Question

Bad quality when uploaded to Soundcloud?

  • 9 May 2016
  • 2 replies
  • 1161 views

Hi,

I've been experiencing some trouble lately with my uploads on Soundcloud and I'm not too sure why.
I recently uploaded a couple of tracks on to my page and they sound completely different to my exported WAV. files.

I understand that Soundcloud transcodes uploads to 128kpbs mp3's which is not a problem but I have noticed that the high end of my tracks are becoming a little distorted and its really effecting the quality of it.

I have read most of the forum posts about these, as others are having similar problems, but none of which provide any answers related to pre mastering techniques. I have also read the links that some of your support team have provided to others and am currently trying each and every method in attempt to prevent this.

https://soundcloud.com/mlnium please feel free to have a listen, I have also enabled downloads for all of my tracks as they should sound normal when downloaded.

My process:
I use Ableton Live 9 to produce and use a few different plugins (including reverb and Multiband Compression).
As soon as I am done creating my track, I then mix it myself.
Using Ableton's 'Utility' to lower volume of certain channels.
Saturation,(I have also seen that over saturation could cause tracks to become distorted, which I'm trying to eliminate as I tend to saturate most of my sounds individually.)
EQ, and sometimes Side-chain or Multi-Band compression, to make sure my Master Channel is not clipping.

After that I usually use a limiter on the Master channel to lower the entire mix to around -4 to -5dB (in some cases lower) then exporting it as an AIFF file, 44,100 sample rate, 16 Bit.

Once that is done exporting I use a Mastering Service called LANDR which instantly Masters all of tracks online and lets me control the intensity of the mix.
I usually use the medium intensity to make sure that nothing is being slammed and all sounds are levelled, which would create further problems.

Once thats completed, LANDR exports the file as a 192kpbs, Low Res MP3. In which I convert to a 320kpbs .WAV using an online converter.
I know that converting to a WAV doesn't completely effect the overall sound to the untrained ear but I felt as though it would assist in cleaner and more crisp quality uploads.


Having said all of that my questions follow:

Do you recommend any specific mixing techniques that could help deter the distortion?

Has over saturation been a problem for people in the past?

Does it have anything to do with the CPU load of the track (referring to plugins)?

Does converting to a WAV using this Online File Converter have anything to do with the distortion? (if you know)

Do you think that EQ'ing all of my higher pitched sounds would prevent this from happening?

Does using a limiter on the Master Channel sometimes create these problems?

I 100% understand that Soundcloud is not a Mixing and Mastering service (as these questions seem to relate to that), but I am just wondering whether people in the past have had these problems and have been fixed due to any difficulties during the Mixing and Mastering stages.
If you have successfully helped anyone else in the past with these problems I would love to hear their individual solutions.

I felt as though the Soundcloud forum page and direct help centre was the quickest and easiest way to get help with these problems and I hope that you guys can help me out.

Thanks,
I appreciate the time.

- MLNIUM

2 replies

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Hi there MLNIUM,

Sorry to see no one has responded to your question yet. I'm not an expert, but I do make some music and use Ableton, so let's see. :-)

Three things I noticed in your workflow that I'd recommend to review.
Saturation. Yes, saturation will cause distortion. From my personal experience, it can help putting a specific instrument into place in a mix, but I usually use it in a very minimalistic fashion, as it can easily mush your sound.
Converting a 192kbps mp3 to a wav file. This actually won't do anything, really. The quality of the audio file is compromised by the previous compression to an mp3 file, and re-encoding won't bring back that quality. Thus, I'd recommend to leave out this step in your workflow.
Limiting on the master track... is a problem because it takes away the headroom, and more importantly the dynamic range of your track needed for the master. Reducing the volume by 6db won't bring back this dynamic range, it will only make the song lower in volume.
Hi there MLNIUM,

Sorry to see no one has responded to your question yet. I'm not an expert, but I do make some music and use Ableton, so let's see. :-)

Three things I noticed in your workflow that I'd recommend to review.
Saturation. Yes, saturation will cause distortion. From my personal experience, it can help putting a specific instrument into place in a mix, but I usually use it in a very minimalistic fashion, as it can easily mush your sound.
Converting a 192kbps mp3 to a wav file. This actually won't do anything, really. The quality of the audio file is compromised by the previous compression to an mp3 file, and re-encoding won't bring back that quality. Thus, I'd recommend to leave out this step in your workflow.
Limiting on the master track... is a problem because it takes away the headroom, and more importantly the dynamic range of your track needed for the master. Reducing the volume by 6db won't bring back this dynamic range, it will only make the song lower in volume.

Hey Mathis,

Thanks for the reply.
Over the time I posted the question I have been experimenting with how I Mix, Master and Upload tracks to Soundcloud.

I have taken all of the things that you have said and put them into practice which work beautifully so thanks for that.

One thing that I picked up on my uploads was the distortion of, particularly, the High-End frequencies and actually found that it was not anything to do with the Mixing process but rather the Mastering.

I used a Mastering Service called LANDR and this was primarily the problem.
For one: LANDR has specific Bit Depth and Sample Rate parameters needed to get a cleaner mix. In which case it was saying to export the file as a 96,000, 24 Bit File with no Dither.
Second off, LANDR was also telling me to leave 6dB of Headroom (which I always have done) and also leave the Master Bus empty.

Having tried all of that, I uploaded a series of tests to my personal account, trying different settings for uploads as well as Mixing techniques. I uploaded around 5 or 6 different instances of the same track (including one that had not been Mastered at all) and found that the one that had not been Mastered through LANDR was actually the cleanest and non - distorted of the bunch.

I'm not too sure if my Mixes are rubbish and LANDR is just trying to scavenge whats left of the Dynamics in my mix? I'm fairly certain my mix downs are nothing extreme. Just simple corrective EQ'ing, Compression (where its needed), Volume Control, Panning, FX chains etc.

Having said all of that, I deduced that LANDR was the problem in this instance, but Im still confused as to how no one else I have encountered has had this problem. Seeing as I'm the only one I still have some doubt in my Mixing techniques.

Am I doing anything wrong during my Mix downs?

Thanks for your time.

- MLNIUM

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