Question about levels after Export Audio Mixdown


I’ll try to keep this simple if a bit redundant.


Create an audio track by sending signal from the Test Generator placed on a Group Buss and recording that to the Audio Track – typical Tone.

I used 440 Hz at -12 dB per the TG, sine wave.

The Track records and nulls perfectly in Cubase. The meters read correctly, there’s a small overage in level, but it looks generally right.


Export that track (24 Bit 48K Wave file, no processing) and check playback outside of Cubase using the standard Windows Media Player.

STEP Three:

Import the file created on Export and compare. They two files are identical. They null perfectly against each other and sound exactly the same and read exactly the same on the Meters.

What I’m not getting is this. Why is playback level lower (SPL) in Media Player lower as compared to the same audio being played back in Cubase?

Cubase is either something like +18 or even more hotter than the Exported File played by Media Player? Or asked the other way, why is Media Player something like the same amount lower in volume than what Cubase plays back in normal operation?

This is not an case of odd attenuation caused by a system malfunction as far as I can tell. Other inputs play back fine and sound clean.

When I playback in Cubase my interface’s volume is set at its known mark (approximately 2 P.M. on the rotary control, approx 83 db SPL) and that’s good, but, when the mix is exported, playback level outside of Cubase, in Media Player for example, requires that I greatly increase the Audio Interface’s volume control to come close to matching the volume level of what Cubase generates.

Creaking the volume of the interface makes most other programs (streams, CDs) playback much too loudly and it introduces some distortion.

The Media Player’s outputs are set to its factory default of -10.5 dB (dBWKW, who knows what, MS won’t say or I can’t find their spec. on this). As I mentioned, playback of all other streams or inputs at this level is fine. The interface is set to its default loudness mark and things sound right.

To be redundant, playback of streams, CDs works fine with the default Media Player levels, but the Cubase Exported Audio Mix output comes back much lower in volume.

Why is that? I feel I’m missing the boat on something here with regard to Cubase’s signal flow maybe. I don’t know… Confused… :confused:

The export sounds exactly like what was created, but the volume level is low. I can make it any audio file louder or apparently louder…so I’m not asking how to make said file louder.

Why is there a shift in level between what’s inside Cubase and what we hear using a playback device outside of Cubase to play the Exported mixdown?

Screen shots of the set-up used to generate the test tone files and project.

Thanks for reading and for any help on this. Sorry if the post is overly long. tried to keep it clear and brief.

Best to you,


I’m a bit confused actually. If your Media Player is set to -10.5dB and if Cubase is sending signals straight out without boosting (same with Scarlett - no boosting) then you should expect whatever you export out of Cubase to sound -10.5dB lower in that Media player.

Of course if you play back a CD and have the Media Player at -10.5dB then I can absolutely believe level is fine, but CDs are also a good amount louder than a sine wave, no?

If there’s an inherent difference in playback level between Cubase and Media Player (apart from the -10.5dB) then why not try the opposite: Import a CD into Cubase and take a listen. If the CD is really loud then try dropping the level in Cubase by 10.5dB and see if it’s then fine and matches Media Player. If it does then those 10.5dB is the problem.

PS: I’m assuming there is no boost in the Control Room section and that you’re not doubling up on outputs (i.e. routing both mixer outputs and control room outputs to the same destination).

Let me consider what you’ve said here do more work on this.

Signal out of Control Room is clean and flat – not boosts, inserts, processing. To be safe, I’ll work on this with CR disabled.

Per normal, the Scarlett receives audio via USB and sends to the powered Rokits or the B speakers. That part I think I have pretty well under control.
I have my loudness mark on the Scarlett and my loudness meter says I’m hitting the known dB SPL level. I’m even slowly improving at mixing at lower levels.

I have imported CDs, loops and samples from professional vendors, but I think there’s something here I’m still not grocking (you know that word, I’m sure).

I’ll do imports of real material and not just a simple sine wave and check this all again.

Thanks for the comments. I’m still a bit confused, but I think I know where to look. The problem is, I think, not with the equipment or the program, but mostly likely with the part between the keyboard and the computer.

Thanks for the comments. I’ll get back to the thread with an update after doing some more work. Greatly appreciate you taking the time to post.

“grock”… lol…


Great word, even if Heinlein was a bit wacky. :slight_smile:

It’s the 10.5 dB loss when I playback in Media Player that is my problem. I don’t understand something about this. I’m not even sure what I don’t understand, honestly. I want Unity Gain Exports. Does that make sense? In other words, I want to be able to export and somehow take into a account the Media Player 10.5 dB drop and yet not kill the Mix Buss with limiting and thus the file. I want the playback to sound exactly like the export.

I feel like I should know how this works, but honestly, I’m stumbling on something here.

I’m not asking that my Export sound like a high-end Finished Master from a real mastering facility. Thing is, if they sounded exactly as they do when I playback in Cubase, I’d be very pleased. I’m not getting a fair representation of the material as it is, again, setting aside the fact that another facility and engineer could no doubt improve on whatever I Export. I just want to hear what it is, is. :slight_smile:

I turned off CR to make sure nothing was being doubled. That was fine. There were no doubled signals or processing of any kind. I have some questions on best uses for CR inserts or good ideas for them, but that for another post.

We spoke about this in another post. That was helpful but I see I’m still not dialed in on getting exports right.

BTW, the forum is packed with similar posts. Horrible looking URL, but it’s just a google site search for posts on similar topics, “low level exports.”

I read and skimmed over many of them. The problems are various. I found some good information and checked some things mentioned. Kudos to forum.

I playback using the Scarlett and don’t use any “sound cards” for playback. My ASIO drivers are up to date, windows system sounds are off. I use the Zoom too but for simplicity sake assume the Scarlett. I get the same results with both.

I hope I get this right. it feels like it should be easy. I don’t expect “polished finished beautiful masters” I just want to hear what I’m hearing. What goes out is what comes back.

Thanks :slight_smile:

Well, first things first; if you have things set up the way you say you have then I see absolutely no reason at all why your version of Cubase would function any differently from my version of Nuendo, and I would then further conclude that there’s no problem with your exports in Cubase… because if you think about it, IF there was an issue like you imply then any one of us delivering to loudness specs for TV would get QC fails. Like, all the time.

So that just can’t be the case really. Either you set up your export incorrectly, or whatever difference exists exists after the export.

Normally - as far as I can see - music mastered to ‘full loudness’ (i.e. CD and streaming) is very loud. Also normally, composers and hobbyists have a difficult time achieving the same loudness or don’t even try (which is fine). So I can absolutely see a large difference between a CD-level commercial mix/master and a production in a DAW.

Because of this difference you have to make a decision:

  1. Boost the signal the DAW outputs or exported mix, or
  2. Lower the playback level of the commercial tracks…

It seems you did the latter. And that explains the difference.

I don’t see anything odd here. It’s inconvenient, but it is what it is.

Mattias, thanks so much. Very helpful

I will re-check my set-up and see if I’m missing something or doing something wrong. I don’t think I am, but another look is certainly a good idea.

I trust our DAW systems. I hear great sounding material made with Cubase, Neuendo, Pro Tools, and so on. I have faith this technology does work and faith that if others are doing it I can certainly get closer.

The other threads I referenced are packed with good and perhaps some not so good information. From your posts here and some of the better contributions in the other threads I feel less lost. I’ll keep pecking at the shell until the egg tooth does its job. I will work though this “inconvenience” as have so many other DAW users. I’m certainly not alone in this.

Getting it down to those two conditions above is very helpful. I’ll work with that carefully.

I feel clearer about what I’m working with. So, as you say, “inconvenient,” but that’s how the system operates: deal with it. I can live with that. We have tools for it. I need to learn to use them better to deal with the system as it is. I think that’s the short story for me on this. :slight_smile:

Nay the Farce Be With You! :slight_smile:

P.S. to above post.

I think I’m getting it, -10.5 is my Media Player mark for “line up,” then we’re allowed peaks up to 0.0 dB and anything over 0.0 clips.

With very basic post fader limiting alone I was easily able take basic DAW output to nearly exact spec. on the damn Media Player meter. Setting aside good mixing and mastering, in terms of basic output level, it’s similar to video where we line-up (bars and tone) to -20 and never peak over -1.0dB, sometimes we use the limiter. I know enough to be dangerous and to get the job done, usually at the same time. :slight_smile: heh (kidding)

BTW, yes, so much program and music is way, way too loud. I like Classical and Jazz because of wide dynamic range. Loud is impressive, but if everything is loud the music can become gray.

Take are :slight_smile:

I’ve liked Classical and Jazz music all of my life because of their nature. Not just because they offer a wide dynamic range. :slight_smile: It’s not just the ‘level’ that provides ‘dynamic range’ in music? It’s the overall quality of some music that let’s you forget all this? I remember as a teenager I could really enjoy Prokofiev’s and Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto’s and symphonies over a Hi-Fi system playing very loud. But I could equally enjoy those compositions playing it on a portable radio/cassette player while on holiday! This is the essence of great music IMO! It still project itself in our minds as if every detail is still there. Even tho we’re listening to a device that is only capable of reproducing frequencies between 200hz-10khz or so?

Today’s music, especially EDM, can only exist at excessive volume levels. I don’t expect anyone returning from holiday saying. "I brought my mobile mini speakers and I had a blast listening to this on my holiday?

So be it! I’m sure the youngsters enjoy their music just as much as we all did? But what I really hate about today’s music is the extreme ‘side chaining’! A lot of producers seem to think you should ‘duck’ ‘extremely’ on every beat? This just drives me really crazy! Especially at these extreme levels it feels like someone is putting drain cleaners to your ears? Oh well, must be getting old? :slight_smile:

Sure, but the topic of the post is about dynamics and the level of the exported audio mixdown. However, this being the Lounge I don’t mind if the topic strays from the original. :slight_smile:

I agree about the EDM loud-all-the-time, excessively side-chained and pumping music. That kind of material quickly becomes gray for me. But, that’s the nature of that genre. I sometimes enjoy forms of loud music, Punk, H.C, mostly. If I see those live I use hearing protection. At home I turn it down and still enjoy it.

I put it this way: Music is a temporal art form that finds its expression through the use of sound and silence. If we accept that the four fundamental properties of music are – pitch, timbre, duration and dynamics – then poor old dynamics is getting the short shrift these days. The damn loudness wars have harmed music itself, I think.

Dynamics is also one of the issues I and many if not all DAWs users who experience low-level output on their exports must learn to negotiate. In a previous post in this thread I link to similar topics in the forum. So, I keep pecking away at it and gradually learning techniques and concepts.

Thanks for your thoughts. :slight_smile:


I still don’t get this. I like what I’m hearing in the mix, but when I Export there’s a considerable drop in level.

This is not a “new” problem for me but was something I thought would naturally resolve as I developed skills with the DAW. I can say that the quality of my output has improved a great deal. I’ve worked hard to get to a better place with DAW operation – still have loads to do and that takes time. I’ve never complained about the learning process.

What I’ve tired that hasn’t worked:

Import and export: Audio Statistics say my files are fine. But, the level is hot and nice in Cubase, like a want it, then low and not what I want upon Export.

I don’t know what to look at. If I peg the system with post-fader limiting it sounds like crap, of course. I’m missing something but dang if I can figure out what.

Nothing I’ve tired works. The project sounds “ok” “fine” inside Cubase, the exported mix drops in level. It’s like there’s a pad in the chain that knocks down the output to around -10.5 dB. Almost like my export output is hitting a mixer input that has a Pad in place on whatever is accepting the import. Bill Gates is in every copy of Windows and he’s out to ruin my mix!

If I flat-line the system I can make everything hit the what Windows reports as -10.5 dB, average and peak levels. Peaks should be much closer to Zero and the Average level should be at least 60 per cent – that is what, to my not completely untrained ears, is saying would “match.”

The material played inside Cubase sounds “fine,” (not comparing my tracks to Abby Road Masters, etc), but when I bounce out, the level drops and I can’t figure what to do.

The threads in the forum going back years on this subject give me some hope. I’m not the only Cubase user that’s hit this place. I’m reading those posts, some good information. I’m glad people take the time to post here. it really does help.

(For anyone reading, here’s a google site search to similar topics. Posts going back years, much still applicable –

Yet so far I’ve not found or haven’t yet understood what seems like a basic question. Why does the system do this? Good level inside Cubase, lower level when Exported. Files check out. Interface and Monitors working normally other devices and playback streams sound fine. Monitor speakers operating normally. I’ve bounced to CD and listened in cars, on boom boxes, same problem. It’s driving me a little nuts. As it has others per the threads above.

I don’t expect a push button master. I just want to hear what I hear in Cubase Printed to the Export. For lack of a better term, a “unity gain” export. Is that too much to ask of a DAW? (head/wall/head/wall) :frowning:

If you feel that streamed music and CDs etc sound good through your media player then import them in Cubase and listen. Do they sound sufficiently loud or too loud or too soft?

Do statistics on one of those commercial mixes and compare with yours.

It really does look like you’re simply playing back things outside of Cubase while attenuating the signal at some point in the chain. If that’s the case then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Cubase. You just have to NOT attenuate when playing back what you created in Cubase to get the same playback experience.

If your exported music sounds too soft compared to commercially mixed and mastered music then there’s still nothing wrong, you just have to learn how to mix / master your music so it’s comparable with the commercial stuff, if that’s what you want.

Import CDs/streamed content, do loudness statistics on both of those plus your music, post screenshots here.

I’m honestly somewhat at a loss here. It just seems like you might be thinking there’s a solution to this that doesn’t really exist…

But, NOT “like”, it IS facing a “pad”:

“The Media Player’s outputs are set to its factory default of -10.5 dB”

You said you set the player’s outputs to -10.5dB, so of course it will sound exactly that much softer compared to your Cubase output which is NOT using the same playback chain (because the Media Player’s output attenuation is part of that second chain)….!

I don’t understand what the above means. Post screencaps…

Sorry for temporarily hijacking your thread. :slight_smile:

I decided not be led by my own experience and do the exact same thing from scratch as you did for testing but correct me if got anything wrong?

  1. Created a new project using 48khz / 32bit floating
  2. Used the Steinberg test tone generator to record a sine wave signal of 440hz at exactly -12db.
  3. Exported it to wav.
  4. Imported this wav back into Cubase and confirmed it’s still the same and the level is still at -12db.
  5. Made sure that the output device and ports I use in Cubase are the same and set to ‘default output device’ in Windows.
  6. Opened the wav in players Mediaplayer, VLC and Winamp and in all applications the sound level is much lower than it is in Cubase.
    But I think I can tell you why?

Windows volume sliders don’t have ‘Unity’ like DAW’s have. In fact Unity for Windows is actually all sliders to the absolute maximum! If you have your volume level sliders in Windows (Sound Control Panel, Taskbar icon and Application sliders) on anything else but the maximum it will subtract this from the initial -12db level. So the absolute maximum volume you can ever achieve in Windows with this wav file is -12db. Any volume slider you slide back will subtract this value from this maximum resulting in you hearing a lower level than in Cubase. But we’ve gotten used to having our sliders lower than maximum because otherwise our speakers and ears would blow out every time we play music. So we may have the feeling that everything coming out of Cubase has a lower level but in fact it’s exactly the same. Hope this makes sense?

Another thing to take into consideration is that most CD productions are professionally mastered to have maximum output. Something that may look easy at first “Just crank up the volume and that’s it” some may say? But in real life it’s a lot more difficult to achieve than one might think?

So the fact that you hear a huge difference between a song you produced yourself and between for instance a (ripped?) CD is most likely the result of professionally mastering for maximum output!

I’m also always trying to learn and get the most out of this. But primarily I’m a musician trying to make a good production and not a producer trying to make music. I would actually like to be an expert in every field of the process, from creation to mastering, but also realize this is probably only God given to a happy few. But I’ll always try to grow and get better? So for me it’s always difficult to find the right balance. I want to be able to make the best possible production but I don’t want to spend every minute I have on mixing and mastering. :slight_smile: And although this process can sometimes involve frustration about not knowing how to achieve certain things? In general I enjoy the ‘challenges’.

Again, maybe I misunderstood you’re question but I hope any of this was of some help?

I think that’s what I was saying…

:smiley: I also basically think it is? But I took it a few steps back to where the question started because I could tell Stephen still didn’t get it?

You tried to explain how -10.5db in windows works. But if someone doesn’t ‘grok’ your way of explaining things it helps to try it from a different angle or even go back to before the actual question started? Just a different approach if you like?

Besides that I also added why CD rips may sound louder than his audio exports? I remember how frustrated I could be because I just couldn’t figure out why a CD was so much louder compared to my exports from Cubase?

But let’s wait for Stephen’s reply and see if he understands now? If not we might have to go back to ‘the birds and the bees’ of audio?

And I don’t mind doing that for Stephan. He’s always helping, kind and understanding towards others. Even in all his frustration on this subject when I (temporarily) hijacked his thread. :slight_smile: He always keeps an open mind and never presents himself like 'his way is the only way. Even though he’s more knowledgeable than he thinks he is himself? :slight_smile: For me he is the example of the perfect forum member! And how a human being should behave on the Internet in general!

If it’s within my grasp…For people like this I’m always willing to dig as deep as I possibly can to try and get them the answers they are looking for!

I agree.

Thanks for these posts and very much appreciate the kind words on this. I got busy and wasn’t able to respond until today.

Still gnawing away at this and will post again after re-reading the thread and related threads as mentioned previously.

I got rid of the Scarlet interface and I’m using the Zoom exclusively – It sounds and performs much better. The Scarlett did have some intermittency in the pots but that was not related to “my problem.”

I know I’m going to crack this. It feels close, so, that’s kind of cool in a way if also a bit frustrating. I’ll live. :slight_smile:

Your welcome. If you have any additional questions about this just shoot?