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DAW summing test? Do they sound different?
Old 3rd August 2019
  #1
Here for the gear
 
Jesper Dahlstrom's Avatar
DAW summing test? Do they sound different?

Hi,
one of my student asked, just before the summer, which DAW to buy - and which DAW sounded the best?
My first instinct was to answer that they all sound the same, since I personally haven't really heard any difference between the ones I've used - like Cubase, Studio One, Pro Tools, Reaper and Logic among others. But since I know there are people in the industry that claim they sound different I thought I'd do a little blind comparison between a few DAWs.

The test is quite simple. I'm taking stems from mixes/half mixes and dragging them into different DAWs, then I'm bouncing them straight away as a single stereo output file. Everything is done in 48/24.

I'm not gonna say which DAW is which, until after the test is done.

I've used 30 second parts from two different type of songs. "In Time" is a little bit low in volume (mix levels), but decided to let it stay that way since it's all about not changing anything - only summing in different DAWs.

Please listen and write a comment!

Can you hear anything different between the takes? If so, what?

Had a YouTube test up, but removed it as I found out it was redundant. Another 3 part video about this was already made by Vintique Sound. Great example of how expectation bias plays a huge role. Check that out if you want. Greatly done.

Best regards,
Jesper
Attached Files

In Time_A.wav (8.79 MB, 862 views)

In Time_B.wav (8.79 MB, 857 views)

In Time_C.wav (8.79 MB, 863 views)

In Time_D.wav (8.79 MB, 872 views)

Freez'd_A.wav (9.20 MB, 859 views)

Freez'd_B.wav (9.20 MB, 878 views)

Freez'd_C.wav (9.13 MB, 846 views)

Freez'd_D.wav (9.13 MB, 859 views)

Old 4th August 2019
  #2
Gear Maniac
Not gonna get sucked into this.

Do any of them sound unusable? If the answer is no, then the pick the DAW you are most comfortable with and bring joy to the world through your music.
Old 5th August 2019
  #3
Lives for gear
 
Quetz's Avatar
Have you tried just nulling them first?

There was a big hoohah when the Krystal audio engine came out (which I think Presonus bought as the core engine for Studio One), with everyone saying it sounded better than Cubase at the time, but I don't know if that's true, to be honest.
Old 5th August 2019
  #4
Lives for gear
 
H-Rezz's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesper Dahlstrom View Post
Hi,
one of my student asked, just before the summer, which DAW to buy - and which DAW sounded the best?
My first instinct was to answer that they all sound the same, since I personally haven't really heard any difference between the ones I've used - like Cubase, Studio One, Pro Tools, Reaper and Logic among others. But since I know there are people in the industry that claim they sound different I thought I'd do a little blind comparison between a few DAWs.

The test is quite simple. I'm taking stems from mixes/half mixes and dragging them into different DAWs, then I'm bouncing them straight away as a single stereo output file. Everything is done in 48/24.

I'm not gonna say which DAW is which, until after the test is done.

I've used 30 second parts from two different type of songs. "In Time" is a little bit low in volume (mix levels), but decided to let it stay that way since it's all about not changing anything - only summing in different DAWs.

Please listen and write a comment!

Can you hear anything different between the takes? If so, what?

The test is also available on YouTube:
https://youtu.be/-NWTpphShpM


Best regards,
Jesper
Are all the pan laws the same?
Old 5th August 2019
  #5
Here for the gear
 
Jesper Dahlstrom's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by H-Rezz View Post
Are all the pan laws the same?
Even if they weren't it shouldn't really matter since I'm only using stereo tracks, without panning, from what I understad.
Old 5th August 2019
  #6
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Jesper Dahlstrom's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quetz View Post
Have you tried just nulling them first?

There was a big hoohah when the Krystal audio engine came out (which I think Presonus bought as the core engine for Studio One), with everyone saying it sounded better than Cubase at the time, but I don't know if that's true, to be honest.
Did people try nulling files from them during the big hoohah?

Was hoping for this to be a test for the ears first and foremost, to see what people can hear without knowing too many details.
Old 5th August 2019
  #7
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Quetz's Avatar
Yeah but all that is, is a test of how much expectation bias people have.

Why would I download a load of files to check if they null when you should have done that already before even posting this and just told us what you found, instead of adding to the pointless A/B dictionary..

Sorry, that does come off as a bit harsh, not intended to be personal, but you get my point.
Old 5th August 2019
  #8
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Jesper Dahlstrom's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quetz View Post
Yeah but all that is, is a test of how much expectation bias people have.

Why would I download a load of files to check if they null when you should have done that already before even posting this and just told us what you found, instead of adding to the pointless A/B dictionary..

Sorry, that does come off as a bit harsh, not intended to be personal, but you get my point.
I understand you perfectly! Expectation bias, however, is one powerful thing in this industry that sometimes isn't addressed enough.

I also have tried nulling them, and it showed me two things. One of them more interesting than the other!

Well,

if anyone else chimes in let me know what you hear, like:

"Can't hear any difference at all, they sound totally the same"
or
"To me X sounds a bit yabadoodlier than Y"

or something like that!

/Jesper
Old 7th August 2019
  #9
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JoeyM's Avatar
Jesper you're probably speaking to a group of the most hard-nosed nullers who were nulling before your students were born. And I mean that as a compliment all around.

I could see if we're dealing with a simple audio app or utility that does less than a few processing operations, but for me, a project from beginning to end created in Reaper will definitely sound different than Studio One or Pro Tools or whatever. The workflow will take me to different places and little half decibels here and there will add up to a different mix. Just one creative choice inspired by one DAW over another will change the end.

I remember the null tests of old, where every DAW exported a track that nulled. But do anything beyond saving to file and the analysis changed considerably due to every factor that processed "audio" and one company's edge over another in module evolution.

I think it's a good thing you're doing this test, but I'm in that group that says Expectation Bias and other biases that help, however placebo, are a good thing if it helps you get the result you want or the fun of creating it, or the standardization of your target audience's needs. The expectation bias for Studio One is that it's a very direct path to getting musical ideas digitized ASAP vs others that are (IMO) considered more difficult.

Still I'm just rambling and thinking out loud more than screaming proclamations from the mountain top

It'll be interesting to see the results.
Old 8th August 2019
  #10
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Jesper Dahlstrom's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeyM View Post
I think it's a good thing you're doing this test, but I'm in that group that says Expectation Bias and other biases that help, however placebo, are a good thing if it helps you get the result you want or the fun of creating it
Very well put! Maybe the way we talk about different DAWs, their software, interfaces and their DACs should be more focused on end results from start to finish. People get great results with anything these days, even the cheapest DAWs and interfaces. Finding a setup with a great vibe that makes you want to work with it, within your budget, is the thing that matters - I guess is what I'll tell my student(s).

It's good though, I think, to know when to stop reaching for "better".
Like a rep. over at RME told me when asking about a certain cable: "Any cable of that sort should work fine (S/PDIF), we're not into cable voodoo here."

In this particular test, however, I came across something weird when checking the nulls. I know what it is, but am currently testing to see if it is something that often happens. If so, that will be good info in an upcoming post!

/Jesper
Old 8th August 2019
  #11
All those replies and no credible outcome yet as to which sounds different ?
Old 8th August 2019
  #12
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ThirdHemisphere's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DJ Bechara View Post
All those replies and no credible outcome yet as to which sounds different ?
What do you expect? They null alright. Noisefloor differs in some probably due to a different internal bit-depth or dither or both.
Old 8th August 2019
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThirdHemisphere View Post
What do you expect? They null alright. Noisefloor differs in some probably due to different internal bit-depth.
Now that's a reply ! Thank you
Old 8th August 2019
  #14
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Quetz's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThirdHemisphere View Post
What do you expect? They null alright. Noisefloor differs in some probably due to a different internal bit-depth or dither or both.
Ahh, the voice of reason.
Thank you. I was starting to think I'd actually have to do it myself
Old 8th August 2019
  #15
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Jesper Dahlstrom's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThirdHemisphere View Post
What do you expect? They null alright. Noisefloor differs in some probably due to a different internal bit-depth or dither or both.
Yep! Weird thing though, as I guess you noticed, is that on "In time" the bounces don't align perfectly, depending on which DAW it is. Therefore not nulling unless you align them manually. Which shouldn't be needed here.

With that song I exported a part from the full stems, using the exact same tempo and started from the exact same bar (with snap enabled of course) within the DAWs, but they don't seem to export the exact same beginning. Which, to me, is a bit interesting. I'm trying to figure out where and how often this happens. It probably wont make a big difference, but still good to know if sending things between DAWs.

No dithering used, so don't know where the differences in noise floor occurs, unless as you say, the internal bit depth.
Old 8th August 2019
  #16
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Jesper Dahlstrom's Avatar
Also interesting that an old thread about this seemed to make it's way back to the first page in the studio one section just now. Seems like the topic isn't dead, even though it's been tested and nulled a hundred times before

Don't get me wrong, I'm with everyone saying they sound the same, that was my whole point here - it might, however, still be needed to remind people of it and flush out any expectation bias that might make one sound "different".

Regarding the bounces not aligning perfectly, this was being said by "beyondat" in that old thread as well:

"I just did a null test using plugins inside of Cubase and Pro Tools. I used a waves SSL Channel preset and a J37 preset in both daws. For some reason Cubase added a few milliseconds to the aiff file so I had to nudge it backwards a bit but the 2 files do null."

Maybe that's what's still happening, since the problem for me also occurred with Cubase..

/Jesper
Old 9th August 2019
  #17
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Quetz's Avatar
Could it be something to do with the way they handle delay compensation?
It can't be pre-roll can it?
Old 10th August 2019
  #18
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honestly a better way to judge would be to simply listen to your favorite mastered recording in each daw and see which daw gives you the best presentation...(assuming same convertors). How audio is presented to you affects the choices that you make while producing and mixing. null test dont really prove anything or matter.

ej
Old 10th August 2019
  #19
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

I don't believe they all handle dither the same way, which in its own right would make for a perfectly sane reason they wouldn't sound the same. I know that in Logic putting a dither plug on the end of the chain before coming out to DA or even when doing a bounce in the box makes a difference.

But yes, yes, the null test is the null test.

In the end I reckon it is about which tool gets in the way the least in the task of getting what comes out of the speakers doing what you need it doing, and that is a personal choice based on a bunch of things, including what it seems to sound like. As in, it doesn't really matter what the null test says, it's what you perceive when trying to work. It either feels inspiring or not.
Old 10th August 2019
  #20
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ejsongs View Post
honestly a better way to judge would be to simply listen to your favorite mastered recording in each daw and see which daw gives you the best presentation...(assuming same convertors). How audio is presented to you affects the choices that you make while producing and mixing. null test dont really prove anything or matter.

ej
Exactly!
Old 10th August 2019
  #21
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quetz View Post
Could it be something to do with the way they handle delay compensation?
It can't be pre-roll can it?
That's another definitely sane reason for differences, because some are definitely better at handling latency compensation, for less struggle with phase blur when doing parallel stuff.......again, something a null test will tell you nada about, but is a reality in actual use.
Old 10th August 2019
  #22
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karloff70 View Post
I don't believe they all handle dither the same way, which in its own right would make for a perfectly sane reason they wouldn't sound the same. I know that in Logic putting a dither plug on the end of the chain before coming out to DA or even when doing a bounce in the box makes a difference.

But yes, yes, the null test is the null test.

In the end I reckon it is about which tool gets in the way the least in the task of getting what comes out of the speakers doing what you need it doing, and that is a personal choice based on a bunch of things, including what it seems to sound like. As in, it doesn't really matter what the null test says, it's what you perceive when trying to work. It either feels inspiring or not.
Finally...someone else posting who understands!!!!

Ej
Old 10th August 2019
  #23
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sam c's Avatar
 

DAWs do not sound. I thoroughly believe the science. Yet this topic is almost a monthly thing. I suppose it’s natural curiosity but I’m sticking with if you’re DAW “sounds” it is broken. Plug Ins, pan Law’s all negate this because they should change or add sound. However, if you believe one sounds better than another I hope you choose the “better sounding” DAW.

I’ve also heard a Mac sounds better than a PC...
Old 13th August 2019
  #24
There's no fire without smoke !
Old 17th August 2019
  #25
Lives for gear
I'm still waiting for a single person to say they like or don't like one of them. Then I would go listed and decide to agree or not.
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