June 22, 2013

Dithering – Adding “Good Noise”

Visual artist who use computer programs to aid their artwork are aware of how different digital images are from their analog cousins.  A digital image is not actually the same image of what it was taken from – it is more like a representation of the picture that has been translated a bit at a time.  Knowing this fact, artists can use this to their advantage.  They can increase or decrease the number of bits in a picture, and they can literally keep the same image while needing to use less information.  In audio, the analogy works as well, since digital audio is a mere translation or representation of analog audio.

Audio dithering, like visual dithering, can either add or subtract to the overall feel or effect of the song.  While sample rates are pretty common across the board in music making, the depth or each bit can be changed causing subtle effects.  Looking at it through a microscope reveals just how big these changes are when working with bits and pieces – but zooming out of the scope helps you realize that overall the changes are actually quite minute.  There are folks out there who want to take hi-fi recorded music and dither it down into something with more character.