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Why is there a difference between the volume within my DAW and the rest (example: Foobar2000)

DS_Joost

One day I'll fly away!
Asking the question like it is. I am trying to get my speakers to a reasonable volume to mix, but when I finally reach that volume within Cubase, suddenly everything outside is literally blowing out of my speakers (like playing things on Spotify). Is there a reason for this? Nothing in Cubase is turned down. Literally playing a song inside Cubase and then playing it outside of it makes for a huge difference in volume. Any ideas what the deal is? I use the same settings for Sonarworks inside and outside Cubase as well, if that makes things clearer...
 

shawnsingh

Active Member
What rms/loudness levels are you getting on your Cubase out? I'd bet your hovering around -23 to -27?

A lot of the internet is loud compared to production levels. If you can route and mix Cubase separately from your other usage on your computer, try setting everything else 10 dB lower. Spotify has documentation about the loudness levels they use, for example.

But just beware if you try to do mix referencing this way, you'll need to be acutely aware that (a) subtle loudness differences will bias the perception of quality, (b) the whole internet will still be a giant mess of varied loudness so the -10 dB thing is only a rough heuristic, and (c) even if you know the targets for a place like Spotify, I wouldn't be surprised if it might still be a few dB off if you try to match levels.
 

Fredeke

Active Member
To paraphrase @shawnsingh, it is because what you listen to on Spotify is finished work. Hence it was mastered, using maximizing limiters and the like. On the other hand, while working on your not-yet-mastered projects, you have to keep an ample headroom to avoid clipping. So they will of course sound quieter. It is perfectly normal.

There may be ways around this though. For example, if you are using an ASIO sound interface for your DAW, set your DAW to (it in its preferences) but set everything else to the generic sound device that is included in your computer's motherboard (via the speaker icon in the taskbar, if you're on Win10 - otherwise it's Control Panel > Sound something > something something). So basically your DAW's audio would come from a different output, avoiding the risk of blowing your ears with unexpected jumps in volume from spotify etc.
 
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DS_Joost

DS_Joost

One day I'll fly away!
Hey guys, thanks for the great and elaborate answers. I do realize now I failed in my wording for a bit, which led to some confusion. My apologies for that!

To clarify, I am not talking about the difference between a mastered song and my own music. I am talking about a literal volume difference. Let's take Spotify out of the equation here. I have the soundtrack to Avatar on my computer because I use it often as a reference to calibrate and position speakers. Now, if I play it directly from my PC (with Foobar), it plays back A LOT louder than the exact same song file imported into Cubase. I have checked everything, all faders zero, exact same settings for Sonarworks both inside and outside Cubase, no limiter active inside Cubase, none. There is literally a volume difference between the output of Cubase (or any other DAW I've tried) and the output of the same song played in Foobar.

I hope this clarifies the problem a bit...
 

Fredeke

Active Member
Now, if I play it directly from my PC (with Foobar), it plays back A LOT louder than the exact same song file imported into Cubase.
The contrary would be understandable if you were using ReplayGain in Foobar, but this is strange indeed.

I have checked everything, all faders zero, exact same settings for Sonarworks both inside and outside Cubase, no limiter active inside Cubase, none.
So you've checked Windows' mixer, right?

I hope this clarifies the problem a bit...
Yes, and you're right, it is puzzling. Sorry I have no idea.
 

shawnsingh

Active Member
What file format is the soundtrack? Maybe a Dolby codec or BWF, by chance? It does sound like a normalization + DRC situation. I wouldn't be surprised if foobar does normalize with dialnorm or replaygain. For example a soundtrack from a movie might have a dialnorm of -27 or -31, so if foobar is playing it at -24, it could be 7 db louder.
 

Havoc911

Member
Check the control room in Cubase. It may be that you've accidentally enabled a dim or have accidentally adjusted the volume of your monitor.
 
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DS_Joost

DS_Joost

One day I'll fly away!
I have come a little closer to the problem, or at least I think. I noticed both the audio from Cubase and the audio from Foobar and Spotify and everything else go through the same audio interface, but they use a different driver. Cubase uses the ASIO driver, all other audio goes through a driver named SPEAKER yadda yadda. I suspect something is going on there. I just don't know what it could be. There shouldn't be a difference in volume in between drivers, should there?
 
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