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Whither Dither: Experience with High-Order Dithering Algorithms in the Studio

An ever-increasing number of recordings are being made at resolutions greater than 16 bits and more than 100 dB of dynamic range. Since the ultimate product of most of these recordings is a Compact Disc, there is some question of how to reduce the resolution of the material down to the required 16 bits. Noise shaping and dithering have been proposed as methods of doing this reduction. These methods are attractive since they place the irreducible quantization error in a portion of the spectrum where the ear is relatively insensitive. It is shown that the success of this process depends greatly on the ultimate use and listening environment for the material. This moves the choice of which algorithm to use more into the domain of the mastering engineer rather than the scientist. Thus, in conclusion, it is not possible to psychoacoustically optimize an algorithm, contrary to the claims of some manufacturers and researchers. Therefore, it is recommended that equipment manufacturers present the client with a wide variety of algorithms so that the process can be controlled based on what end result is desired.

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