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Bouncing Audio 101: Exporting Tracks From Your DAW

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Original Article written By Michael Hahn

What is bouncing audio?

Bouncing (or exporting) is how your DAW turns your project into files on your hard drive. 

The term bouncing comes from the analog era. The track count is a hard limit on tape machines.

But engineers could use their consoles to mix several tracks down to one to free up more recording.

The process was called “bouncing down.” The drawback was that the level of each of track would no longer be independent on the printed track.

But today, bouncing usually means writing the final mix of your song to a stereo audio file. It can also mean printing stems of all the instruments in your mix or exporting individual tracks for collaborative projects as well.

No matter how you bounce your project, you’ll have to know how to use your DAW’s bounce dialog to output your files properly.

The best export settings for mastering

You have to choose the right settings to make sure your bounce is ready for mastering.

No matter which DAW you’re using, here’s what you need to know.

Resolution

Don’t export your song as a different file type from the one you’re using in your project. If you choose a different format, your DAW will have to convert to the target sample rate and bit depth.

But you can’t make something out of nothing. Changing to a higher export format won’t add information to your audio that wasn’t captured during recording.

If you tracked at 24-bit/48kHz, just stay there!

Don’t apply dithering either. You shouldn’t need to if you’re bouncing to the same file type.

Hot tip: Your DAW may have the option to create AIFF or WAV files while recording. Both are lossless formats, so there’s no sound quality difference between the two. These formats are best for uploading during the mastering step. So stick with these formats for your bounces as well.

Normalize

Make sure to NOT normalize the files you export for mastering. Normalizing will increase the gain of your file a lot—not what you want for keeping good headroom for mastering.

Channel Width

Make sure to select interleaved if you want a traditional stereo bounce file.

Use multiple mono if you’re exporting tracks one by one.

Offline vs. Realtime Bounce

Realtime bounce writes the audio file to disk at the same speed as playback in the DAW. This method is slow but safe and reliable.

Offline bounce renders the export file much faster than real time. This can save you a lot of time, especially if you need to bounce many tracks individually.

In some cases, offline bouncing may cause issues with CPU heavy plugins or intricate automation. If you’re worried about offline mode having an effect, stick with realtime.

Now that you know the basics here’s how to bounce your audio from your DAW.

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