Ableton render sounds different? 3 Common Reasons

Let’s set the scene: You’ve finished mixing your song in Ableton Live, and your track is sound crisp and clear, ready for the next step!

Next, you’d usually export your mixdown to a single file, ripe and ready for the mastering process. But what if your render is sounding different from how it sounds in Ableton Live? How frustrating!

In this article, we’ll jump into 3 reasons why this might be happening, and give you some tips to get your track sounding exactly like you want it to!

You May Be Exporting at the Wrong Sample Rate

There could be many reasons why your rendered track isn’t sounding as good after exporting as when playing back in Ableton Live. One of the main reasons for a loss in quality is incorrect export settings, especially when it comes to your sample rate.

Before we continue, let’s get a better understanding of what sample rate and bit depth are:

Bit depth and sample rate are important settings in Ableton Live that affect the accuracy and quality of your audio recordings and productions.

Bit Depth
  • The number of bits used in each sample of audio, with higher bit depths providing a more accurate representation.
  • In Ableton Live, 24 bits is the most commonly used bit depth, which provides a high level of accuracy and dynamic range.
Sample Rate
  • The number of samples taken per second to represent the audio signal.
  • Higher sample rates result in a more accurate reflection of the sound, but also require more data.
  • In Ableton Live, the most common sample rates are 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz.

Right, now that we know more about sample rates and bit depths, let’s get into making your render sound like you want it to!

The first thing to check is that your export sample rate matches that of your global project settings.

Here’s how to do this:

  1. First, navigate to the “Preferences” menu.
  2. In the “Preferences” window, click on the “Audio” tab.
  3. Look for the “Sample Rate” option in the “Audio Input/Output” section of the preferences. The sample rate will be displayed next to it.

Note that the most common sample rates used in Ableton Live are 44.1 kHz and 48 kHz, so it’s best to switch to one of these if your Ableton settings differ.

Now that you know your global sample rate settings, let’s head to the export section to make sure it’s the same.

Here’s where to go:

  1. First, click the “Export Audio/Video” option in the “File” drop-down menu.
  2. Next, in the “Export Audio/Video” dialog box, select the audio format you want to export to, such as WAV or MP3.
  3. In the “Sample Rate” dropdown menu, select the sample rate that matches the sample rate of your project. You can find the project sample rate in the “Audio Preferences” menu.
  4. Click on the “Export” button to export your audio file.

Note that your bit rate is dependent on what you’re looking to use the export for. For instance, if you’re sending your mixdown to a mastering engineer, 24 or 32 bits will be the better option.

However, as CDs use a sample rate of 44.1 kHz and 16 bits, these export settings will work well for rendering a master.

Your Volume Settings May Be Incorrect

So your track sounds amazing when playing through Ableton Live, but as soon as you export it, it loses volume and fullness. What could the problem be?

The issue might be something as simple as your global volume settings on your operating system or audio interface!

Here’s how to navigate to your sound settings for both Windows and Mac:

Windows

  1. Firstly, check to ensure that your audio devices are not muted and have not been disabled by mistake.
  2. Right-click the Speakers icon on your taskbar, then select “Open Volume mixer”
  3. If you don’t see the Speakers icon displayed, it may be in the overflow area. Select “Show Hidden Icons” to check there.
  4. You’ll see a set of volume controls for your devices. Ensure that none of them are muted.
    • You’ll see an “x” next to the volume control if any of them are muted.
    • To unmute, you can either select the volume control and adjust it to the desired volume level, or select the “Unmute Speakers” icon.
  5. To view volume and default audio devices in Windows 11 Volume Mixer, check your device properties to make sure they haven’t been disabled by mistake.
    • Select Start > Settings > System > Sound. Under Advanced, select “More Sound Settings” and select either the Playback (output) or Recording (input) tab.
  6. Select your device and then select “Properties”.
    • Next to Device usage, check that “Use This Device (Enable)” is selected from the list for both output and input devices.

Mac

  1. Firstly, choose “Apple menu”, then “System Settings” from the top-left corner of your screen.
  2. Click “Sound” in the sidebar.
  3. Click “Output” on the right, then select the device you want to use from the list of sound output devices. This includes the computer’s internal speakers, devices plugged into your computer’s sound port, USB speakers, or your reference monitors.
  4. For any device plugged into the computer’s sound port, choose “Headphones”.

To adjust your sound output settings, you can do any of the following:

  • Adjust the volume: Drag the “Output volume” slider. If you have “Sound” in the menu bar, you can turn the volume up or down from anywhere.
  • Stop sound output: Select the “Mute” tickbox.
  • Adjust the balance: Drag the “Balance” slider.

It’s important to note that your volume issues might also be coming from your audio interface. All interfaces differ, but as a general rule, you’ll be able to adjust volume levels from your interfaces’ control panel.

If you get stuck, check out your interfaces’ user manual which will always be available online from the company’s website.

You May Need To Freeze and Flatten Your Tracks

When you’re working on Ableton Live, you’re likely using a bunch of different plug-ins and effects on your tracks to add interest and style. Unfortunately, these plug-ins and effects can sometimes act up and affect the sound of your export.

Don’t worry though, we’ll help you get to the bottom of your problem, and get you exporting in no time!

The quickest solution to this issue is to simply freeze and flatten the problem tracks before rendering.

  • Freezing a track in Ableton Live bounces all of the processing and effects down to an audio fil.
  • Flattening a track permanently does the same thing, meaning you can’t make any more changes to the processing or effects.

Here’s how to freeze and flatten a track in Ableton Live:

  1. First, select the track you want to freeze or flatten.
  2. To freeze the track, simply right-click on the track’s name and select “Freeze Track”
    • Ableton Live will then temporarily bounce all of the processing and effects down to an audio file, effectively locking in all of the effects and processing.
  3. To flatten the track, right-click on the track’s name again and select “Flatten”
    • This will permanently bounce all of the processing and effects down to an audio file, so make sure that you’re happy with the way the track sounds before you do this.

It’s important to note that once you’ve flattened the track, you can’t make any more changes to the processing or effects.

Sources

Exporting stems in Ableton Live