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A most frustrating discovery

Discussion in 'Recording' started by sserendipity, Mar 14, 2004.

  1. sserendipity

    sserendipity Guest

    I'm sending my first completely home studio tracks into be professionally mastered this week, and I found discovered the most frustrating discovery: the rendered out tracks sound a great deal better than the original playback of the songs within Nuendo.

    Suddenly, dozens of mistakes and level problems are jumping out at me. (I even found studio dialog hidden in the back of the mix, that I couldn't hear when I went back to the song without soloing the track). I've called the mastering house, telling them not to use the tracks I left them, and am having to go back and remix all the tracks in my project.

    On the surface, you'ld think that this was a boon. However, to me, it feels like you can't accurately monitor while you are writing and mixing. I make relatively complex music, with lots of layers and textures. If I hide something in the back, I don't want it popping to the front after I've rendered out.

    Damn it! It takes about real-time to render out the tracks, so for every time I render out and the listen, I'm pretty much tripling the amount of time it takes to get stuff done. Add in the 'vocal one up/one down' process, and you've got 6 times as much work during render, per track - that's like two days, after all the main mixing is done, rendering and fixing mistakes, just to get the files ready for mastering.

    Also, it means that Nuendo's 'online' rendering, (where you are able to place analog gear on various tracks during render/mixdown) is a crock. The tracks sound so much better after offline rendering, that there's no way I can compare them to the original sound.

    So, beware. I would be shocked and amazed if this issue wasn't present in every DAW system, to varying degrees - it's obviously a performance tradeoff of some kind.
  2. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Are you ABSOLUTELY sure about this?

    One thing you can try is to reimport the exported file into the project, then invert polarity on it. It SHOULD, by all rights, null out, assuming you don't touch the effects and levels. If it doesn't... Ahem.

    Exported mixes with SONAR checked with this technique null out totally.
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    Something does not sound right.

    Are you sure in your preference menus you have everything set up correctly?

    You should be getting EXACTLY what you are listening to when you do a mixdown. Finding level differences and voice tracks coming though AFTER you render makes me think something is wrong with the way you have the program setup.

    Just a suggestion....hope it helps.
  4. sserendipity

    sserendipity Guest

    How are you recording the outputs during 'realtime' playback?

    Without exporting the file and nulling them as a mix, the differences are going to be so small as not to be apparent. We aren't talking about night and day - the mixes aren't 'wrong' per se. However, things that I couldn't hear in the mix are now apparent - some quiet studio dialog for example, that I didn't hear in the many hours I tracked and mixed the song.

    Besides, unless you are recording digitally into another machine, the point maybe moot, though I've only just realized myself. It's the sound coming out of the speakers that is different - perhaps the recorded file has the higher fidelity I am hearing in an offline rendered track.

    Perhaps, also, the audio engine of Nuendo sucks - I just realized that I have confounded my experiences by listening to the file in a different engine (winamp). However, the difference is there, wherever it is being caused.
    Also, it would be surprise me if Nuendo's playback engine was the cause, without some other confounding issue, seeing how integral to the working of the system a good audio playback engine is.
  5. sserendipity

    sserendipity Guest

    Yes, I'm pretty certain this is occuring.

    There are not level differences with the tracks - it's more a quality difference than a quantative one. Things are jumping from the back of the mix simply because the improved clarity is make things that I wanted hard to hear more discernable. (An example - at one point during a breakdown in the song, I added someone muttering in the background. When mixing, I had to strain to hear what he was saying - as I intended. Listening to the rendered file however, the words are clearly discernable from across the room. It's not a level difference - it's a fidelity difference.

    I apologize for the confusion when I was referring to the vocal tracks - I was referring to mixing down versions with +1db and -1db mixes of all the vocal tracks, so that the mastering engineer could use the ones that made the most sense after mastering was applied.
  6. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    Aug 15, 2003
    So you're listening to the completed song from winamp, through the same soundcard/monitoring setup, I presume? And you get a difference in sound quality from running the track live from Nuendo.

    Shot in the dark: Does winamp have eq, or other effects?

    Try listening to your bounced mix from within Nuendo. Then switch directly to winamp and play it. Sometimes closing the one app's GUI, and opening another plays tricks on your hearing, its happened to me before. Try listening from another player, maybe quicktime, it has a good rep.

    Burn it to CD, and play it in your car, your wife/girlfriend's shelf system, you buddy's component stereo, your local pub's PA system, and anywhere else you can. I would never send anything out until I've monitored it on at least 3 different systems. Of course that's a best-practices issue, and not directly related to solving your problem, but maybe it could be mitigated in the future, if you take this approach.
  7. teleharmonic

    teleharmonic Guest

    You don't have to. I believe that Falcon is suggesting that you bring the rendered file INTO the project.

    If it is time aligned properly and the polarity is reversed then it should null when played alongside the rest of the project, from within the project.

  8. teleharmonic

    teleharmonic Guest

    I am no expert on this stuff but i am wondering if you have any strange dithering settings on the render?

    The reason i ask is i have used dithering incorrectly in the past (and possibly again in the future) and it seemed to introduce high end information to the mixdown... which may account for a percieved difference in "clarity".

    Just a half-baked, completely unresearched thought.
  9. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    Aug 15, 2003
    Yeah I'm pretty good at that too.
  10. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    When I use the term export, I'm talking about the literal export-to-wav function that's present in most DAWs (and I'm 100% positive it's there in Nuendo). How exactly are you getting your rendered mixes to a stereo file right now?

    The point of the null test is to prove/disprove that the track is identical before and after exporting. If it doesn't null, something isn't right with the export function. But if it DOES null, and there still is an audible difference between playback in Nuendo and Winamp, something is wrong with playback in either one or the other. Another thing to do is to check what outputs Nuendo and Winamp are going through. Not just the hardware outputs, but the drivers themselves. Different drivers can, believe it or not, make a huge difference in sound.
  11. mjones4th

    mjones4th Active Member

    Aug 15, 2003
    Didn't know that one falkon2, that's good to know!
  12. Clueless

    Clueless Guest

    On the subject of vocal up/vocal down, one of my big ideas with the new board I'm getting (a Midas Verona 400) is to use the 12x4 matrix to provide the alternate mixes. In this way I can get 3 stereo mixes out in the time it takes to do one. About 1x a month or so I see Midas XL88 outboard matrix units for sale on ebay--a potentially sweet way to get multiple mixes from a 4-bus or 8-bus console.
  13. Michael Scott

    Michael Scott Active Member

    Aug 1, 2002
    Ontario Canada
    Home Page:
    Have you mentioned this at the nuendo forum? I would head over there and post this. You are using nuendo 2.x I presume.
  14. moles

    moles Active Member

    Jan 5, 2004
    Winnipeg, MB
    You know, I've always thought I heard subtle quality differences in my mixed-down files vs how the song sounds playing the unmixed session. I noticed this with Cubase 5.1, and still sometimes with Logic5. Curious, I always listen with Winamp also.......I was assuming that as long as the drivers, soundcard were the same, Winamp shouldn't colour the sound. I guess it does?

    If this is the same deal sserendipity is experiencing, it's almost like the tracks just seems "flatter", less saturated, and a little brighter/thinner. But not to a huge degree, and it could just be a visual mindF#$% thing with changing whats up on the screen.

    If it is real......falkon2 I don't think importing and phase reversing the bounce would tell you anything. IE it WILL null, but this would be irrelevant if the playback engine in the DAW in question is colouring the sound differently than the summing, which likely isn't colouring the sound at all if you are achieving a null.
    Does this make any sense?
  15. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    moles: Exactly what I was trying to say. I was just trying to make sure it wasn't something affecting the export feature in Nuendo. Some plugins on certain platforms tend to behave erratically during mixdown compared to playback.

    A good example: Simulanalog's free suite is a set of mono plugins. SONAR's VST wrapper doesn't seem to understand that, and what you get is a stereo output, with the effect only working on the left channel. This happens when exporting EVEN when you set the outputs to mono, but doesn't happen during playback. Could be an isolated occurance, but it doesn't change the fact that it happens.

    If the track nulls out, yet sounds different outside the program, woo-woo for the drivers and/or audio engine. I second bringing it up at the Nuendo forum.
  16. sserendipity

    sserendipity Guest

    Yes. I was just about to post the same thing - unfortunately (fortunately?) I've been working day and night since I first made this post.

    However, I can assure you it isn't a visual mindfuck thing. I banged back and forth between the two programs for 4 days straight. If I was working under mistaken pretences, I would have quickly lost track of what I was fixing. More than once, after switching over, I forgot what I was trying to do, couldn't tell under Nuendo, and quickly could as soon as I found the spot on the flat file on the external player.

    Flater does come to mind, but in a good way - the file sounds unmistakably better after rendering. This isn't just a brighter/eq thing - stuff that was hard to hear before becomes clearer and more up front. It's subtle, yes, but it's also very hearable - suddenly, you can tell if the level of one thing or another is too loud, or too quiet.

    However, it could be something else - perhaps the rendering engines outside Nuendo are collapsing the file from 24 to 16 bits. I dont' think that this would make things sound clearer, or better though - if anything I'd assume this would be worse - less distant, less clear.

    Also, I didn't mix down to one track and then try monitoring in Nuendo during mixing - ie switching to one track instead of all.
  17. noit

    noit Guest

    Since winamps main concern is trying to play crummy MP3s in a way that sounds good, it seems that most of their coding time would be spent on enhancements to the sound. I would be surprised if winamp didn't add a little compression to everything just so it would sound a little better then other players.
  18. sserendipity

    sserendipity Guest

    Good point. I've been here so long, I've never managed to get over there :>

    To many BBS's....
  19. sserendipity

    sserendipity Guest

    Another issue to look into...
  20. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    You can open up Winamp, then nagivate the menu to Preferences-->Plugins-->Output to view what dll exactly Winamp is using. Try switching to another output plugin dll and see if you hear any difference. Winamp itself has nothing to do with the actual decoding of audio files - it's just a frontend and interface. The dll's do all the work.

    Sserendipity, I'd highly recommend just bringing in the two-track into Nuendo to take a listen. Even if it still sounds muddy as compared to listening outside Nuendo, at least that narrows down the possibilities of what could be going on.

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