New user questions/frustrations.


I hope I don’t go into overflow with too many questions, but I doubt that will happen! I’m new to Cubase (I have Elements 6). My equipment is VERY modest: CI 1 USB interface for my guitar, Cubase Elements 6, Izotope Ozone 5 and Samson Studio GT monitors. Like I said… VERY modest.

I’m finding it difficult to get a good sound on other speakers after I “master” a track/export it to a WAV. I can generally make the song sound decent/not too bad when it’s up and running in Cubase through my monitors, backtracks, live guitar, etc… but when I listen to the WAV on other speakers, it sounds awful!

I guess the answer would be to take an audio engineering program, but I’m a musician, not an audio engineer (yet). Is it my equipment? I know it’s low end stuff, but it must be possible to get a somewhat decent master from this stuff?

I also don’t get the point of editing the waveforms? If a recording is bad, then the waveform can’t be fixed (?) If a recording is good, then why edit the waveforms in Cubase/Wavelab, etc? I’ve noticed on professional WAVs that the waveforms are very pretty and balanced looking. Is it possible for an amateur to get anywhere close to that? Where would I begin learning how to do this? I suppose I need $1000s of dollars of equipment to do that… ?

Thanks a lot for any direction at all/books to read, etc…


EDIT: My PC is a Windows 7 box, AMD 3.0Ghz Quad Core Black Edition, 8Gigs RAM and a solid state drive. It’s not too bad. Near brand new.

You don’t need £1000’s of gear but 1000’s of hours of experience.

I’ll attempt an answer, but it’s not the software you’re using. You may need to become more of an engineer though… Your gear does look all right at first glance, but it’s never one speaker system that gets you the result you want.

If you don’t like the sound of your song on other speakers, that’s a good pointer for improvement: does it sound harsh on those? Muffled? Too much low end? Exaggerated mid tones? That’s where your Samsons are probably lacking. When I started out, I only had Yamaha’s NS10s, and as a consequence I was mixing too much bottom end in - until I taught myself to compensate. Still, the real improvement was a good full range speaker system (and don’t forget the acoustics of your room!). And now I also have an extra ‘low quality’ set (Avantones): go figure… Try to listen ‘technically’ on any ‘system’, even if it’s your car stereo or crappy headphones - and compare to professional music you know well. Get experienced that way, and then maybe improve some of your gear.

A great site to start out learning about mastering is Bob Katz’s Digital Domain site, as is also his book ‘Mastering Audio’. Both also cover the pretty looking wavs :sunglasses: BTW, also check out the Media>Articles & Demos part.

Gotcha, thanks for that! Makes total sense. I am just starting out.

@ Arjan P

Thanks to you as well. I didn’t think about listening to the tracks on all different kinds of speakers. My inexpensive monitors don’t sound bad at all (I can only imagine what REAL monitors must sound like… or more expensive ones, I guess). I can’t upgrade anything now, I just bought all of this stuff, but it’s a good opportunity to try and gain experience with what I have.

I do have one final question (for now). It’s about balancing electric guitar input into Cubase. I have an input gain on my CI 1 plus a master volume, input/gain/master volumes in Cubase and input/gain/master volumes on my monitors (plus the volume/tone on the actual guitar). I guess it’s just experience alone that can teach the proper levels between all of these inputs/outputs/volume controls?

Thanks again for both of your responses!


Make sure to get the most out of your analog signal. Guitar volume (on the instrument) should be set for taste since that also affects the sound. But on the interface, set the analog input a little below maximum, when playing the loudest peaks. No clipping here! Then - important - record at 24 bits, nothing less. After recording into Cubase, there’s a lot to say about levels, but these are the most important steps for a healthy signal level.

Thank you very much! I noticed that I was 16 bits on recording and I changed it to 24 bits.

I am obviously going to have to buy some books and/or take an audio production class. I will also try listening to my “masters” on every device I can… I guess I should be calling them my “amateurs”, LMAO. :smiley:

Thanks again!

Presumably where you play your masters is car sereo or domestic hifi, Player headphones etc.
Also I guess that other music sounds OK on those, otherwise you wouldn’t kow to compare your own stuff.
So start by playing a lot of the material you have in your collection that is in your style area and play them through the speakers you are using as monitors. Do they sound bad? Just “different” but good another way?
Take them back and forth periodically and do this over a week or so until your ears tune to your monitors and either get used to compensating in the mix or, if possible, recalibrating your monitors so that your reference material sounds similar on all types of speaker setups.
You should end up with a working reference point.
Habitually new engineers tend to pile too much bass end and FX on tracks. If you do take a class you will be surprised at how little experienced engineers move the eq and level controls.
Like a painter, don’t be afraid of the colours but be sparing with the paint.

while you are recording a song have a couple reference tracks preferably in the style and better still in the same key as the song you are recording and keep matching your song to the reference track ,listen how loud the snare is ,the bass etc , listen to the tone of your instruments alongside the reference tracks ,do this regular because the ears do very quickly become accustomed to crap sounds .it`s also good if you can isolate an idividual instrument on a reference track and analize the sound with a spectrum analyzer and try match your sound to it . also where you do your recordings try and wire up some regular run of the mill speakers from you amp and maybe try wiring up a good old faithfull getto blaster ,you can generally tell on them if the bass is too loud . try avoid doing final mixes with headphones just use them for recording maybe and imaging a stereo mix. the amp you use also try use one with a flat response , and finaly a couple of good books and

If someone handed you a piano would you be frustrated because you couldn’t play a concerto or even an Elton tune? What if they sat you a nice hall with a cello, violin, viola, trumpet, and flute? Would expect to walk in and play an orchestral arrangement track by track?

You’re doing the job of likely 10 trained experienced professionals. From tracking engineers to producer to mix engineer to mastering engineer.

Stop playing music. Dedicate a decade of your life to learning the art and tech of engineering. Or accept “demo quality” recordings. Nothing wrong with that. It’s what home studios are for. Your demos will get better…slowly…over the years.

Thank you all for your responses. I will meditate on your words. I am completely new to audio engineering. I will use a reference track and see where that takes me.

@ popmann

I appreciate your sobering comments. I am a musician after all, not an engineer. 17 years on the guitar has insured my playing and writing ability, but alas I have never attempted any “real” recording, demos or otherwise until now. Indeed, I have much to learn. If I can pull off a decent demo in the future, I will be satisfied. Demo quality works for me! LOL! To be honest, I’m not trying to be an engineer of any kind.

I am using Cubase mostly as a “one man band” scenario for now: writing bass and drums as backup for my guitar, etc to perhaps see if I can attract a band again, to show that I can write music.

Thanks again to all! I’m sure I’ll have more questions as time goes on. :open_mouth:

You should be able to get to demo quality pretty quickly with faux drums. Probabaly DI bass? Played like a guitar player… :wink:

Mix translation is a combination of experience, monitor chain, and the room you’re listening in. And mixing and mastering are what engineers “graduate into”. I really wouldn’t worry about it. How bad does it translate? If its always a certain aspect, you can work around it.

Ex: low end issues are typical of bad monitoring…

Advice? KISS. You’re recording bass, sampled drums…and Egtr (with an amp or modeller?)…anyway, the two should be a no brainer. EZDrummer, and the like just sound done and like a record. Stay away from the more realistic instruments like BFD–they require you to know how to mix real sounding drums. when you go to mix, get the drums and bass sounding good…and then bring in the guitars with the “rule” that you’re not allowed to touch the bass and drums anymore. So they are your foundation you build on–and drum machine+bassDI is hard to mess up. Just don’t get fancy. Just because you have 9000 tools in the drop down doesn’t mean you need them. Don’t compress and EQ and slather FX…one reverb. High pass filters only for EQ. No automation. Get everything panned and balanced…“save as” Project-Hour1.cpr. Then expand from there…and always keep that file as the baseline.

Advice2…don’t look at it more than you can help. For a demo, the only editing that should need to be done is midi…and doing big block edits like “cut the verse and paste it after the solo cause I want to write a third verse”…or…“what if I change the key” (likely only valid if working with a singer). Who cares what the waveform looks like? Let me just say, you shouldn’t.

Advice 3–you’re not mastering. It’s worthy to spend a few minutes learning how to properly peak normalize and dither your mix to burn to CD. Otherwise, “translation” will always be off, because the volume will be horribly low. Steps:

Export audio mix down selecting 32bit, into pool and audio track
Now you have a new audio track of your mix
Select audio of the track and “audio>process>normalize”
Set normalize to -.04dbfs
Insert plug in ON SLOT 7 of the (new) channel UV22hr
Set it to 16/high/autoblack
Export audio mix down again, this time NOT into the pool/track…and to 16bit/44.1
THAT file is the one you make an audio CD out of.

That will get you a full scale redbook audio file of the mix you’re listening to…there are ways to export it from the first export, but they involve maximizing plugs ins that, by functional design, do alter what you’re hearing. The above with get what you’re listening to to full scale 16bit for CD losing as little as possible.

I don’t know whether to envy or pity someone learning now. While there’s no doubt you have exponential power to manipulate audio that I had learning (tape…midi sync…actual desks and patch bays)…everything being virtual, makes it harder to learn signal flow–since there’s fewer and fewer actual wires for it to flow and you to touch. I remember people complaining about learning the signal flow of the mixing console because it was inside the board…they had to know it in theory…now, it’s like everything’s “inside the box”…but, you still need to know signal flow.

Alright…sorry for being “sobering”…good luck. Demo quality isn’t hard with what you’re doing…you’ll get it soon enough. DO listen critically to music you like. You will need to be paying attention to the sound rather than the music…the balances…the panning…what’s bright…and not…I admittedly get a little reactionary to the concept of “I bought a virtualized recording studio software…where’s the preset for ‘make it sound like a record’?”

Oh, and just select mp3 instead of wav during the second export above if you’re making that instead of a disc.

Everything is relative, and though to an extent I agree with the ‘sobering’ comments of popmann, there are just as well examples of commercially successful albums that were created by ‘bedroom’ one-man-does-it-all musicians. Listen for instance to James Blake’s debut album: Mercury Prize 2011, and produced, recorded, played and mixed by himself (OK, no longer in his bedroom probably). Bottom line: don’t accept ‘demo’ quality if you still hear room for improvement you can achieve by yourself. But there is a lot to learn indeed.

^^ All you will ever need for the next 5 years!

Though this: can be quite helpful too.

i actualy prefer david gibsons book “a visual guide to recording”

everybody and is dog has a daw and editing capabilities beyond anybodys wildest dreams nowadays ,sounds just arent believable anymore .in this case the trend will go the other way .live recordings filmed and performed acoustically ,done directly onto tape or whatever, done with a couple of mics.that will sort the men from the boys.

@ popmann

Wow, thanks a lot for the instruction on your last post. I accept your apology for being “sobering”! I was kind of crushed after your first post, LOL… although there is much truth to be had from that post. I never thought of myself as doing the job of x-amount of professional sound engineers in my apartment.

I appreciate once again everybody’s input. This is a fantastic community. :smiley:

I never thought about what it must have been like once upon a time when when the signal flow could be physically followed… that sounds AWESOME! It most certainly is abstracted from us now through our DAWs. I used to be a software engineer so abstracting the flow of anything in a computer does come to me easily. If that just lends even a drop of help with this audio maze I’m in, I will be grateful.

I will read and re-read everybody’s posts! Thanks again to all!

Mmh, unfortunately it sometimes also HAD to be physically followed… Not so awesome :laughing:

I guess that doesn’t sound as interesting as it did when I first thought about it!


Thanks for the steps you provided to bring tracks together into CD format! After I did that I noticed that the tempo/length of the song has become warped or distorted. Do you know how I managed to do that? :confused:

EDIT: The master track that I imported into the pool is playing quicker (and seemingly at a higher pitch, but that could be a perception mistake due to the faster play tempo?)

It’s length is shorter than the original tracks used to create it.

EDIT 2: I think I figured it out. I was (for some reason) recording in 48kHz so when I mixed it down to 44.1kHz Cubase asked if I wanted to upscale it back to 48kHz and I said no… so it stretched it? I think that was what I did.

Start by learning about samplerates and (mis-) matching samplerates…