Files become distorted when exported as mp3 or wav

My files sound fine in Audacity - even when I ‘save project’ - but when I go to export as mp3 or wav - it increases the levels and distorts the files. This just started happening, and I can’t figure out why. My settings are 44100, 16 bit, mono, 192 kbps. I’ve uninstalled and reinstalled Audacity and it keeps happening. Can anyone help? Thanks!

So this is a mystery. One thing to try is Tracks > Mix > Mix and Render, to see what is actually being output.

If you are mixing that can happen because mixing is done by summation. Audacity itself won’t clip so you may not notice it if you aren’t playing-back at full-volume and clipping your DAC.

Or certain effects (like boosting with EQ or Loudness Normalization) can push your peak levels over 0dB, and a regular WAV file will clip.

If you do as jademan suggests you can run the Amplify or Normalize (1) effect before exporting to bring-down the level of the mix.

If you are not mixing, you can simply Amplify or Normalize as the last step before exporting.

Or, you can export as WAV at 32-bit float (which essentially has no limits), (2) then re-import and amplify or normalize before exporting to your desired format.

Just FYI - MP3 (and most lossy compression) doesn’t store individual samples so it doesn’t have a bit depth (it’s not “16-bits”).

Uncompressed files do have a bit rate (kbps) but we usually don’t “talk about it”. CD audio is 16-bits x 44.1Khz x 2-channels = 1411kbps. And there are 8-bits in a byte so that’s 176k bytes per second, or around 10MB per minute.

(1) Regular (peak) normalization, not loudness normalization

(2) Don’t use 32-bit float as a work-around to create final-file that goes over 0dB because DACs are limited to 0dB and the listeners DAC will clip if they play it at full volume.

Ok - thanks for all of these suggestions! I’ll take a closer look at the settings and see if I can figure out what I’m doing wrong. As far as mixing - this is probably a dumb question - but it’s just single track - just my voice (audiobook narration) - no music or effects or anything - so I’m not sure if the tracks/mix/mix and render applies here.

Also - I have been using normalize and that works and the file is fine - but then when I export - it’s loud and distorted.

Apologies - I’m definitely not as experienced with this software as most of you are - so I feel like I’m not explaining this correctly. Thank you for any and all suggestions!!

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