Why are my music so quiet?

I’m new to Cubase and music production in general and have a question about something that is annoying me a lot. When I make music I control the volume of the channels so the master out volume (and the volume for each channel) is always is below 0 db to avoid unwanted noise, after what I’ve learnt from tutorials. Before I export a track as audio mixdown I use the Maximizer and UV22HR as inserts on the master out and the volume is about 0 db through my song before I export it. But when I compare it to music on my computer and stuff on youtube etc, my music is always much lower in volume than everything else, both in the Cubase project and the audio mixdown! Can somebody tell me what I’m doing wrong? Thanks a lot.


You should check out youtube tuts about mastering en loudness too. When making music, you can define three stages (often overlapping):

  1. Composing/ arranging (+ sound design)
  2. Mixing
  3. Mastering

In the mastering stage engineers often fiddle with the loudness to make the song stick out more. However, this often also takes away (some of) the dynamics of the mix.

I hope this helps, maybe other members can chip in too (and correct me if needed).

Good luck!

Ok, thank you for good advices, I’ll check out some more tutorials on the subject.

I’m not really qualified to talk about this so perhaps someone else will chip in but I think it’s worth mentioning Loudness Normalisation. This is probably way over your head at the moment but in short it’s a system that maintains a steady listening level to the listener, across disparate sound sources. The idea is that pushing the loudness envelope as you mention is not only no longer necessary, it can actually work against you. A number of broadcasters (real-world and web-based) have adopted the system, so it would be interesting to see what difference it makes taking the Maximiser OFF!

Just a thought and don’t have time now to supply more details as I’m off out but like I said it might just be the problem…


Welcome to the loudness war. :wink: Without a detailed view of your workflow, it’s impossible to tell exactly what you’re doing “wrong”. However, I notice that that you use the Maximizer on your masterbus. How hard are you “driving” it. If you’re squashing your mixes, this may be one cause. The opposite might also be true. You have too much dynamics in your mixes.

European and US broadcasters have adopted the ITU BS 1770-2 standard regarding loudness metering (and I believe I read somewhere that YouTube has aswell). It’s too complicated to go into the details here. However, the jest of it is that one of the most important parameters of loudness metering is the average loudness over the entire program (which can be anything from a 15 second commercial slot to a 3 hour blockbuster movie). A squashed mix will exceed the -23LUFS reference level and will be brought down in level to comply.

As I said, this is a very simplified description. There are plenty of excellent videos on YouTube, covering this topic.

This description leads me to believe that you are driving the Maximizer way too hard.

If you’re new to recording, I suggest that you invest in a tutorial course like this one:
https://www.askvideo.com/search/?q=Audio+Concepts (101->105)
And that you study the tutorials on YouTube covering loudness metering. An understanding of Loudness metering will only increase in importance in the future.

By the way, the UV22HR is a dithering plug-in and has nothing whatsoever do do with loudness (volume). It should only be used when you bring bitrate down to 16 bit from a higher bitrate for the final master. Be sure to check out page 83 of the “Cubase Pro 8 Plug-in Reference” pdf.

-23LUFS reference level is too quiet for music production. It is intended only for broadcast.

Good trick to check your loudness against commercial releases is to calculate gain of songs with ReplayGain (RG), which is included in most media players. I use Foobar2000 to do this. In this way you can see that commercial releases get ReplayGain reduction of cca -8dB, and up to -11dB reduction. If your song is not loud enough, then RG gain reduction will be lower than -8dB, maybe just -3dB, or even positive, like 2dB. Then you need to use level maximizes to increase volume of your songs. If RG calculates level of your song to be say -2dB, then increase level of your song for 6 or 7 dB. Then it will match level of commercial releases.

All the above but try the simple: When Exporting check your output level is set to 0db and not at the level you monitored at.
I keep forgetting this too. FR to self is for a Export optimised volume button.

Hi ingenspor,

Of course, as suggested, look at all the tutorials out there to learn more about this topic but, a good place to start is to set each track fader level to 0.00dB and the “master out” to -6.00db before you start recording. For “midi” and “instrument tracks” just record at those setting. Before recording “audio tracks” use your audio interface to raise the volume level to as high as you can get it without causing any clipping. Add dynamic effects to the tracks after recording and adjust the volume of each track to a level that seems appropriate for your mix. Export the project and, as necessary, adjust the final volume of the mix by adjusting the “master out” up/down from the initial -6.00dB starting point. Re-export again as many times as it takes to get that volume correct. As you do that you may need to adjust each track volume again as necessary to maintain the “mix”.

Also, before you start recording, adjusting the default project fader levels to +12dB might also help. Maybe yours are set to +6dB so check that setting out. It is located in the CB project>project set up menu.

One last also… the driver for your audio interface might have a control panel that allows for some volume level adjustment there too. Maybe even your sound card has some kind of adjustment. Check those too if your are still not getting enough volume.

This is a good starting point. But again, by all means, look at the tutorials and learn the theory and methods they offer.

Good luck and have fun. :wink:

Regards :sunglasses:

Thank you all for your explanations and advices! The fact that I’m all new to this is probably the main reason why it all turn out so quiet, and it will (hopefully) get better as I get more experience with mixing and mastering. I don’t expect it to be perfect the first (hundred) times of course, but I am kind of inpatient and excited to show some “demos” of what I’ve made so far to my friends. Therefore I have done some really basic mixing/mastering based on what I’ve learned so far, and it’s kind of lame to play it when there is so little punch and volume to it. But after watching lots of more tutorials today I realise that I have missed out on lots of important steps. I just got a little worried that I had done something really wrong from the beginning but it seems like I just have to get more into the techniques and procedures of mixing and mastering to get a satisfying result. And of course when I get really good with recording and composing I will consider leaving the mastering to a professional engineer.

After watching lots of stuff today I have some other questions about things that really confuse me but I will make another thread for that later.

Again, thank you for all the good advices, this seems like a very nice society with helpful people that care to explain stuff instead of just calling me a noob and tell me to google it… :stuck_out_tongue: I actually tried that first but I didn’t find anything helpful. (I’m not the best googler though)…

There are a lot of reasons this could be happening and some are already mentioned above. It probably has to do more with what sounds you are using and how much they overlap in frequency. Each sound needs to have it’s own space in the frequency spectrum to be hear otherwise you will end up with phase cancelation or boosting at various frequencies.

A good example would be if you were to just keep layering a bunch of kick drums together, you might think this would make it louder but most of the time it’s going to make it quieter because they are all fighting to use the same frequency space. This can lead to the speakers working much harder for something you can’t even hear. The trick is to try and choose sounds that don’t fight for the same frequencies; this is related to a phrase you will hear all the time “less is more”. The smaller the number of sounds you have fighting each other for frequency space the clearer your mix will sound and the louder you’ll be able to make it (in most cases).

Try removing some sounds just for fun that seem like they are in the same frequency space then run your mix through the maximizer again and see how much louder it will sound. It’s not all about the numbers on the meters it’s also very much about “perceived loudness”; if you perceive it to be loud then it doesn’t have to “technically” be loud. This is getting into psychoacoustics though I don’t want to go much further. Just remember to give everything room to be heard and don’t let things “mask” each other too much and you’ll be able to get a lot more perceived loudness out of your mix.

Good luck and have fun no matter what :slight_smile:

I humbly and gently debunk this myth, kind sir. :smiley:

This is an oft misunderstood gain structuring placebo effect that does not address the 6 db of dynamic range you’re wanting.

Simply lowering the overall gain (with its dynamics baked-in) by 6db, does nothing. Literally nothing for the dynamics metrics.

That is…

Unless, you have a limiter you’re mixing into beyond the master fader.

Then, of course, lowering the master fader 6db will create more dynamic range “against” the limiter it’s going into, all other settings staying the same (compared to master fader at 0db).

Hi guys,

interesting topic… but not really Cubase related, so I’m moving it to the Lounge.

All the best

There has been a lot of dB’s recklessly thrown around here. The dB scale measures ratios!. Saying that something is 3 dB means absolutely nothing, unless a reference is given (i.e. 3 dB higher than 1 volt). That’s what reference standards (dBSPL, dBU, dBm, dBv, etc.) are for. The scale to use with digital audio is dBFS (dB Full Scale). While most scales can have a positive or negative value relative to the reference level, the dbFS scale can only have a negative value. 0 dBFS is the absolute maximum! That’s why the (-) sign can be dropped when referring to dBFS.

So what’s you’re reference. If it’s dBFS (as your way of handling the figures imply) you’re definitely asking for trouble as you have no headroom whatsoever left to deal with and transients.

A further complication is the confusing way in which Cubase deals with the scales (please, open the image Scales.png in a separate window. It may make this easier to follow):

  1. In the Project Setup there is a confusing parameter called “Volume Max” with two options, +6 dB and +12 dB. dB what!!! Let’s assume that the correct name of this parameter should be “Reference Level” and that the correct options should be -6 dBFS and -12 dBFS.

  2. The Channel Fader section has two gradations one by the fader and one on the actual bar-graph. No clue is given as to what these gradations represent!

At first glance, it appears that the bar-graph meter is referenced to the dBFS scale. But clearly it ain’t! The bar-graph can go above 0! (see “Channel fader full scale”) This is impossible with dBFS. Also the fader in Presets/Metering/Appearance in the Application (but not in the manual?!?) has a gradation of 3 (something) above zero.

  1. The whole point with having a gradation on the faders is that they can be calibrated to a reference. If the bar-graph meter was referenced to dBFS, the 6 or 12 gradation (depending on the Volume Max setting), should line up with the 0 gradation on the fader, for it be correctly calibrated. They don’t so…

I don’t know what Steinbergs gradations reference to, but it’s not any acknowledged industry standard. This is no way to handle metering on a product aimed at professionals!

It would be interesting to hear from one of Cubase’s designers what the thinking about these gradations was.

Before recording “audio tracks” use your audio interface to raise the volume level to as high as you can get it without causing any clipping …

I usually record my audio so it peaks at about -10 dBFS instead. Easier for me to maintain decent levels throughout the project.

Also I read it doesn’t torture the pre-amps as much this way.

What do you guys think?

I love quoting myself… :smiley:

My suggestions (and they only were suggestions) can be “debunked”, “questioned”, “disproved” or even “slapped” around. I don’t care. They work for me on a daily basis I see no reason why they would not be a good starting point for anyone. Especially a beginner.

Again I wish the OP all the best. :wink:

Regards. :sunglasses:

Whoa - lots of misinformation here.

The way to achieve “loudness” is with eq, compression and limiting. That’s it. It’s not what db you start your MF at, it’s not where your audio peaks out, it’s not what any graph says…

You need to intelligently compress your tracks individually as needed - ie, sometimes that means all of them, sometimes that means some of them. How much? Depends on a variety of things. You also (usually but not always) need to have a compressor on the MF. How much? Depends on a variety of things. You also might sometimes want to have a limiter on the MF. Sometimes working in conjunction with the compressor; sometimes instead of. How to set your compressor and limiter? Depends. Nobody can say “do it this way” b/c when it comes to compressing and limiting, there is no ‘one size fits all.’ EQ is also useful to take out any freqs that might be affecting your peaks, but not your overall loudness level. This can be done on individual tracks, the MF or both.

I agree that watching tuts is the way to go for a beginner. Once you have a basic understanding, there then is no substitute for doing. It takes time and effort to be able to mix properly - which includes getting your tracks loud. Keep at it, and you will get there eventually.


People might like this SOS article: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/feb14/articles/loudness-war.htm

So in general terms, what do people reckon about how loudness normalisation at the broad/web-casting end affects what we need to do when mixing? If there is no longer a need - and in fact it would seem a good reason to avoid pushing the loudness, are we now at point where we can concentrate on producing a dynamic mix that peaks at (say) -6db and rely on LN at the YT/Spotify end to give us the final level? In fact, making comparisons with these sites might inevitably be disappointing as our mixes have yet to go through this stage and give us a false impression of how they will fare in the world.

So maybe the OP is worrying about less than he thought?

Indirectly related: has anyone tried incorporating the Kotelnikov GE VST into their mastering process? I watched the entire tutorial video and won’t deny that it certainly is making me think that 40 euros isn’t a bad price for something like this. However, I currently have a well defined process of my own and am unsure how this would impact the use of or even the need for the other VSTs that I use.

Thoughts in general?