Tag: dither

Why all these bits?

Our clients often ask for ‘high resolution’ files, this can mean both a higher samplerate than 44.1KHz and/or a greater wordlength (bits) than 16. In our experience people are quite confident around samplerates but misconceptions about wordlength/bits seems more common. Even though 24bit (or higher) may be preferable in some situations we still recommend using 16 bits (and a 44.1KHz samplerate) as format for distribution online. We will continue to do that until there’s a new global standard for online distribution, if there ever going to be one. The reason being that when the files leave the mastering house, all control of the material will be gone. Who knows what dodgy dithers and SRC the different distribution services uses, some may be good, others will sound like crap. By delivering the format that most online platforms use and the format that 90% of the consumers will end up with, you (hopefully) avoid unnecessary conversions between both wordlength/bits and samplerates.
Ian Shepherd recently released the video below that easily shows what a lower number of bits actually means, it’s probably not what you expected:

The truth about bit-depth and digital audio resolution

And, if you want to dive deeper into bit depth and digital audio, plow through this video where Monty Montgomery describes the phenomenon of dither, bits and sampling frequency:

D/A and A/D | Digital Show and Tell (Monty Montgomery @ xiph.org)

2018’s most common mixing issues

Here’s a list of the 3 most common mix mistakes we saw during 2018, and some tips on how to avoid them!

  1. Phase problems. About half the albums we mastered in 2018 had phase issues, sometimes so severe that instruments completely disappeared while listening in mono, and other times the mix sounded completely different in mono due to volume differences… Tip: Occasionally switch between stereo and mono while mixing. Mix in mono for about 30 minutes, mix in stereo for maybe 30 minutes and change again … Always start your mix in mono!
  2. Truncation errors. Truncation distortion will appear when reducing bit depth without the use of dither. For some reason, I have had several projects where individual instruments in mixes have suffered from quantization distortion. Mostly it has been acoustically sampled instruments so it could be a sample player that lacks dither or maybe a popular sample collection that hasn’t been dithered correctly… Tip: Listen carefully to your sampled instruments, especially when they fade out (truncation distortion will be most obvious in the tail). If it sounds weird, try putting a dither plugin last in the chain on the affected channel and see if it sounds better. Airwindows has a free plugin called Ditherbox. https://www.airwindows.com/ditherbox-vst/
  3. Cut off fades. This is not a new phenomena, it’s been on the list for many years. When you render your mix, add about half a second of silence before the music starts and listen properly at the end and add as much time as needed to let all the cymbals and reverbs fade out to silence, add about another second or two just to be sure.

Happy mixing everyone!