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Solved: Cakewalk Sonar export volume is low

 

Sometime I post things here just so they are web search accessible. This is one of those times!

I’ve run into situations where the WAV files I export from Sonar have very low volume on several occasions. I’ve finished my new track, I’ve got everything EQed and compressed to just the right level and my track is peaking at exactly the volume I want. I’m excited to share the new song with the world (i.e. Sarah) and then the exported WAV file is as quiet as a field mouse.

Each time, I dutifully check my meters to confirm that the volume is peaking at a good level during playback of the song. Despite that, the exported wav files are much lower in volume than what I’m seeing on the master track’s meter during playback. I tear my hair out checking and double checking settings, adding and removing plugins, kvelling and kvetching.

Then I turn to the Cakewalk Forums looking for a solution. There are several threads there on the subject, but none of them offer anything that helps. People explain the basics of the metering system, the principals of compressing the master bus and other features of the DAW, but it’s always the things that I’m already doing correctly.

…and then I remember to check the Mains. Ugh! For some reason I don’t understand. the volume level of the main outputs is used to set the volume level for exports. It doesn’t make sense to me, but that’s how it works. Why would I want my exported file’s volume to be lower, just because I want to output sent to my soundcard to be lower? I’m also not really sure why the default level isn’t unity, but I’m sure there’s a good reason. Of course, the mains aren’t visible in the Console view by default, so it’s easy to overlook this when your exports are coming out with low volume.

Luckily, it’s a two second fix once you’re aware of the problem.

 

First, click the button to show the mains:

 

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Then, make sure that the main output’s level is set to unity:

 

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Voila! Normal export levels. Hopefully I can remember this next time and save my self some wasted troubleshooting time.