Mixdown sounds awful! Help!

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).


Might be worth checking your gain staging - you could beoverloading your plugins without realising which can cause strange effects even if you don’t see the clipping on the meters…

I will check this. I mixed down each individual track from the original project initially and then imported them onto separate tracks in a fresh project. Could I have messed up here by not adjusting the gain on the waveform for each track after importing prior to mixing? How come this wouldn’t be made apparent while listening back in Cubase?

Then my guess would be that the programs you are using to play back your mix apply (openly or secretely) some kind of effect

If the individual tracks are too hot then when you bounce down to a stereo mix it will cause clipping and can’t be fixed with compression etc. Best thing to do it check the levels of the tracks. As a rule of thumb I normally set the pre-gain control in the EQ on all tracks to -20db and have all the faders (initially) at unity and mix from there. This normally gives plugins plenty of room to breathe and also keeps the resolution high on the faders. The stereo mix will also have plenty of headroom for any limitng/compression you might want to add to your mater bus. The internal engine can deal with 32bit/64bit precission so issues can appear at mixdown when working in 16/24bt.

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Thank you :slight_smile: I had overlooked pre-gain entirely on the whole track! Like I said it’s been 15 years lol. I am going to try and sort all my gain staging and plug in gains this evening and will update you if this solves / doesn’t solve the issue!

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Morning all,

Having done gain staging and a few rough test mix downs last night with the raw audio, the result was the same (just at a lower volume).

On further investigations, which was bringing the mixdown into work to test on a different PC… the playback was fine! I have sent to a few forum friends via soundcloud and their playback was fine too. So this is definite playback software / audio driver or something or other issue … I am not sure how to fix it.

UPDATE: For anyone experiencing this issue who has BeatsAudio installed.

The culprit is BeatsAudio itself. The application causes volume fluctuations and dampening / EQ fluctuations within playback apps / streaming services.

I have today purchased an external audio interface and will then uninstall the Beats audio driver to get things clean again.

If you need specific instructions just google the issue with beats… hundreds of people experiencing the same thing so lots of helpful instructions.

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