Home » Music Technology 101: Dithering Explained (2/2) – What, Why and When to Dither e technology 101

Music Technology 101: Dithering Explained (2/2) – What, Why and When to Dither e technology 101

by AWEjjhgcdfghlkj



In this two-part video tutorial I will explain dithering from the ground up. For your convenience, here are the links to the two parts:
Part 1:
Part 2:

You do not need any special background in signal processing, audio or dithering to follow the current videos. However, you should know what bit depth means. If you don’t, fear not! Just watch my short video tutorial about bit-depth and sampling rates right here:

What’s in Part 1: Dithering is all about getting rid of quantization noise. What is quantization noise? Glad you’ve asked, because that’s exactly what we’re going to cover in the first part! Shortly put, quantization noise is the noise introduced whenever we reduce the bit depth of our signal. For example, most audio is recorded using 24 bits of resolution, but modern audio CDs only have 16 bits of resolution, implying that a reduction in bit depth must be applied. This reduction will introduce some artifacts known as quantization error, or quantization noise. This “noise” will have some jarring, unpleasant frequency components which we’d like to get rid of.

What’s in Part 2: In the second part we will cover dithering. To “dither” a signal means to add some form of random noise to it because lowering its bit depth. This dither noise has a beneficial effect: while it doesn’t eliminate quantization noise, it gives it a more random, “white” nature which is less disturbing to the listener. When the amount of white noise equals approximately 1 bit in magnitude, the quantization error becomes a lot like white noise. This is because quantization involves rounding the input signal either up or down. When the noise becomes on the order of 1 bit, the rounding becomes random, and therefore the quantization error becomes random as well.

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DITHERING TYPES

Dithering requires that we add random noise to our signal before downsampling. This noise should have a flat spectrum – in other words, be white. However, there is more than one way to generate white random noise. Probably the easiest and most efficient way is to use what’s known as a triangular probability distribution function, or TPDF. You might have seen these initials in your dithering plugin. This is an excellent way to efficiently dither. Although we won’t discuss the heavy mathematical theory of dithering in this video, I’ll just mention that TPDF white noise decouples the first and second moments of the quantization noise.

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Another option consists of using noise with a non-flat spectrum. For example, you’d might add noise that has more high-frequency components, such as Blue Noise. This is referred to as shaped noise, shaped noise dithering, or colored dithering. What this tries to do is force the dithered quantization noise to occupy higher frequencies that are outside the human audio range. Once again, personal experimentation is key to deciding whether you want to use colored dithering or not, but this is truly a very fine point. You will be fine if you just stick to TPDF. However, a word of caution: only apply colored dithering at the FINAL stage of your processing. If you need to dither audio at some point DURING mixing, use TPDF. This is because subsequent processing of the audio can cause the colored noise to creep into the audible listening range and create nasty artifacts. So: Use TPDF at all stages before mixing, and use TPDF or colored dithering during the final mixdown.

LINKS OF INTEREST

Here is a wonderful guide to dithering written in 2002 by Nika Aldrich, targeted at the audio engineer:

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This is truly geared towards the audio enthusiast and does not go into any math. It is heavily illustrated and references industry standard plugins such as Apogee’s UV22.

Wikipedia’s entry on dithering:

My Other Videos

My Youtube channel has many other video tutorials covering various topics in both audio and music, mostly geared towards piano playing. Here are a few examples:
Bit depth and sample rate explained:
Song writing Tips and Tricks – Rhythmic Doubling:
Reading Sheet Music for Beginners:
The 2-5-1 Harmonic Progression Tutorial:
Playing Left hand Piano Arpeggios:
An Exercise for Developing Piano Right-Hand Technique: .

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34 comments

AA 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Brilliant!

Reply
Tallywort 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

A note here, floyd steinberg is more akin to noise shaping than it is to dithering. Despite it being called dithering itself.

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Илья Ммаев 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

should I engage dither at the start of mixing the project? The sound from DAW came out with 32 bit float format (or higher) & goes to DAC, which is 24 bit, so all we hear is truncated?

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Peka Pekanov 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Thank you for the video! It's very helpful.

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N-Jay Music 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Amazing ! Just Amazing. thank you 🙂

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Venkatesh Reddy 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Complicated Tutorial

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Roy Travel the world by motorbike ! 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Hi !
I have questions that I didn't get straight /consistent answers to, maybe U can:
I'm working inside Cubase 9 with 48 khz / 32 bit float resolution.
Can I export the final file in the same resolution (without dithering, no changes at all) & then upload it to YouTube ?
So… YouTube will make the first & last compression for me, from the best resolution I uploaded the file.
Does it will make artifacts to the file ? because, in that scenario the compression will be directly from my 48 khz / 32 bit float resolution to Youtube AAC (or MP3) format ? Does the file actually needs dithering for that ?
Do U have idea what will actually be the best workflow to send YouTube the exported file ?

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Refael Shansi 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Hi,
Thanks for the video.
I have a question regrading the noise that you add in the dithering: should the noise level PSD should be limited by the value 0.5X(q/srt(12))^2?
Since for my understanding, when adding to much noise, higher than ( LSB/2), you can degrade the ADC performance.
Will appreciate your explanation.
Refael

Reply
Elise Boulanger 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

I just watched your three videos on sampling rate, bit depth, and dithering. They were super helpful, clear, and effective. Thank you very much! I hope you make a video on noise shaping. I am training to use the TASCAM DP-24 Digitial Portastudio. This unit has a 'noise shaped dithering' feature, which makes me confused as to why they use this label after what you said.

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Rori Mckenzie 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

That was fascinating! What I learned here probably won't be useful for the higher music tech exam, but I'm very interested… thank you!

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Richard Woltz 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

very very good
well done

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Joseph Woods 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

I 100% got it now, thanks for making the outstanding video.

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Lyon Lotus Beats 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

I saw a video by a guy named Monty from xiph.org about stairsteps in digital audio. He said that stairsteps simply doesn't exist and that the output signal is identical to the input. Wouldn't that mean that quantization errors doesn't exist either since they are caused by stairsteps? Im a bit confused lol.

Other than that great video!

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Ahmet Gökhan Coşkun 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Great videos, thank you very much.

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84nomas 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

good.really good.keep it up man, keep em commin

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Symoun Dred Durias 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

You should be a teacher. Much love!

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Ruben Carrillo 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Wow, these are so well-produced that it makes it clear as day. Thank you. I subscribed.

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Trần Đạt 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

i'm sorry if my question is stupid :v how can i get the random noise? for example If i turn a song as 24bit to 16bit, we have to add random noise right? but how we get the random noise and how to add it? Can you describe more clearly about this process? Thank you!

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Malte Bergman 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Nice vids, I'm a hobby mixer and I had no clue what UV22HR in cubase did until I googled around and found your and a few others' videos. Hopefully it will help a bit (haha nerd humor!) in the mastering process for me =) Thanks a lot for the help!

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codemiesterbeats 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

thanks buddy

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Calixte De Coster 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Very interesting. Could you make one of these about interpolation?

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Alienadin 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Great video. Very well explained. Thanks.

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BadHalf 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Great videos.

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Chillos100 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

best teacher! thnxx..

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Anteneh Arayaselassie Alula 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

I have never commented on youtube … you are amazing thank you

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NotOrdinaryInGames 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Now I need someone to explain to me the rectangular kind.

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Alis A 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

For our convenience, could you kindly make a playlist with all three Music Technology 101 videos. And, please, do make more videos explaining the rest of the nuts and bolts of music technology. You sir have a praiseworthy way of conveying knowledge. Thank you for taking the time to do all this.

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davidbridgeman 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Actually dither replaces quantization noise it doesnt mask it.

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Cory Mckenzie 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

I have fl studio 11 do dither when I export?

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Plaswuff 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Thanks man.

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NotOrdinaryInGames 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Editing becomes even EASIER once you are able to work in 32 bit.

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DirktheDark 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Great video! If you have time, do a video about noise shaping. It will be good.

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MangoldProject 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Thanks. I do my best to simplify 🙂

Reply
Javier Pinilla 27/09/2021 - 2:34 PM

Great.
Nice thinks are simple thinks.

Reply

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