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What is Dithering in Audio and How It Works

What Is Dithering in Digital Audio and How It Works

Dithering is a sophisticated technique employed in audio production to enhance the quality of digital signals as they are converted to analog format. In this article, I will explain the essence of dithering, how it improves sound quality, and its practical applications in professional audio work.

What is Dithering in Audio?

Dithering is a technique used to reduce noise and distortion during the conversion of digital signals to analog signals. By adding a small amount of noise to the digital signal before conversion, this subtle, inaudible noise helps minimize the noise and distortion that typically occur during this process.

Dithering is particularly crucial when digital signals are converted to a lower bit rate. For example, converting a 24-bit signal to 16-bit involves reducing data, which can strip away details from the original signal. By introducing dithering noise, we can replicate a sound that is closer to the original, despite the reduced bit depth.

Conversely, dither can also enhance signals converted to a higher bit rate, aiding in achieving superior sound quality, such as converting from 16-bit to 24-bit. Reducing from 24-bit to 16-bit audio necessitates compressing the signal, which can lead to rounding errors or oversaturation due to downsampling.

Such quantization distortions can introduce harmonic distortions and other noise artifacts not otherwise present. Dithering, by generating a low white noise, helps smooth out these distortions, particularly noticeable in quieter parts of a mix like fade-outs or delay tails.

Also read: The Power of White Noise in Audio Production

The Benefits of Dithering

Dithering improves audio quality by compensating for high-frequency details often lost during compression or format conversion, which helps prevent the audio from becoming grainy. This technique is invaluable in various processes, including audio signal editing, where it helps smooth out distortions that degrade sound quality. By incorporating a small noise level, dithering effectively fills in any gaps, enhancing the overall audio quality.

When to Use Dithering

Dithering should be applied during the final stages of mixing and mastering, especially when a track is rendered to a lower bit depth. This practice helps to mask the quantization noise and artifacts brought about by quantization distortion – a phenomenon that occurs when digital signals are truncated to fit into a smaller bit depth, which I already explained to you above.

Also read: How to Prepare Your Mix for Final Song Mastering

Types of Dithering

Different types of dither are employed based on the specific needs of the audio material:

  • White Noise Dither: Adds a uniform noise across all frequencies.
  • Triangular PDF Dither: Strikes a balance between noise audibility and effectiveness.
  • Noise-Shaping Dither: Utilizes spectral shaping to make the dither noise less perceptible, focusing energy in less audible frequencies.

When Not to Use Dithering

Ideally, dithering should be used minimally. If you need to reduce the size of your audio file for common outputs, add dithering only when absolutely necessary to minimize interference in the quantization process. If reducing bit depth quality isn’t required, then avoid dithering as it may introduce a harsher frequency response detectable by the human ear.


Dithering is a powerful yet often misunderstood tool in digital audio production. By mastering when and how to use dithering, audio professionals can significantly enhance the quality of their final products. This in-depth exploration lays the groundwork for understanding and effectively utilizing dithering to mitigate quantization errors, ensuring high-quality audio across various production scenarios.

As you progress in your audio engineering career, harnessing the power of dithering will be instrumental in achieving polished and professional sound outputs.

If all this still seems complicated to you and you want help, go check our online mixing and mastering services.

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