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Objective and Subjective Evaluations of Digital Audio Workstation Summing

Many recording professionals attest to a perceivable difference in sound quality between different digital audio workstations (DAWs), yet there is little in the way of quantifiable evidence to support these claims. To test these assertions, the internal summing of five different DAWs is tested. Multitrack stems are recorded into each DAW and summed to a single, stereo mix. This mix is evaluated objectively in reference to a purely mathematical sum generated in Matlab to avoid any system-specific limitations in the summing process. The stereo sums are also evaluated by highly trained listeners through a three-alternative forced-choice test focusing on three different DAWs. Results indicate that when panning is excluded from the mixing process, minimal objective and subjective differences exist between workstations.

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