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Exporting Audio Mixdown: Part 2

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As I explained in Part 1, you need to share your music so that you can get more fans, sell more music and achieve your dreams. In Part 2, I'll show the options that Cubase offers for various audio formats. Each will have different settings, which I'll explain, as well as how to select the right one.

Cubase offers seven different types of audio file formats, and different scenarios require different formats. For example, if you have to send your mix for mastering, you may have to send it as .WAV files. Or if you want to send a sample to a customer, you may prefer a smaller and lesser quality file, like an MP3 with a low bitrate. 

Let’s start off with the AIFF format.

AIFF Format

AIFF stands for Audio Interchange File Format, and was developed by Apple Computer in 1988. It has the extension .AIF, and is used on many platforms, especially Apple’s OS X. 

When you select AIFF as the format for your audio export, you will be presented with the following options:

  • File Name: This is where you can type in the name of the file.
  • Path: You can specify the path or the location where the file will be rendered. To learn more about the options of this setting, check Part 1 of this tutorial.
  • Insert Broadcast Wave Chunk: You can use this option to add information about the date, time of creation, time-code position, author, description and the reference. Some media players might not support files with these functionalities, so if you face any problems, it’s always safe to uncheck this option.
  • Edit: This is activated once the Insert Broadcast Wave Chunk is checked. Here you can change the default values to the values that you want. In order to set the default values for these fields, go to the Record options in the Preferences menu, and select Broadcast Wave option. Here you can set the default values for the files.  
  • Insert iXML Chunk: This adds in data related to the project or the sound metadata in the exported audio.

Note that this is an uncompressed format, and the size of the files may get big as the duration of the audio gets longer. Therefore, this format is recommended if you plan to edit the audio file and can’t afford to lose quality and clarity. 

This format is similar to the WAVE format, which may be a better option due to the universality of .WAV files. Use AIFF if you are using any Apple products for editing or mixing or such.

AIFC Format

AIFC stands for Audio Interchange File Format Compressed, and is similar to the AIFF format. The extension for this format is also .AIF. 

This format supports compression and is used on many computer platforms. The size is also similar to the AIFF format, as are the available options.

WAVE Format

This is one of the well-known formats for uncompressed audio. It was developed by IBM and Microsoft. 

The settings for this format are similar to that of AIFF and AIFC formats. It has one additional option to specify if the file should use the Wave Extensible Format or not. The Wave Extensible Format contains additional metadata such as the speaker configuration and other settings for the surround speaker system. Some systems may not support this function, therefore if problems arise, deactivate the option.

Use the WAVE format if you want a universally-accepted and high quality file to be sent over for mixing or mastering. This is also a format used by mastering engineers who use CDs as the medium for their final products due to the high quality and the lossless properties.

It is not the preferred format when sending a file over the Internet to your clients for feedback, or as a download for your fans to listen to—unless you want them to download a huge file, and are absolutely against using MP3 files.

WAVE64 Format

This format was created by Sonic Foundry (now owned by Sony) as a solution to the size limit of the normal WAVE format. The WAVE format supports a maximum of 4GB files, which can create problems if high bitrates or higher duration files are being exported. The WAVE64 format supports larger file sizes and can be used for files with longer duration. These files have an extension of .W64.

Use this format if you want to export files with longer duration and/or higher resolutions. This is especially useful if your export is of higher file size as well.

This format is not recommended for normal use, or for giving away as free downloads for your fans. Sending such a huge file over the internet is also not recommended, as it will create delays for uploading and downloading the files, unless you use Google Fiber.

OGG Format

OggVorbis is a free, open-source file format created by the Xiph.org Foundation. It provides compressed audio files of small size, but with significantly higher quality than other formats. You can tweak the bitrate and sample rate to adjust the quality of the files, as well as the Quality option below the format drop down menu. 

Since this format uses the Variable Bit Rate Encoding, the Quality fader will determine the limits on which the bitrate will vary. The higher the quality of the file, the higher will be the size of the file. The file extension of this file is .OGG.

You can use this format if you want high quality files that are easier to transport than other formats. Sending this file over the internet is not as difficult as sending WAVE64 files. Almost all Linux systems come prebuilt with the codecs that support this format.

One problem that you might face when using the OGG format is the lack of support it has on many systems. Some media players and music apps do not support it, so it is not as universally accepted as the other formats.

MPEG 1 Layer 3 Format

This format is one of the most widely used formats for transferring of audio data. It was developed by the Motion Pictures Experts Group, released in the early 90s, and was revised in the following years. 

It uses a technology called “perceptual coding”, which removes the audio frequencies which are not normally audible to humans, and encodes the rest of the frequencies so that the file size can be reduced.

Cubase offers a few options that can be configured to the MP3 file which will help you to adjust the quality as well as the file size of the output file. They are:

  • Bit Rate: This fader can be used to adjust the quality or the bitrate of the file. It supports value from 16Kbit to 320Kbit. The higher the bitrate, higher will be the quality as well as the file size.
  • Sample Rate: You can select the required sample rate for the MP3. However, higher sample rates may not ensure higher quality, but higher sample rate will increase the size of the files.
  • High Quality Mode: Use this setting if you want to encode in a higher quality. This depends upon the other settings that you have configured. If you enable this option, the Bitrate fader will be available but not the Sample Rate dropdown.
  • Insert ID3 Tag: This option enables you to enter the ID3 details of the song such as the Title, Artist, Album, and Track Number. This data is useful to the listeners, as they can know these details of the song.
  • Edit ID3: Use this option to add various details in the ID3 tag of the MP3 file. This data will be added to the MP3 as text strings and will be supported by almost all media players. You can also edit this data after exporting by selecting the properties of the MP3 files in Windows Explorer. Various apps and programs also help you to add other details such as tempo, composers, and thumbnail.

As this is the most widely used format for audio, it is the best one to use when sharing with your followers. The universal compatibility of this format is also an advantage. Sending this file over the internet is also very easy due to the small size and good quality of the file.

However, try to stay away from this format if you are planning to send the files for mixing or for high quality editing purposes. Mastering engineers would prefer to have formats other than MP3, so that they have more control over the wide range of frequencies.

Windows Media Audio File

This is a format developed by Microsoft, and uses advanced audio codecs and lossless compression to provide files with higher quality and smaller file sizes. It also has the option to mix down in 5.1 surround. 

The codec settings allow you to change many advanced properties of the export. The sample rate, bit depth, channels, and mode can be adjusted. The Dynamic Range Control can be used to adjust the average loudness and the loudest levels in the audio. This will be automatically adjusted during the rendering process, but you can change it manually using the Dynamic Range Control. This setting will affect how the Quiet Mode setting in Windows Media Player.

This format has many settings that can be used for a variety of purposes. Use it if your listeners are using Windows systems, or have media players that support this format. Many media players that have been introduced in the market in the past few years have support for this format, but older media players may not. It's risky, but completely worth the risk.

Conclusion

In this era where there are many audio formats, finding the right one for your fans and customers is very important. Next time you're planning to share your music, go through this tutorial and find the right format for the occasion. 

What are your thoughts on this topic? Comment below.

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