Difference between exporting Stereo Out AIF vs. Adobe Audition

So I export the final version of a project, using Stereo Out (24 bit, 48K for film scoring) to AIF. When I import the exported file in Adobe Audition before shipping it to the client (to triple check levels are good, etc.) it sounds different. Not huge, but since it’s the AIF I’m shipping, I regularly have to go back into Cubase to adjust levels to get what I hear in Audition to match what I thought I had set in Cubase. Why could this be?

You never said what the actual difference was.

The balance is different. I’m having trouble identifying the pattern. Sometimes the bass seems louder, or a particular instrument pokes out of the mix in the AIF that doesn’t when I replay the Cubase.

Do you have any plugins im Cubase’s control room that might affect the sound?
Theoretically it might be that a plugin behaves differently on render than in realtime, but I think it’s unlikely.
Same audio interface and driver in Audition?

And no plugins in Adobe Audition?

Yes, same audio hardware and driver.

No plugins in Audition. I use Audition for all sorts of things, but in this use case I’m just double checking my final AIF.

Not using control room.

Hmm, decided to double check about the driver, and Lo! I had ASIO for Cubase but MME for Audition after all. (?!?) Now they’re both set to ASIO. Could MME really color audio like that? I guess we’ll see! (I’ll report back.)

Another test might be to import the fully mixed audio back into Cubase into an otherwise empty project and see how that compares.

And maybe also into a 3rd piece of software like the free VLC media player and compare again.

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This sounds very curious. The few times I’ve heard users claim that a mixdown from Cubase doesn’t sound right, for various reasons, it has always been a forgotten plugin in Control Room or a setting in the 2nd playback or something of that vain.
If I encountered something like this I would promptly perform a number of tests for verification.
As @Nico5 mentioned, listening through a few other playback apps is a good start. I would also try and render a number of other projects for testing as well as a super simple project built in Cubase when started in safe mode with preferences disabled. I would also try and export in other formats, such as .wav, to see if they behave the same.
It might be time consuming but I see no way around it.

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It could also just be that maybe the playback levels are a bit different, and that leads to different sound impressions.

The fact that I unwittingly had Audition using the MME driver but Cubase to ASIO seems to have been the problem. I’ve done a dozen mixdowns since posting this, and no more problems (like I described in this thread).

I’m really surprised – I would have thought that PCM is PCM – maybe MME isn’t somehow? Add it to the huge pile of inscrutable Life Mysteries!

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Windows has the ability to change the sound via sound settings. This screen capture is just a sample I grabbed from the web, so yours may look different.

Screen Shot 2023-07-24 at 19.07.58

It may be worthwhile checking if there’s anything enabled there, that could modify the output?