AudioSharp

Music, Programming, and other topics related to the modern Music Engineering Scene.

Dither

If you've ever used a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation, such as Pro Tools or Logic), you've probably heard of dither. You might have even used it without really knowing what it is or why it works. Put simply, Dither is very low level noise that is added to your signal to help quantize it more accurately.

Consider this signal:
Note that the blue dots represent sample values. Since the signal does not go past halfway between bit values, we completely lose any trace of the signal. If we add some noise to this signal, we actually make it's representation slightly more accurate:
By adding just a little bit of high frequency noise, we have successfully pushed the signal level past the half-way point, causing the system to round up to the next highest bit value. This preserves our original signal, with only a very small audible increase in volume.

You may have noticed that there are many different types of dither. You will commonly use dither to convert between different bit depths, and there may be a few different settings to choose from. The only difference between the settings is the noise content. All the settings are still noise, but many companies are spending quite a bit of time and money on shaping the noise so that it works the best without the ear being able to hear it. You can imagine how poorly designed dither algorithms could completely ruin a track, so having a good dither is very important.

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