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I have an incredibly strange case.

I've been assembling a collection of demos from old songs I wrote some years ago. I found one, a 2822 kbps WAV file, played it (in Windows Media Player) and thought hmmm...I could have sworn this song had some vocals. Weird.

But I thought never mind, it'll do as an instrumental. It just needs a little remastering.

So I opened up Ableton, dropped it into an Audio track, and hit play.

BOOM, suddenly, there are vocals. Why is Ableton playing them, and Windows Media Player isn't?

So I thought never mind, they're back now. I tweaked some EQ and put a Limiter on it until it sounded decent. Export to 44100 WAV file.

When I play the newly mixed down track in Windows Media, vocals are gone again. I even uploaded it to Bandcamp and played it on there - still no vocals.

What makes it even weirder is that when I drop this newly mixed WAV file back into Ableton, the vocals are gone altogether.

Does anyone know what on earth happened?

  • Are you vocals panned dead center? Are you using different speakers with Media Player? Could be your PC speakers are 180 degrees out of phase (e.g. if you connected the wires wrong) and anything that is panned dead center will cancel itself out. – John Wu Nov 15 '18 at 7:01
  • @JohnWu - the cancellation has to be before the speakers. Cancellation actually in stereo wouldn't be total, it would comb-filter; at some point it must be summed to mono for that to happen. – Tetsujin Nov 15 '18 at 7:24
  • The vocals are panned dead center as far as I can remember, but I'm using the same speakers for both Ableton and Media Player, on the same computer. I know this is a phase issue but I just can't figure out why Ableton can play it and Windows can't. – TCassa Nov 15 '18 at 9:15
  • Things you might want to check: => are you using ASIO in Ableton? WMP will not use ASIO. => What state is the "Convert to mono" button in (on export). => Faulty/worn-out/half-plugged jacks or adapters may introduce phase cancellation too. – Agnes K. Cathex Nov 30 '18 at 15:40
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Interestingly, I think this was a phase issue. While it remains unsolved as to why I could hear the middle channels in Ableton but not the exported WAV file, I used the Utility -> Phase Left plugin on the track and re-exported, which solved my problem. Thanks all for suggestions.

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