@iamjosephkim on Twitter was asking me today if I have a video on dither. I should probably do a full-on video tutorial on it at some point. But for today, let me give you the “quick and dirty” run-down on dither.

All you high-end, super smarty-pants, you are welcome to go in-depth in the comments section, but I’m gonna keep this brief and simple.

What is dither?

Dither is simply noise that you add to your mix. Every DAW I’ve ever used comes with a dither plug-in. This normally goes on your master fader.

When should you use dither?

If you recall, I wrote an article recently on 24-bit vs 16-bit. Go back and read that article if you haven’t already. Here’s the summary: Record at 24-bit.

Your final mix that you burn to CD, however, needs to be 16-bit. The problem here is that you have to somehow “chop off” 8 bits of information to get from 24 to 16.

Dither smooths out this transition. That’s really all you need to know. The how and why are fairly interesting, and you’re welcome to go research it, but knowing the ins and outs of dither doesn’t really help you create better music. So simply remember this:

DITHER RULE:
When converting from 24-bit to 16-bit,
apply dither.

Simple enough, right?

How to Apply Dither

Like I said before, dither is fairly simple. If you use the basic “bounce-to-disk” function of your DAW, simply insert a dither plug-in on your master fader (after any other effects), then set the dither to “16-bit.”

That’s it!! That’s enough information to make sure you’re doing things right when it comes to dither.

  • LJ Mtx

    This is the best cut and dry explanation of dither that I’ve come across. Thanks for posting!

  • You cut to the meat of it there i think – I have a post on dither here too: http://www.podcomplex.com/blog/dithering/

    But basically the only thing you really need to know is that you should always dither rather than truncate…

  • Thanks for the tip. I’ve always wondered what dither was. I’m brand spanking new to recording myself and Pro Tools so this is great.

    If I’m not planning on burning CDs, for example, if I’m only releasing my music online as MP3s, should I keep it 24 bit and the let the people downloading convert it via iTunes (as someone else mentioned here) or should I convert it myself to ensure that the conversion sounds the best. In this case, I actually doubt that it would make it to a CD, probably just end up on an iPod or harddrive.

    What do you think?

  • EYAD HADDAD

    what if I print whole the song into the Session, NOT Bounce to desk , How can I Export it with Dither?
    Thanks

    • Great question!! When you simply export a file in Pro Tools, it automatically applies dither when needed. (This is how I normally do it.)

      • EYAD HADDAD

        Ahh ! Great!
        Thanks

  • Just had this facebook exchange with an engineer friend.

    B.C. Fortenberry RT @joegilder: Blog Post: Quick Guide to Dither http://bit.ly/9v3a5f
    Thu at 4:52pm via Selective Tweets
    · Comment · Like · follow @bcfortenberry

    Jamie Uertz The apogee UVR22 dither works awesome!
    http://www.apogeedigital.com/products/uv22hr.php
    Yesterday at 10:56am ·

    B.C. Fortenberry Cool. I noticed from your link that UVR22 had been added to Logic from a recent update. Sure enough, there is is. Thanks, Jamie!

  • So if I’m reading this correctly, this should be done before Mastering?

    • Nope. Dither should only be applied when you are going from 24-bit to 16-bit. You want to send the mastering engineer 24-bit files, so you wouldn’t need any dither on them. He’ll apply dither before bouncing them down to 16-bit.

  • Joseph Lyons

    Do you know if iTunes is legit for recognizing bit resolution? I have never bounced to 16 bit before because I never knew what it was for and my music still played fine on cds with 24 bit, but I bounced to 16 bit and itunes still says its 24. I tried putting the dither right on the master fader and tried exporting the region (which you said adds dither automatically) and it still says 24 bit.

    • Yep, iTunes will recognize and playback 24-bit files, but it will convert them down to 16-bit if you try to make a CD. I don’t know how good their dither is, so I’d rather take care of it myself WHEN I mix things down.

      Secondly, adding dither to your master fader doesn’t make it bounce at 24-bit. You still have to select “16-bit” when you bounce the song.

  • EYAD HADDAD

    I use in the Mastering L2 plug-in and L2 has a Dither built in , is this enough?

  • But in bounce dialog there are dither algorithms settings, so what setting to use, and which are the differences?

    • To me it doesn’t really matter. Just pick 16-bit and you’re good.