Exported WAV file louder and different from Audacity file

Hello Audacity Community,
I have been using this program for the last several months (currently on version 3.4.2). Last night, after re-editing a piece for hours to sound good in the school’s speaker system (as opposed to the original version which sounded so different from the studio headphones to speakers) I went to export the three WAV files and they all sounded quite distinct from the Audacity files. This has never happened before. I exported them in stereo, 32-bit float, and I tried various 96000, 48000, and 44100Hz. Nothing worked. The WAV files are SIGNIFICANTLY louder and one of the files’ levels are all off and creating a very unpleasant clipping/bang.
Troubleshooting so far: 1) I read through the forum but the issue continues to baffle. I shut down my computer and restarted the program and exported anew. Didn’t help. 2) I tried playing back through different players (apple music and quicktime. No change. 3) I tried exporting new test files and old files that had previously exported successfully. The problem persists.
4) I deleted Audacity and download it anew. No change. 5) I also did a configuration reset and the problem persists. 6) I also tried mixing stereo down to mono and than selecting mono in export. no change!

I begin installation in two days and really welcome your help!

Note: yes, the tracks have delay, reverb, all kinds of time stretching, they have been amply-manipulated. But this was the case all along and I had no problem exporting to WAV until now.

-A Stressed Grad Student

There shouldn’t be a difference in loudness, except Audacity and your player application may have separate volume controls. And of course your school system has different amplifiers & speakers, etc.

Floating point won’t clip so you should be able to re-import the file and Normalize or Amplify, bringing it down to a “safe” level.

Make sure Show Clipping is enabled. And/or you can run the Amplify or Normalize effect to lower the levels.

About clipping -

Your analog-to-digital converter (recording), digital-to-analog converter (playback), regular integer WAV files, and CDs are hard-limited to 0dB and will clip (distort) if you try to go over.

Audacity uses floating-point internally. It has virtually no upper or lower limits. The same goes for your floating-point WAV. But if you have floating point data that goes over 0dB, you’ll clip your DAC if you play it at “full digital volume”.

Show Clipping is showing potential clipping and you can get false positives & false negatives. Audacity isn’t looking at the waveshape. It’s just looking at the peak level.

If you have a non-clipped file and you do something like boost the bass, or anything that boosts the volume Audacity might “show red”, but the waveform isn’t clipped yet, it just goes over 0dB. If you lower the volume (Amplify with a negative dB value, etc.) before exporting, everything will be OK.

On the other hand, if the waveform is actually clipped you might again “see red”. If you lower the volume, Audacity will no longer show red, but the waveform is still distorted.

There are no floating-point DACs and very-very few 32-bit DACs. When you play a file, the data is automatically scaled up or down to match your DAC (usually 16 or 24-bits). There’s no need to distribute or publish in floating point.

Many hardware/software are incompatible with 32-bit WAV.
Some will produce a horrifically loud clipped sound when tasked to play a 32-bit WAV.

16-bit depth WAV at 44100Hz is the most compatible format.

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