We have made a dither tutorial video since we get many questions on this subject. Dithering is one of the most fundamental yet most misunderstood concepts in digital audio. We can give you a lot of theory about how it works and why you need it. In essence though, it is actually very easy to use it in practice. We can summarize this dither tutorial with the following advice:
You should simply turn dither on when exporting to 16 or 24 bit files.
In the dither tutorial Thomas talks about the reasoning behind this advice. Below we are giving you the cliff notes…
Why you should simply leave the dither on
As you work on your tracks in your DAW, all processing is done in 32 or 64 bit floating point. So whenever you want to export something to 24 or 16 bits, make sure that dither is enabled. In general when you change the bit depth you want to use dither. Dither is a fundamental part of making digital audio work as intended. It is actually kind of strange that there is a choice to disable it when exporting.
You will find very few occasions when it is appropriate to disable the dither. Furthermore, if you use it when you do not really need it, at least there is no real harm. You will then just get a tiny bit more noise in the exported file. On the other hand, if you disable dither when it is actually needed, which is most of the time, then you may introduce something called truncation distortion. You will find that his sounds quite bad and should absolutely be avoided.
With dither enabled, you replace the ugly truncation distortion with noise instead. All of this is happening at a very low level, and you will find the dither way below the actual music. For 16 bit files though, there are certainly situations where the dither can be audible. For example in fade-outs and in general quiet parts of the music.
What kind of dither you can use
Ok, but what kind of dither should you use then? Our advice is that you use whatever dither you have in your DAW. You can use the standard or default dither presented in your DAW.
The standard dither you have in your DAW is usually TPDF, which is a technically correct type of dither that will always work. We use that in our DAW. If you want to try out other kinds, like POW-r, UV22, IDR or some other types of dither and noise shaping, just go ahead and do so.
Just remember that as long as you enable dither, the kind of dither you use is arguably among the least important decisions you will make when mastering.
💚 Sofia & Thomas