Bad Sound - But what is it? My PC?

I’ve been playing guitar for 19+ years and I used to have Cubase 5 a long time ago and things sounded good. I had to quit home recording for a while (but sill practiced playing) to pursue my career. As of Jan 2021 I started getting serious about things again and bought a lot of new equipment. I’ve slowly and carefully spent a LOT of time dialing in each and every piece of equipment ( Real amps through Captor X, Mic’d up amps, Helix, Laney IRT studio, etc and everything sounds great until my guitar chain hits my DAW. Once I get my chain into Cubase 12 Pro the sound is crap. It sounds like everything is recorded in mono even when I make everything stereo. My highs gain tones sound thin, loss of bass, and crap highs. Clean tones sound much better but also suffer.

In my attempt to fix this issue I’ve tried 4 different interfaces! M-Audio (something :thinking:), Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Gen), Helix - setup as my interface, and now I’m using the Clarett+ 8pre. My chain sounds good direct monitoring to each of these but once I open Cubase and turn on Cubase direct monitoring in a track it sounds bad.

I was stumped by this and tried many other things but nothing fixed it.

So LAST NIGHT, I decided to experiment by opening STL Tonehub but this time the stand alone without running through Cubase and it sounds great! I thought what is going on, is the problem Cubase??

So I downloaded the lastest version of Presonus and did a test record and recorded one high gain STL ToneHub recording panned L and another R and it sounded great :blush:. It was thick, clear, highs good, and sounded like a legit stereo recording.

I typically make mix downs to listen to while driving to work. So I made a mix down of the recording in presonus and played it back on windows media player but the mono cap sound was back again!! Frustrated by this. :man_facepalming:t2:

So I decided to send that recording to 2 different places, first my phone so I could listen to it in my car and it actually sounded legit. Second I sent that mix down back in to Presonus and compared it to the original tracks and the audio was identical.

So… Somethings going on! I don’t wish to use Presonus because I have about $600 invested in Cubase. And whatever the issue is I just want it fixed.

I’m guessing it’s not the interface, not Cubase… so is it my PC or something running in the PC that is effecting my tones?

This is the Pc I bought about a year ago. It’s a gaming PC and read that Nvidia software could effect other music and media players. Could this be the problem?

Why do you turn on Direct Monitoring in Cubase? That doesn’t make sense in your situation, tbh, as you are recording external amps. If you enable direct monitoring in Cubase and also have direct monitoring on in your audio interface, you get a mix of those two signals which pase cancellations and whatnot, which will definetly sound bad.
So that would be the first thing I’d change. Stick with direct monitoring on your interface, unless you want to play through an amp sim plugin in Cubase, in that case, use Cubase direct monitoring and disable that from the interface.

I can assure you that the “bad sound” ist neither a problem of Cubase nor your interface nor your PC. Thousands of people work like that and it works. It is most likely some settings you have not considered or something you are not doing correctly.

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Take some screencaps of how, exactly, you are routing things in Cubase… oh, and also of the export mixdown dialog.

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Maybe I didn’t explain this well enough. I wasn’t saying that this was my recording method, I was just explaining that everything I try sounds bad. …Almost sounds good but suffers some kinda quality downgrade. Sometimes I do turn on Cubase monitoring to dial in an amp sim tone (guitar directly port 1 or 2 (instrument level) of my interface). If I record with the monitor on or off the result is still the same. It was just an example I was trying to make.

I can do that. What are you looking for exactly? Pics of the Clarett mixer and Cubase settings?

To eliminate Cubase I’d say anything that relates to the routing of the signal in Cubase. So the selected inputs and outputs in the mixer, as well as the inputs/outputs tabs in the connections window, and the control room tab if you are using control room. Also the groups tab if you’re using groups anywhere.

I don’t know anything about Clarett and its mixer so…

Oh, and the “export audio mixdown” dialog with settings…

Gotcha. I’ll try to get that to you by tonight. Thanks.

Are you familiar with the term phasing and how it sounds? If so - Is it that effect which you’re hearing?

If so, it could be that you’re doubling up a signal to your monitors or something - perhaps a loop back or something(?), Just reading your description phasing can make things sound mono and thin.

If it wasn’t for this occurring in media player you’d think Control Room was the culprit and there was some insert in there causing you issues, but the fact that it’s evident there suggests not.

Are you using ASIO driver in Cubase by the way? What you need to ascertain is what Cubase and Media player have in common, but Studio One doesn’t.

I’d also drag a commercial wav/mp3 file into each of those 3 applications and just play it and listen as a comparison - to rule out incoming issues.

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Yes I’m familiar with phase. And yes I do get phase issues, mostly in multitrack recordings. Of course phase happens but it’s more then ussual, it’s bad. No control room so I don’t think that’s the issue because I don’t use it atm. But a loop might be possible, I’ve thought of this also. Can’t see where it would be coming from though.

As far as the importing tracks go, they sound good. I also tried many of other peoples DIs imported into Cubase. A few month ago I tried to find the best quality DIs possible that had other peoples mix downs of those same DIs using the same amp sims and configs so I could compare. I used the same amp sims, IRs, and settings to reamp them and it doesn’t even sound close! Paid a bit of money $$$ on the experiments. They sound good as clean DIs but Horrible dirty. Turning down the gain doesn’t solve anything. Volume levels don’t solve anything. Compression, tape sat, eq, etc etc doesn’t make much difference.

I’ve spent prob 200+ hours on this in a 2 to 3 month period (not kidding) trying everything I could think of to make things sound right. It’s flawed right out of the gate.

Tried every sample rate possible. 196 sounds best but still sounds bad. And yes I made all sample rates and bit rates matches in all areas.

Again if I run a Amp Sim stand alone it sounds good, or at least a HUGE difference. :man_shrugging:

Probably also post a couple of audio samples…

Maybe we should clarify some things first:

It’s not a problem with the sample rate or the bit depth, that will not change the sound that much.
If your setup sounds good without the DAW, it must be possible to capture that with quality interfaces, as you tried already.
Cubase works on thousands systems, producing good quality recordings.
So I would say, the problem is not Cubase nor any audio interface.

So please, provide as much information about your signal flow as possible.
What is your monitoring chain? Do you use a mixing desk somewhere? Or a monitoring system?
And of course the screenshots, asked for, could be interesting.

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I’m gonna work on that for you.

I’ve eliminated everything for these experiments, so no mixer or anything. These days I’m just focused on my guitars direct in, so I can try to isolate the problem. So I’m plugging my guitar directly into input 1 or 2 on the front of my Clarett+ 8pre (The 2 instrument level inputs) I’m on instrument level in the Clarett mixer and my volume is good, not clipping. Peaks out with hard strums usually around -6dbs. But I’ve tried different leveling and that doesn’t help anything.
My guitars are top notch, 3 passive, 1 active
My cables are top notch
I don’t have any buzzing on the strings, everything is setup correctly. I do use a little a little foam and tape on my ESP to control buzzing but the other 3 are good.
I usually run a 48 sample rate at 24 bit and 1024 Buffer.

So playback from Cubase is fine? and your dry/direct monitor signal is fine?

Is it possible you have inserts on your ‘audio in’ mixer channels and it’s saved as a template when you load so keeps engaged? Open up the mixer (F3) and check the input channels - they normally sit to the far left.

Any processing you have here will go into every recording.

Also, one other thing to check, you’re not sending two same mono signals as a stereo in or anything? (Ignore that, just seen your reply above).

Man this must be sending you crazy!!! :slight_smile:

I ran home from work just to snap a few pics.
I didn’t have time to do a sample recording I’ll do that later. But here are some pics of my current settings.

Windows sound has no effect if you use ASIO exclusive. Clarett mixer could help.

How do you listen to the signals?

You have externally clocked enabled on your audio interface, is that deliberate?

If you get a chance take a shot of the Focusrite USB ASIO settings (Red arrow). In there is the externally clock option too.

If you didn’t mean to have that enabled, disable it and try - that way Cubase is the master, and should be your default setting.