From the Team / 27 July 2020

New Engine Update: We changed the way your mixes sound

Thanks to your feedback, we’re releasing a small, but significant change to our sound engine on all platforms that will help you creators be more confident in the music your listeners will hear.

Since this might affect a lot you, we wanted to make sure you had the full pictures of what’s going on. This post will talk about some basic technical sound mixing topics, which will help you understand why we made the changes we did, and maybe learn some things along the way!

What’s been happening

We heard from our users that they were experiencing an issue where a published song sounded different than it had when you were creating it in the Mix Editor.

We’ve thoroughly investigated this issue and made fixes to eliminate it. We’ll talk about what it means for you, and why it was happening.

What the changes mean for you

Previously Published Songs – Work that you’ve already published will not be affected by this – so no worries here. 

Newly Published Songs – Users from all platforms will also notice that their publishing now sounds exactly as they heard it in the Mix Editor. Nice!

For iOS users, when you open an existing project in the Mix Editor, you might hear crackles or distortion that were not there before. If you notice something is different, you can try simply lowering the volume of your tracks to eradicate the unwelcome effects. 

In all cases, published songs will now sound the same as in they do the Mix Editor.

Why did published songs sound different before?

To understand that, let’s first talk about clipping.

Clipping happens when the loudness of all the tracks added together is louder than the maximum storable value. The sound will end up sounding crackly or harsher than usual. If you’re a guitarist, you’ll be familiar with distortion, which is intentional clipping to creating an interesting sound effect.

Clipping causes harsh distorted sounds.

There are a few ways to avoid this clipping when we mixdown. Here are a couple most common:

Normalizing lowers the input volume to prevent clipping.

To combat this, we used to do the second option by normalizing the audio when publishing revisions. Normalization lowers the input volume for everything until none of it is clipping. The result is a clean sound, but potentially much quieter than the original.

So our new change is simple – allow clipping to occur in both the Mix Editor and when publishing your revision. This gives you more flexibility with how your songs sound. If you don’t like the sound of the distortion, you can simply turn the volume down to avoid clipping.

So why is iOS different?

Android and Web versions have always had clipping in the Mix Editor. So if we remove normalization during the publishing, everything works as expected. 

But for iOS, it’s a bit complicated. Sound going through speakers or headphones on iOS is automatically processed so the really loud parts are squashed down to fit within the maximum value. This is called limiting. This only applies to the sound coming from your headphones or speakers, but not the actual sound that you are creating. As a result, what you create on an iOS device may sound good for you, but the song may actually be clipping a lot. So when you publish it, your song would sound extremely distorted. We’ve historically taken care of this through normalizing, but this will still sound different than the original Mix Editor sound.

With our new changes, loud sounds will clip before we send it to your speakers. This way iOS has no way to change the sound that’s coming out — and you will hear the clipping just as everyone else will. So although your existing projects may sound a little different depending on how loud they are, you can feel safe knowing that when you publish it, that’s also how your listeners will hear it as well.

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