Do ProTools, Nuendo and Logic really sound different?

14 Dec

When I was discussing this last weeks with my master peers something about recording sessions in ProTools, one of them told me “well yeah, ProTools is great for recording, mixing and editing, but Logic has a better audio engine than ProTools”. I asked “What? Is that real?” and he answered me “Yeah, there are some studies showing that. It even has the AES award for the best sound in a DAW”.

From then on, I’ve searched the seas of the Internet without finding any scientific evidence of this (neither the AES award mention). Just lots of subjective talk in loads of forums on whether you should choose one or another interface to record or mix. So, having read what people say round there leaves me with a lot of questions that I’d love to see answered in a proven way. Or in some way at least!

  • Logic, ProTools, Nuendo: all of them have different internal algorhythms for signal mixing, routing and summing. But I want to find the difference between them ONCE that the signal has been converted into the digital domain, not relying on the A/D interface in front of them as of course, each one will sound different.
  • Pan laws: It is known that the panning law in ProTools, Logic and Nuendo has been always different. For some explanation on how it works for non-geeks, you can read this magnificent explanation. This is for sure one of the factors that make that a mix created for stereo in Nuendo and the same mix in ProTools might sound different if we are not careful with the setting of the Center Pan law (let alone the summing algorhythms of each DAW).
    • ProTools: Before ProTools 8, its Center Pan Law was set to -2.5 dB in the center and you couldn’t change it. From ProTools 8 on, you can select it to be  -3, -4.5 or -6 dB.
    • Nuendo/Cubase: By default, it is set to -3 dB (equal power), but you can change it to be 0, -4.5 or -6 dB
    • Logic: It is set to be -3 dB

But if you set up all of them at the same level, they should be the same, right?

I’m somewhat sick and tired of reading comments like this one stating that “it is a common fact that ProTools sound more X or less Y than the DAW (brand name)”. Any blind testing without being biased on with A/D and D/A converter or interface we use, please? Consistent statistics to show?

Please, write your precious comments and thoughts on this topic. I definitely need to take this question out of my mind!


16 Responses to “Do ProTools, Nuendo and Logic really sound different?”

  1. rafavln88 December 14, 2011 at 22:46 #

    Really Interesting Jorge. But this is a similar case like loudspeakers or microphones, as they sound different having the same frequency response, because they are built with different materials.

    • jorgepolvorinos December 14, 2011 at 23:03 #

      Well Rafa, I don’t think so! Loudspeakers and microphones are prone to more differences between them because we are dealing with physical materials that might not be the same in the manufacturing process. What I’m talking about here is digital algorhythms and how they can affect sound for real. But objective and scientific reasoning is much needed in this topic…

      • rafavln88 December 14, 2011 at 23:25 #

        Yeah I agree of course, but algorythms to say in some way, try to simulate with calculations or commands what real hardware do, and you are modifying the signal. So I believe that as well as physical materials affects the final result even when the product can be the same, algorythms are developed following different rules for each product, and the result won’t be exactly the same.

  2. makotonagahama December 15, 2011 at 00:10 #

    Interesting. I was also sick of those subjective opinion too. It shouldn’t be obvious difference in sound quality otherwise no one buy the bad one. Also technologies are well developed these days I don’t think there’s much difference though I can’t prove anything. It’s just like a personal preference.

  3. James Key December 15, 2011 at 00:52 #

    When you bounce from a DAW the digital summing algorithms combine the individual signals and produce the mixdown. This is an incredibly accurate binary process when compared with analogue summing and I doubt you would hear any noticeable difference or “sound” between different DAWs when bouncing within the digital domain. Just my two cents!

    • Wilson Brown April 14, 2015 at 02:15 #

      I actually find the “sound” of ProTools and Logic noticeably different (can’t speak for Nuendo). I’ve always assumed this had to do with the way that summing algorithms are implemented. A good experiment is to take 20 mono splits and bounce them out at unity in PT, Logic and your DAW of choice. The resulting files sound different – especially if you are driving channels (or busses) at levels above 0dBfs. A longtime Logic user, I think that Pro Tools has a much tighter and aggressive sound, whereas Logic is glassier. Ableton has a “sound” too. In 30 years, people are going to big digging up old macbooks to “get that 2010s sound”!

  4. jorgepolvorinos December 15, 2011 at 19:01 #

    Agree with you, James!

  5. Hosea Kurnianta December 15, 2011 at 23:09 #

    I think the difference is barely noticeable, if you’re ONLY talking about playback. But wouldn’t there be a difference when all of this softwares are converting audio files when it is being imported?

  6. Kiesha Amoa December 23, 2011 at 08:10 #

    Thanks for all your efforts that you have put in this. Very interesting information. “I quote others only in order the better to express myself.” by Michel Eyquem de Montaigne.

    • jorgepolvorinos December 27, 2011 at 13:07 #

      Thanks for the gratuite pun. Very clever. Any interesting input on this, please?

  7. flatboyslim June 14, 2012 at 09:02 #

    Hi there, I was asking myself the exact same question and so today I dropped the same tracks into nuendo and logic to see. I had heard that Logic’s engine is worse than nuendo, (cubase), protools. I panned the keys hard left and right and the overheads. thats all. the panning law was the same. Then i bounced and listened. IMO Logic sounded mushy but strangely enough, louder. When I flipped the phase on the two mixed they were nowhere near to zero! Soooo, I normalized both bounces. Then I flipped the phase. Zero. No sound. But still I perceive more depth when using protools or cubase. hmmm.. maybe it differs when you start adding plugins, etc.

  8. flatboyslim June 14, 2012 at 09:16 #

    Actually I must correct my statement. If I turn up the volume really(!) high I can hear the piano and the overheads. those were the things I had panned. I can’t hear the center. So there you go…I guess the more you mess around with plug ins and panning, the more change you will get. But I’m not going to test this right now. 😀

  9. andrea October 22, 2012 at 08:35 #

    Logic Pro User From 7.0, never sound good to me. I wasn’t able to make a hit 🙂 no joke. IMHO: mush sound, foggy, not puch, strange stereo front back. No solid center information, reverb and delay don’t have depth. IMHO 🙂 listen on PMC and NS10. andrew

    • jorgepolvorinos October 23, 2012 at 09:29 #

      Do you mix on-the-box or you run your mixes through some mixing desk? Have you done anything to the stereo bus configuration? It’s a bit strange what happens to you. Maybe you need someone to perform a blind ABX test on you, playing mixes through different DAWs …

  10. Bart November 9, 2012 at 16:45 #

    Actually i did some recordings on nuendo a year ago but switched then to acid due to the easier timestretching posabilities and from there on to reaper because of the easier workflow and because it’s a real bargain but i just couldn’t get the open ness and missed A LOT detail and instrument placement which i had with nuendo ,though i always used the same audiointerface and monitors . At first i really thought it was my ears or something and threw in several plugins without suc6 but then i thought what the hack i go for the real deal i get protools 10 .So i plugged in my guitar and fell out of my chair … it sounded IMO superb! and far far better then reaper and Acid the clarity detail and stereo placement is a zillion times better ….,reverb is shining again ,just brilliant! why?? you tell me but i’ll stick to protools

    • jorgepolvorinos November 11, 2012 at 14:44 #

      Hi Bart,
      I think it’s about time we do a serious subjective testing on this, with the same signal source, audio interface, gain settings, monitoring, etc…

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