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DITHER

March 22, 2020

dither

BY CJ JACOBSON

Dither Is Simple And Complicated


Dither can be explained very easily, but yet, it is a very misunderstood term in the world of audio production. How can something so simple be so complicated and hard to figure out? I asked this question because i see experienced professional audio engineers asking the same questions over and over. I hear them ask "When do you dither?" & "Why do you dither?" and is dither needed when going from 32bit float to 24bit fixed point?" 


What Is Dither


Dither adds random low level noise to your audio files to lower the risk of errors that can happen when you convert the bit depth from higher to lower depths. Dither should be done at the very last step and it is done in the mastering stage. The mix should only go through the dithering process one time to keep its integrity.  So if you are mixing in 32bit floating point inside your DAW, do not convert your audio files down. When you export them for mastering, export it as a 32bit floating point file. Dither is used for video data in almost the same way it is used for audio files.


The True Definition Of Dither

Dither means to tremble, quiver and shiver. It is also an act of being nervous and agitated.


When To Dither

Here are some scenarios on if you 'should' or 'should not' dither

SAMPLE QUESTIONS ABOUT DITHERINGYESNOWHY OR WHY NOT
You are importing your 24bit audio file into your DAW that converts everything imported  to 32bit floating point, should you dither?   

You are going up in bit depth
You're bouncing or exporting an audio file from 32bit floating point to 24bit, should you dither?  
    
  
You are lowering the bit depth
You are converting a 24bit audio file to a 16bit audio file, should you dither?  

    


You're going down in bit depth
Maybe you want to save your PC's resources and bounce some audio tracks so they have all the plugin effects printed to them, should you dither?  

    


Make sure your bounce settings in the DAW are set to the same bit depth
You have 16bit audio files you want to import into your DAW and your DAW import properties are set to import all audio to 32bit floating point, should the import properties be set to dither?    

    
You're going up in bit depth


Conclusions Of Dithering

After reading all this, can you think of a situation when you find it hard to know if you should dither or not? You shouldn't , just remember that if you are going form a higher to lower bit depth, you dither and you only dither once and that is in the audio mastering stage. So never convert the bit depths when you are mixing. Keep them the same when bouncing, exporting and processing your audio files.