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What is Dithering and Why Should You Care?

You might have seen the option called "Dither" or "Enable dithering" while exporting your track. What does that actually mean? And, do you actually need to use it? Let's discuss that now.

Photo by Vova Krasilnikov

What is Dithering?

Dithering means adding noise. Yeah, it's that simple.

But why? When working with digital audio in our DAW, we generally record, mix and export everything at a high bit-rate (generally, 32 or 24 bit). But, when we have to distribute the final song to stores or burn it to a CD, we have to compress it to 16-bit.

When we compress the audio from a higher bit-rate to a lower bit-rate, it can cause "Quantization Distortion". In simple words, the audio can lose dynamics and quality while compressing it. So, to prevent this, random noise is generated according to the audio.

If you want to know the technical stuff related to dithering, check this detailed article.

When to use Dithering?

Everyone should use dithering but when? We should NOT dither the audio every time we export. This is because dithering an audio file again and again can raise the noise level by a lot.

So, when should you actually dither?

Dithering is usually the last step of music production. Generally, we dither the final master while exporting it to 16-bit. We do not have to dither the audio after recording or mixing as we are not changing the bit depth.

Also, you should only dither if you're changing the bit depth from 34 or 24 bit to 16-bit. If you're not planning to export to 16-bit, you should not dither.

Ideally, you should leave dithering to the mastering engineer.

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