Render in Reaper not giving accurate mix?

Dabo Fett

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So when I’m in the box, I get my mix to sound and flow the way I would like. Not too compressed, wide and big and deep, tones aren’t stepping on each other, etc

but when using the “render” option in Reaper, it’s not exporting the same mix. It ends up sounding smaller, less wide, very bass heavy and very compressed. I’m not using any of the new normalize features to set a limit or lufs, I’m at extreme HQ as far as rendering speed as well. I am only at 48k which I don’t think is the issue but calling it out.

and when I say the mix is different, I mean I can A/B it at the same volume level, same speakers, on my desktop without closing anything out. It’s just really weird
 

GunpointMetal

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Whats on your master buss? Anything in your monitor FX? Are you listening to the render from your stock audio player? Are there any "Spatial Audio" or other processing going on there? Does it do the same thing when you do an Online Render? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS!
 
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HiOnFire

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I used to have that happen on my old computer, nothing on the master bus but after rendering the mix would sound completely different. Doesn’t happen on my current set up and I don’t know how to fix it but just letting you know you’re not crazy.
 

CanserDYI

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Yeah you're not crazy, I've had this happen a few times and ZERO idea how to fix it.
 

CanserDYI

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I'm pretty new to audio production, only about 2 years under my belt of fucking around, but its showing me I'm clipping hundreds of times when I'm rendering but I'm going through all of my tracks and can't find anything that would be clipping?
 

GunpointMetal

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I'm pretty new to audio production, only about 2 years under my belt of fucking around, but its showing me I'm clipping hundreds of times when I'm rendering but I'm going through all of my tracks and can't find anything that would be clipping?
Are you rendering the stereo mix or individual tracks? Audio is cumulative, so even if all your tracks are peaking at -18 on the meters, enough tracks added together will clip the output.
 

CanserDYI

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Are you rendering the stereo mix or individual tracks? Audio is cumulative, so even if all your tracks are peaking at -18 on the meters, enough tracks added together will clip the output.
Ooof, I'm rendering a stereo mix, so should I bring the levels of all of my tracks down? I usually have them all set around -12 to -6 at the highest volume.
 

eaeolian

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Anything above 0db on your master bus is a digital clip. You don't want those, they will do exactly what you're describing.

Bring the levels of the tracks that are causing the clips down, either through turning it down, automating the peak points down, or having a comp/limiter do it automatically.
 

CanserDYI

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Anything above 0db on your master bus is a digital clip. You don't want those, they will do exactly what you're describing.

Bring the levels of the tracks that are causing the clips down, either through turning it down, automating the peak points down, or having a comp/limiter do it automatically.
Well thats the thing, its not clipping on any of my tracks, nor my master? But when I go to render it, it shows me I'm clipping hundreds of times.
 

Drew

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So when I’m in the box, I get my mix to sound and flow the way I would like. Not too compressed, wide and big and deep, tones aren’t stepping on each other, etc

but when using the “render” option in Reaper, it’s not exporting the same mix. It ends up sounding smaller, less wide, very bass heavy and very compressed. I’m not using any of the new normalize features to set a limit or lufs, I’m at extreme HQ as far as rendering speed as well. I am only at 48k which I don’t think is the issue but calling it out.

and when I say the mix is different, I mean I can A/B it at the same volume level, same speakers, on my desktop without closing anything out. It’s just really weird
This shouldn't be happening, and it makes me very curious that it seems like it is.

Just to run through a few possibilities, though....

  1. is there any master bus processing in place? And, does it stop if you bypass master bus FX?
  2. do you have any monitoring FX enabled?
  3. What are you using as an audio player to play back your rendered mix? Does it have any audio processing enabled?
  4. If you load the render into a blank Reaper instance on a new track at -0.0db, does it still sound smaller, less wide, bass heavy, and compressed, or is it normal?
  5. Is your master bus showing any clipping? Does your render clip?
  6. It sounds like you're playing it back on your monitors in the same room, and that that's not a factor, but no harm confirming that. Conversely, does it sound weird on playback, but sound normal on another setup?
 

GunpointMetal

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Well thats the thing, its not clipping on any of my tracks, nor my master? But when I go to render it, it shows me I'm clipping hundreds of times.
Make sure your master meters are showing Peak+RMS and not just RMS. A quick way to check is to stick a limiter with visual output at the end of your master buss with no limiting (threshold and output at 0.0dB) and look to see if any of your drum transients or other spiky sounds are triggering that limiter.
When I'm mixing I'll usually set my kick to peak between -18 and -16 on the channel meter and then mix around that level. Unless something gets out of hand my master usually ends up peaking around -8 to -5. If I need to hear things louder I just turn up my headphones or speakers.
 

Drew

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Well thats the thing, its not clipping on any of my tracks, nor my master? But when I go to render it, it shows me I'm clipping hundreds of times.
Audio is additive. Think of it like this - take a project with just a single guitar track. Pan it center. Duplicate that guitar track, and leave the copy panned center. What happens? The guitar gets significantly louder for being their twice in exactly the same frequencies and stereo image, so when you play back, your master bus is going to show your peaks quite a bit higher than the individual guitar tracks are peaking.

this is an exaggerated example since this is something you'd never do, and "in nature" tracks are almost never THAT perfectly aligned in frequency content and waveform, but the same principle is true - a whole bunch of tracks at -6db in a mix are going to peak quite a bit above -6db at the master, though the amount, and whether or not that's going to be enough to induce clipping, is going to have a lot to do with the frequency content and dynamic "shape" of those tracks and the arrangement of a song. If a whole bunch of tracks have dynamic peaks occuring at once, in overlapping frequency ranges, you're almost certainly going to clip, whereas if you have a mix of an alternating kick drum on the downbeats and stacatto acoustic on the upbeats or something, you're not going to be MUCH louder at the master than at the tracks.

Mixing is like a giant four dimensional game of tetris, because tracks DO take up space (think of it as frequency range, in one axis, and amplitude, in the other, with stereo spectrum being a third dimension and time a fourth) and you have to fit in all the various pieces in together so you don't breach -0db, which is the maximum amount of space you have in any given instant.
 

drb

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Brief thread hijack with regards to mixing with the right levels - where do you control each track's level? For example, in my recording chain I have:
  • Amp volume
  • Torpedo line out
  • IR volume in HX stomp (used as interface)
  • HX stomp volume
  • The track's slider on reaper
I've been experimenting with this as I'm very new to recording, and it appears the HX stomp volumes give the best results. But if a track was recorded too loud in the first place, are the faders OK to turn down or does that not introduce some compression?
 

Andii

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It sounds a lot like you are clipping the master bus. Inside the DAW the mixer is designed to do absolutely whatever and be non destructive so when you "exceed" 0db everything sounds fine. You're working in an environment that is designed to be extremely non destructive. However render that out and something has to give. You cannot actually exceed 0db in digital audio without clipping which is VERY BAD. Some DAWs apply a harsh limit on rendering on tracks that exceed 0DB and others just let it clip on render.

If you're having trouble seeing what is happening on your master bus meter grab a download of voxengo SPAN(it's free). It's an analyzer that gives you a detailed meter and a lot of other useful information. You might be able to visually identify where 0db is on you master bus meter after seeing everything laid out in SPAN. It will give you some red and it has a clip count.
https://www.voxengo.com/product/span/

The master bus meter is where you determine how everything adds up. When things are too hot at the master bus you can back off all of you faders together and it will give you more headroom. I like to mix where when everything adds up, there is still some headroom left at the master bus and then I might use the makeup gain on my master bus compressor or my mastering grade EQ to bring the level up to the place where it actually needs to be to eliminate any headroom that isn't needed for the final master. A final master actually needs to have a ceiling of about -.3db at all times to avoid intermodulation distorion that can occur when transcoding to lossy formats such as Mp3 etc.

This entire subject altogether is called "gain staging". That's the thing you would put into the gargalator to learn more about it.

Fun fact:
If everything goes well, renders should always sound better than the live playback in your DAW. All plugins operate at their maximum quality on export. This is the reason that I highly recommend detailed mastering sessions in a separate project file with the rendered unprocessed master two channel mixdown. That extra detail helps with subtle decisions.
 
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Dabo Fett

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So the only thing I’m running in my master bus as far as plug ins is Lurssen Mastering from IK. I did have some red on the master meter, but no audible clipping nor are there any clips showing up in the render data as shown by reaper.

the problem I seem to always have with the master buss in reaper is if there is zero red visible, it’s never loud enough, usually comes out around 17 lufs. Even when I get it to the Spotify standard 12lufs, which requires clipping the master buss visually but not audibly, I frequently have people telling me my masters aren’t loud enough in reviews.
 

GunpointMetal

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So the only thing I’m running in my master bus as far as plug ins is Lurssen Mastering from IK. I did have some red on the master meter, but no audible clipping nor are there any clips showing up in the render data as shown by reaper.

the problem I seem to always have with the master buss in reaper is if there is zero red visible, it’s never loud enough, usually comes out around 17 lufs. Even when I get it to the Spotify standard 12lufs, which requires clipping the master buss visually but not audibly, I frequently have people telling me my masters aren’t loud enough in reviews.
Where do your mixes meter without anything in the master buss. Loudness if like a combination of volume and dynamic range. If you're only getting -17 lufs and still clipping you probably need to go back and look at your mix. Do you have two much low frequency information building up eating up all your head room causing you to turn up transient elements to get them to poke through. Are you transient element dynamics all over the place so you can't compress/limit the master cleanly? If you're clipping at output lower the ceiling on your master limiter to 0.2dB and make sure it's set to hard peak limiting. There are so many variable, but given your struggle to get things to the loudness you're looking for suggests to me that there are dynamics/peak/eq issues in the mix that need to addressed.
 

DudeManBrother

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Are you willing to send your session via Dropbox? The easiest way to see what’s going on is to get more experienced eyes on it.
 

Drew

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Brief thread hijack with regards to mixing with the right levels - where do you control each track's level? For example, in my recording chain I have:
  • Amp volume
  • Torpedo line out
  • IR volume in HX stomp (used as interface)
  • HX stomp volume
  • The track's slider on reaper
I've been experimenting with this as I'm very new to recording, and it appears the HX stomp volumes give the best results. But if a track was recorded too loud in the first place, are the faders OK to turn down or does that not introduce some compression?
I can't speak to the specifics here, because my signal chain is radically different than yours - amp, mic, mic preamp, then track slider.

But, general rule of thumb here, when engineers refer to "gain staging," they mean setting your signal up so it hits every part of the signalchain at the level that that particular gear is going to sound best. I have NO idea what that is for the various points of your signal chain, but doing some trial and error experimenting and listening carefully for any source of distortion or compression that isn't doing something that sounds awesome, could help here.

That said - I can give you some guidance on the interface and track side. Generally, most "pro-sumer" grade interfaces do not sound their best run hot - transient peak response starts to suffer when you really slam the front end (that's less true on really fancy botique stuff - I track way hotter running guitars through my BAE 1073 than I would directly through my Apogee, because the way that adds subtle distortion is really, really nice). So, your best bet is to be a bit more conservative here...

...especially because gain staging in the digital world, up to the point of clipping, is "costless." turning up your track slider adds no noise or distortion that wasnt already there. Turning it down doesn't increase the noise floor because there is no noise floor, except for what was already captured in the recording (possible exception, any VSTs that model analog gear that have their own simulated self-noise - I have a few Waves compressors that do this, though thankfully you can bypass it, which I always do). Digital gain adjustment is 100% transparent.

So, this isn't really a "do this, then this, then this, then this" answer... but it's at least the blueprint to use to figure out what you should be doing. Hope it helps!
 


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