out
    all bottom end from all tracks that aren’t bass instruments.

  3. Use a good mastering effects chain on your master channel, or don’t use ANY AT ALL.
    I export mixdowns without mastering effects and usually find that Cubase sounds extremely good.

  4. Somebody ^up there^ in this thread said something like “refine your mixing skills”. Do that.

  5. Do you know your human ears actually get fatigued very quickly? If you work on a song for an hour, you are listening more intently than you listen to probably anything else, and no matter who you are or what your age is, your ears WILL get “padded” to certain freqs and your perception of the volumes of individual instruments will get fouled up. So…
    A. When you’re blending your tracks, put the master fader very LOW (-12 or even less). You can even lower every instruments channel down as well.
    I’ve always said (18 years of using Cubase) "I keep trying other DAW’s and I swear that Cubase makes anything sound good. That includes its tolerance of cranking things up too loud and still sounding good.
    Lower each track down, lower your master fader when you mix.
    Mix it…raise up the master a little bit…mix it more…raise it up more…repeat.

  6. BEWARE MASTERING WHEN YOU HAVE REVERB on everything. If you like mud, render audio files with reverb on them, then put mastering effects on your mix, you will get your mud.
    example: a vocal track. you might put reverb on the vocals so they sound big, then later on compress that track, and then compress the mix, and it’ll sound bad. get levels correct before putting REVERB on anything.

I don’t know, I just realized I could go on forever with all this and I’ve been doing it for a pretty long time and I have posted some flaming horrors in the Cubase forum (which is gone now) over the years.
I’ve heard it accurately described like this: “Your first 5 songs will sound like garbage”.

Mixing (unlike composition) does have “rights and wrongs”, which is actually why I prefer writing and hate mixing.
Realize that Cubase is a professional DAW that looks and feels like a big beautiful toy so it’s easy to get tempted by it all and go creatively wacky (which is a great thing), unless you’re in the Mixing phase of your song, in which case you want to do certain things correctly rather than outlandishly.

Hit YouTube, buy books, and get some pointers.

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:laughing: :laughing: :laughing: :mrgreen:

In fact the problem is known, I have few friends who had to switch to Pro-Tools just because of this problem. What happens is that what you hear when you mix a song is not what you are gonna get when you do the mixdown. Your mix might be crap, but what you hear when you mix should be definitely 100% exactly what you’ll hear when you bounce it to an audio file. I use Cubase 5 and unfortunately it is not the case: it all sounds brilliant in the mix, then you mix it down and it sounds crap: it sort of dumps the low-mids , so whatever you mix - it’s all in vain bc the EQ you’d done before would be gone.
Even if you export audio stems from Cubase -> the EQ become like that of the mixdown.
NB: I tried Ableton and Pro-Tools and they seem to be ok: mixdown sounds the way it should be: the same as the mix.

The workaround which works for me is the software called Virtual Audio Cable. It’s free and you can connect the output of any software to the input of any software. So I fired up this program, chose it as a main output for Cubase and main input for an audio recorder program (I use Cool Edit Pro) -> and , hey, it works.
I am not sure Steinberg has resolved this problem uin the newer Cubase versions.
Later I will post the 2 mixdowns, so you can compare it yourself.