If you’re getting deeper and deeper into mastering, it’s important to know about as much of the mastering process as possible, this includes what it means to use dithering when mastering.
How one process affects another. How streaming services affect sound quality. How a compressor will change the dynamics in a track.
Whether you’re mastering for yourself, or mastering for clients, at some point you may need to master for CD. This is where dithering comes into play the most. What is dithering, and how does it affect the mastering process?
What is Dithering When Mastering?
Dithering is the process in which random noise is added to your track in order to correct audio errors.
But these aren’t your average audio errors that we’re talking about. I’m sure you’re thinking, “but noise isn’t good!?”
And you’d be right in any other case.
However, you may get unwanted audio distortion or noise when reducing your bit depth in your track. If you write at 24 bit-depth, STAY AT 24 BIT DEPTH.
When you reduce the bit depth, you reduce the resolution and quality of your audio. Dithering is what helps the process from moving to a lower bit depth.
So what does all of this actually have to do with CD’s?
When to Use Dithering When Mastering
As stated before, you’re going to want to dither when you’re forced to reduce the size of the bit depth.
Reducing the size of the bit depth will ultimately reduce the quality of the audio.
Let’s say you’re wanting to print some special edition CD copies of your next EP. CD can only print to 16 bit depth. This is a pretty drastic reduction to the average 24 bit depth that audio is recording at.
You’re probably producing at 24 bit depth, or even 32 bit depth.
When you export your final version for CD, you’ll need to drop the bit depth to 16. This is when you should put a dithering plugin at the end of your chain. Set it to the bit depth you’re exporting at, and you should be good to go.
Dithering plugins are extremely straightforward and there isn’t much to them. Whatever plugin you use, there’s probably a Youtube tutorial out there for you.
However, check your exporting settings as you might have a dithering option built into your DAW’s exporting section. I know Logic Pro X has this feature.
If you’re needing to purchase a dithering plugin, Good Dither is my go to suggestion!