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Dither in Digital Audio*


Guelph-Waterloo Program for Graduate Work in Physics and Audio Research Group, University of Waterloo,
Waterloo, Ont. N2L 3Gl, Canada

A variety of topics are discussed with regard to the application of dither to a digital
audio system Basic schemes are outlined and suitable types of dither noise are considered.
Graphs are presented for analog dither of rectangular and Gaussian probability density
functions which illustrate linearization of the quantizer staircase, noise modulation, r
and total noise Digital dither is introduced, and it is urged that proper redithering
ought to be applied whenever the audio signal is digitally manipulated

0 INTRODUCTION a digital audio system and increase the signal resolution

well below the quantizer step size. Although such
The use of dither to remove contour effects in digital knowledge is not new, we feel that the audio community
video encoding has been studied by Roberts [1], who needs to reconsider these matters during the present
explored the effect of using synchronized pseudorandom rapid growth of digital audio. In this paper we continue
number generators at the encode and decode processors this analysis and distinguish between various forms of
in an add-subtract method. The application of dither dither, and we quantify their effects on differential and
to the qffantization of speech signals was analyzed in large-signal nonlinearity, noise modulation, and total
Jayant and Rabiner [2] and Rabiner and Johnson [3], noise level. We shall assume a familiarity with the
whose conclusion was that the advantages of dither contents of [4].
become significant when the number of bits per sample
is less than about six. They make such a succinct state- 1 METHODS OF APPLICATION
ment about dither that we quote it in its entirety from
their paper [2]: , Fig. l(a) shows the block diagram of a digital audio
-_ system consisting of the input anti-aliasing filter, the
. . with relatively cruder quantizations, the perceptibility analog-to-digital converter (ADC) or quantizer, the
of signal-dependent errors increases to a point where tech- digital storage or transmission medium (or digital signal
niques that can make the errors independent of signal sam- manipulator), the digital-to-analog converter (DAC),
ples become very attractive, even if they do not decrease and the final output or reconstruction filter. We shall
the error variance itself Dithering is precisely such a assume that the ADC and DAC contain sample-and-
scheme It is based on the concept of forcing the quantization hold circuits or their equivalents Analog dither could
error E, conditional to a given input X, to be a zero-mean
random variable, rather than a deterministic function of be applied before or after the input anti-aliasing filter,
X. The randomization of conditional error E(X) is accom- that is, at points A and B in Fig. l(a), or digitally in
plished by the addition of a random dither noise sample N the data stream at points C and D. It makes no sense
to the input, and quantizing (X + N) instead of X. to apply dither at E or F, since the output filter is linear
and thus any dither just represents added noise.
In a previous paper [4] we have reiterated arguments Fig. 1(b) shows the application of analog dither at
and presented experimental data which show that the the ADC input, and Fig. l(c)shows digital dither applied
introduction of a low-level noise dither can linearize at the input to the DAC, using a pseudorandom number
(PRN) generator to provide the dither noise. Each of
these processes will be studied in later sections.
* Presented at the 76th Convention of the Audio Engineering
Society, New York, 1984 October 8-11; revised 1987 Sep- Several types of analog dither noise can be used.
tember 1. Normal random noise having a Gaussian probability

966 J. AudioEng.Soc.,Vol.35,No.12,1987December

density function (pdf) and noise having a rectangular a rectangular pdf. In order for this scheme to give res-
pdf 1 are useful. More detailed considerations of these olution well below the LSB in the manner of analog-
two forms of dither are presented in Sec. 2. Binary derived dither, the DAC rectangular pdf noise has a
noise is less useful since its pdf is characterized by a peak-to-peak value comparable to an LSB, and this
pair of g functions. It can be used at point A in Fig. implies that the PRN generator has its LSB well (that
1(a) if the clock rate is considerably higher than the is, 2 or more bits) below the main audio system's LSB.
sampling rate (about three times is sufficient) so that This dither is added to the ADC input, and the digital
the input anti-aliasing filter modifies the pdf to be es- version (properly bit registered) is subtracted from the
sentially Gaussian. In each case of analog dither applied ADC output. The digital subtraction will in general
to the quantizer, the dither-averaged input-output result in a digital word with greater bit length, which
characteristic is the result of input smearing of the may be truncated or rounded to the desired word length.
quantizer staircase with the dither noise pdf. We shall The noise will not be increased due to dither beyond
call such a dither process analog convolved, the original quantization noise level if the full word
Suppose then that we are using analog signals such length is retained. This is not normally done, however.
as random noise to increase the low-level resolution If the word length is reduced to that of the ADC, the
of the system. Should this dither be applied before or noise penalty is up to 3 dB. If the intent of the dither
after the anti-aliasing filter? What noise bandwidth is to correct for ADC nonlinearities, dither of many
should be used? To answer these questions we must LSBs peak-to-peak registered to the left of the binary
recognize that the intent of the dither is to decorrelate point would be used. In this case there would be no
the quantization error of the samples from the signal noise penalty for a perfect DAC.
and each other. What may have been structured quan- Fig. 2(b) shows a similar add-subtract scheme ap-
tization error will be turned into featureless random plied to the output DAC of the digital audio system.
noise. Thus the dither noise must be capable of fluc- The PRN generator supplies low-level digital dither
tuating from significant positive values to similar neg- (which may be bit truncated by the signal DAC) to add
ative values in one sampling period, and this implies to the digital data stream while another DAC is used
a minimum noise bandwidth of half the sampling fre- to subtract a properly scaled noise version from the
quency. Thus either of points A or B in Fig. 1(a) are signal output. The second DAC in Fig. 2(a) or (b) does
suitable for dither introduction, since the input filter not need to be very precise, or have a wide word length.
usually has a bandwidth of almost half the sampling It typically deals with analog outputs that will be scaled
frequency. There are some bandwidth implications, to something like one quantizing interval of the main
since if dither noise of bandwidth larger than that of system, and the word length of the PRN generator and
the input filter is applied at A, then the noise level the DAC would be chosen to give several bits of noise
actually applied to the quantizer will be reduced, resolution below the quantizing interval of the main
whereas if applied at B, only the acquisition time of system. Again such a scheme prevents unnecessary
the sample-and-hold circuit determines the minimum noise increase for larger dither values, placed to the
time for a significant dither noise fluctuation, left of the binary point, but if the dither extends below
Once a signal has been sampled and quantized into the LSB of the incoming words, there will be no noise
a digital data stream, a dither signal must be digital, penalty only if the DAC converts this extended word
applied at either point C or D in Fig. l(a). The dither length. Since the DAC will normally be of the same
noise might be a small random number [say - 1, 0, or word length as the incoming samples, there will be a
1 least significant bit (LSB)], added at each clock cycle, noise penalty of up to 3 dB.
which can help to remove DAC nonuniformity. In such Fig. 2(c) shows an all-embracing technique which
situations the dither-averaged output is obtained by allows analog addition at the ADC input and synchro-
weighting the DAC output levels with the digltal dither nous analog subtraction at the DAC output [1], [2],
probabilities. We shall call such a process digitally [5]. The dashed line joining the two PRN dither sources
convolved, implies that they must be synchronized. Such a scheme
Although the addition of dither linearizes the in- ensures that precisely no noise increase occurs when
put-output characteristic, providing low-level reso- the appropriate type and amount of linearizing dither
lution, it also adds some noise. If larger amounts of is used. It is, however, more complicated to implement,
dither are contemplated to reduce converter nonlin- and probably not feasible for digital audio applications.
earities of intermediate size, the increase in noise may The single-ended dither scheme of Fig. 1(b) gives
be unacceptable. To alleviate the increase in noise, good results with Gaussian dither of an rms value about
addition-subtraction schemes can be used in which one-half the quantizing interval, as will be shown later.
the dither is added into the chain and subtracted in Addition-subtraction schemes as shown in Fig. 2 do
some appropriate manner farther along. Fig. 2(a) shows not greatly improve on this performance, and due to
an arrangement in which a PRN generator applied to their added complexity we shall not consider them fur-
a DAC can generate low-level analog dither noise having ther.
Finally, it should be mentioned that experiments have
1 Such analog noise could be generated by using a digital also been performed on the use of deterministic (pe-
random number generator feeding a DAC. riodic) dither signals, either on their own [6] or in

J. Audio Eng. Soc., Vol. 35, No. 12, 1987 December 967

combination with a pseudorandom noise component [10]-[12]. Such schemes are difficult to analyze the-
[7]-[9]. These authors report that sinusoidal half- oretically, but we believe that they cannot be totally
sampling-rate dither by itself is not as effective as the free of noise modulation.
use of (pseudo)-random noise as discussed above and
in [4], but that a combination of the two can result in 2 QUANTITATIVE ANALOG DITHER
most of the benefits of optimally chosen random noise CONSIDERATIONS
dither with a smaller audible noise penalty. This may
be worthwhile for digital audio systems with word Two consequences of adding dither to a digital system
lengths of fewer than 14 bits, but the need to conserve are that 1) the transfer characteristic is linearized and
every last decibel of signal-to-noise ratio is less when low-level distortion is reduced, and 2) the total noise
discussing systems of 16 or more bits. A further in- rises slightly but the noise modulation is reduced. We
teresting possibility lies in the use of narrow-band dither treat these phenomena more thoroughly in this section.
centered at half the sampling rate, and thus having Our definitions are similar to those of Roberts [1].
most of its noise power outside the system's baseband If noise having a pdf given by p(v) is added to a

input ADC_
A filter B F_) utput

(b) (c)
Fig. 1. (a) Basic block diagram of digital audio system. At points C and D the signal is in digital form as indicated by double
lines. (b) Application of analog dither to input of ADC. (c) Application of digital dither to DAC.

(a) (b)


Fig. 2. (a) Applying analog dither in add-subtract scheme. Output of a pseudorandom digital number (PRN) generator is
converted to analog dither having rectangular pdf by the DAC. The appropriately scaled digital random number is subtracted
from the ADC digital output. (b) Applying digital dither in an add-subtract scheme. Here a second DAC is used to allow
analog subtraction of the dither from the main DAC output. (c) Analog add-subtract scheme using synchronized PRN
generators. Such add-subtract methods allow larger amounts of dither to be used without a corresponding increase in noise.

968 J. Audio Eng. Soc.,Nol. 35, No. 12, 1987 December


signal Vandappliedtoaquantizerwhoseinput-output noise, given by _/X/_ for a uniform staircase quan-

relationship is defined by the function f(v), then the tizer.
dither-averaged output f(V) is given by Indeed, we can rewrite Eq. (4) to make this clearer.
f(V) =a f(V + v)p(v) dv (1)
[f(V + v) - VI2 = [{f(V + v) - f(V)}

which represents a smearing off(v) by the noise pdf. + {f(V) - V}]2

Eq. (1) defines what we earlier called an analog-con-
volved process. The rms noise output Vn for a static = [f(V + v) - f(V)] 2
signal V is given by
+ [f(V) - V]2
v2(V ) =a
f m
[f(V + v) - f(V)12p(v) dv . (2)
+ 2[.f(V)f(V + v) -f2(V)

This definition excludes any dc offsets and would rep- - Vf(V + v) + Vf(V)] ,
resent the noise as measured by an ac-coupled meter,
since the bracket contains the deviation of the output we find, using definitions (1), (2), (3) and the fact that
from the mean. fp(v) dv = 1, that Eq. (4) simplifies to
Eq. (2) gives the noise power as a function of the

assumed slowly
noise modulation,
varying input2 but
in reality
and is the
to Vt2ot= v2 + _ [f(V) - V]2 dV _
>- v2 (5)
swings through a range of values usually large relative
to the quantizing interval. Thus the signal-averaged
noise Vs (due to dither alone) is given by The integral on the right-hand side represents the mean
square deviation of the smoothed transfer characteristic
f(V) from the ideal straight-line characteristic V. (This

2 =a _1 vf,_v2(V) dV soiS
D.) Asf(V)---_V with dithering,
Fig. 3 shows plots of Eq. (1), the dither-averaged
_ 1 fir, transfer characteristic, for several dither noise levels
A J0J- o0 [f(V + v) - f(V)]2p(v) dv dV . (3) of rectangular pdf. The noiseless quantizer staircase
is defined by 3
Here A represents one quantizing interval or LSB. This a
signal-averaged noise corresponds to the variance V f(V) = A int (V/A) + h/2 (6)
defined by Roberts [1]. It might be argued that the
deviation from straightness of the dither-averaged which has a step at V = 0, and this function is easily
input-output characteristic given by Eq. (1) represents implemented on a computer for numerical work. The
dither noise pdf is given by
signal distortion for very small signals near the LSB

level, but forfrom

deviations largestraightness
complex signals
will the
random periodic
noise, p(v) = _ 1/8, ] vI _< 8/2 (7)
much as quantization noise itself is then random. Thus [0, Iv[ > 8/2
the total noise rtet with signal applied should be given
by where8 is the peak-to-peakvalueof the dithernoise.
The rms value of this dither noise is 8/X/]2. Fig. 3
a 1 ri r, shows 1 LSB's width of the (periodic)dither-averaged
= _ Jo'J- 0o[f(V + v) - V]2p(v) dy dV . (4) transfer
4/3. Note characteristic for values of when
the perfect characteristic 8/A =8/AV3,=2/3,
This also occurs for 8/A = 2, 3, 4 ..... This is in
This represents a signal-averaged mean-square deviation agreement with previous researchers. For 2 < _/A < 3
of the dithered output from the assumed straight-line the characteristic has the reverse S shape to the one
characteristic of gain unity (Roberts' mean square error shown for 8/A = 4/3.
E). The value of Vtot given by Eq. (4) will always exceed Fig. 4 shows over the range of 1 LSB the noise Vn
Vs given by Eq. (3), although as the dither level in- as a function of the slowly varying input signal V for
creases, they become nearly equal. When the dither various levels of dither with rectangular pdf, as given
level is zero, Vsis zero but Vtot is equal to the quantization by Eq. (2). Note that for small amounts of dither there

2 By noise modulation we mean the variation of the noise

(here modified by dither) as the signal changes slowly as, 3 This definition differs in a nonessential way from that
for example, in dc drifts. Such variations can be quite no- usually adopted for truncating or rounding quantizers, but
ticeable and are reduced by the dither when properly applied, has been chosen for consistency with [2].

d. Audio Eng. Soc., VoL 35, No. 12, 1987 December 969

is modulation of the noise from A/2 to zero as V varies. The first minimum in the amount of noise modulation
When the dither-averaged transfer characteristic is linear occurs for _/A = 4/3, at which value the noise peaks
(_/A -- 1, corresponding to the addition of A/_/_ rms are equal at A/2 while the dips extend to %/7A/6, a 1.1-
of dither), the noise still just goes to zero for V = A/2. dB variation. However, for such conditions the dither-
averaged characteristic still deviates from linearity by
The total signal-averaged noise output Vtot [defined
by Eq. (4)] as a function of dither noise is shown as
the solid curve in Fig. 5. Here both axes are specified
co inrmsvaluesrelativeto 1LSB.Notethat forno dither,
ED the outputnoiserepresentsquantizationnoiseof value
A/N/fi2. As the dither increases, the graph approaches
'_ cc a slope of 1. At first we plotted the solid curve in Fig.
5 by using a computer to work out the double integrate
0.. givenin Eq. (4), usinga rectangularpdf. Whenwe
later computed the plot for a Gaussian pdf, the curves
o were the same. The Appendix shows that the noise Ytot
z is independentof the dithernoisepdf andis givenby
:Ecu Vt2ot= A2/12 + V_s (8)

where Vrmsis the rms level of the dither noise. A similar

relationship is not true for the signal-averaged noise
2 . 4 . 6 . 8 1 vs [given by Eqs. (2) and (3)] because the functional
SIGNAL INPUT (LSB) form off(V) depends on the dither pdf. However, in
_Fig.3. Dither-averaged input-output transfer characteristic practice there is little difference, and the dashed curve
f(V) when dither having the rectangular pdf is applied. Curves shown in Fig. 5 representing Vs,though drawn for rec-
are displayed for peak-to-peak dither values of V3,%, 1, and tangular pdf, is accurate to within the line width for
% times the quantizing interval. When the peak-to-peak value the Gaussian case to be discussed below as well.
of dither is an integer multiple of the step size A, the
transfer characteristic is perfectly linear. The full transfer The main problem with noise of rectangular pdf is
characteristic is the periodic extension of this 1-LSB portion, that the noise modulation is not optimum when the
transfer characteristic is linear. We note that the char-

_J _0 LO
v .__.1
V ,

ca DJ
__q 03

g 0 'q-
_- fY)

I_ I I - I i i i i i
.2 .4 .6 .B .2 .4 .6 .B 1
Fig. 4. Variation of output noise v,(V) with slowly varying
signal input for the case of dither with rectangular pdf. The Fig. 5. Noise output as a function of rms dither noise. Solid
peak-to-peak dither values relative to a quantizing step are curve shows total noise output Ytot,which turns out to be
indicated on the figure. When this is equal to 1, the noise given simply by Eq. (8), independent of noise pdf. Note that
still modulates from V2LSB rms to zero as Vvaries. Minimum for no dither, the total noise is given by the quantization
noise modulation occurs at %, but then the transfer char- noise, 1/_ LSB rms, as indicated by the arrow. Dashed
acteristic is no longer linear. The arrow along the vertical curve shows the variation of the signal-averaged noise vs
axis shows for reference the rms value of the quantization given by Eq. (3). The curve is drawn for dither with rectangular
noise. The full va(V) curve is just the periodic repetition of pdf, but it applies with sufficient accuracy to the Gaussian
the portion shown, case as well.
970 J. Audio Eng. Soc., Vol. 35, No. 12, 1987 December

acteristic linearizes whenever the pdf has a width equal with _ = X/3A. But whereas this Gaussian dither pro-
to a multiple of the quantizing interval A. If the noise vides essentially idealf(V) and vn(V) curves, this amount
has a pdf that is the sum of a component of width A of of rectangular pdf dither is inferior as regards both
relative probability a, and another component of width criteria. As we show in a further publication [ 13], one
2A and relative probability 1 - a, then it is easily can slightly (by 1.25 dB) improve upon the performance
shown that the transfer characteristic is linear for any of Gaussian dither, to obtain perfect f(V) and v,(V)
a, and in addition a can be chosen to minimize the curves with smaller Vtot -_- A/2, by the use of the the-
noise modulation. If a = 1/2, it can be shown that the oretically optimal dither--namely, triangular pdf dither
noise varies between A/2 and X/5A/4 (only a 1-dB vari- of 2 LSB peak-to-peak amplitude. This is, however,
ation), but the dither noise is somewhat greater than
in our earlier example. However, the condition for a _ , , , , , , , , ,
linear dither-averaged characteristic and acceptable
noise modulation can then both be met simultaneously.
Normal random noise has a Gaussian pdf, and noise co
having a rectangular pdf would have to be specifically
generated. It could be derived from a random number
generator feeding a DAC. In practice there would always co
be some normal random noise anyway, and we shall ,-_ co
see that dither with a Gaussian pdf has some desirable _-
properties, fl- I/I 6_"- _- _.._
For is,zero-mean
standard random
deviation)noise having anpdfrmsis given
of Vrms,the value o_--q_
I/8 I/4
_V2 5' Od
p(v) - x/_ 1V_ms
exP(2__s)' (9)

Fig. 6 shows plots of the dither-averaged transfer char- , _ _ , j

acteristic [given by Eq. (1)] for a number of values of ts_ . 2 . 4 . 6 . 8
applied Gaussian dither Vrms. When Vrm s = A/2, the SIGNAL INPUT (LSB)
characteristic is essentially linear. These curves cot- Fig. 6. Dither-averaged input-output transfer characteristic
respond well with those obtained by measurement in f(V) when dither having a Gaussian pdf is applied. Curves
our earlier paper [4], but due to a calibration error the are displayed for rms dither values of '/,6, '/8, '/4, and '/2 of
a quantizing step. Note that when the rms dither value is '/2
earlier quoted dither values are too large by a factor LSB, the characteristic is essentially linear. Further increase
of about 3 (see [3, correction]). Thus all references to of the dither level is of no benefit.
the level of Gaussian dither in that paper should be
reduced by a factor of 3 to be correct and consistent _ , , , , , , , , ,
with the computer plots shown in Fig. 6. (For example,
a quoted dither level of 1 LSB rms should be amended
to read V3 LSB rms.) Acceptable low-level linearity c_
occurs if Vrms > A/3, with Vrms = A/2 being the preferred 3/4
value. Larger values of dither bring little benefit and _n
increase the total noise unnecessarily. Fig. 7 shows co
__J co
the noise modulation with various values of Gaussian .._
dither, and again we see that rrms ---- A/2 is a good m I/2

output noise versus dither [given by Eq. (4) or Eq. co

(8)], and we note that for Vrm_= A/2, the total noise 2
is 6 dB higher than the quantization noise alone, while 5'
there The
almost no curve
solid noise of
Fig. 5 is aasplot
shown in total
of the Fig. cr
_ i//_

averaged noise Vs given by Eqs. (2) and (3). Although /8

this figure was drawn for the case of rectangular pdf
7. The dashed it curve
dithernoise, in Fig. sufficientaccuracyto
applieswith 5 is a plot of the signal-
the c0, I//l_/_'
, _ _/ J
Gaussian case as well. e_b . 2 . 4 . 6 . 8
Comparison of Fig. 6 with [4, fig. 7] shows good SIGNAL INPUT (LSB)
correspondence between the predicted and measured Fig. 7. Variation of output noise vn(V) with slowly varying
dither-averaged transfer characteristics f(V). It is in- input signal
the dither for dither
relative to 1 with Gaussian
LSB are labeled.pdf.When
The the
values of
teresting to note that the optimal Gaussian dither of A/2 is '/2 LSB, there is very little modulation of the noise. The
rms has the same noise power as rectangular pdf dither arrow marks the rms value of the quantization noise.
J. AudioEng.Soc.,Vol.35,No.12,1987December 971

less convenient to generate for analog dithering purposes Fig. 8 shows a representative example of nonuni-
than Gaussian noise, but comes into its own for dithering formity in the DAC transfer characteristic (solid line)
in the digital domain, and the resulting improvement (dashed line) to the
It would be wise to point out that care must be taken dither-averaged transfer characteristic when digital
in interpreting the noise levels from Figs. 4, 5, and 7. dither is applied. The dither effects shown represent a
The noise spectrum may be somewhat dependent on random addition of - 1, 0, or + 1, all with equal prob-
the specific signal and its level, for small amounts of ability of 1/3,so the summation in Eq. (10) is only over
dither, and in any case the noise does not all fall in the three values of k. The noise resulting from the appli-
baseband below half the sampling frequency. Such cation of such dither would be modified near regions
features are beyond the scope of this paper and are of output nonuniformity or nonmonotonicity. If the
discussed in Bennett [14]. In addition it is well to note staircase output levels are uniform and spaced by A,
that precisely rectangular or Gaussian pdfs are theo- the output noise voltage VD(assuming that the ADC
retical constructs. In a number of 16-bit audio systems produces a nonvarying digital output) is given by
that we have measured, there is adequate self-dither
to linearize the system. V2o-- _ (kA - _lptA) 2 Pk (11)
Recently interest has been shown in the use of the k l
adaptive delta modulator (ADM) as an ADC. A serious
limitation of delta modulators in general is the idle Our example has P-1 = Po = Pi = 1/3, giving VD 2 =
channel noise. Any offsets in the integrator cause a 2A2/3. To overcome a nonmonotonicity of several LSBs,
cycling effect which is made up of long durations of the added digital dither noise would be quite significant.
alternating l's and O's separated by a pair of l's or of The add-subtract scheme shown in Fig. 2(b) might
O's. Such an effect usually falls in the audible range allow the use of higher levels of digital dither. There
even if the ADM clock frequency is many hundreds of will still be a noise modulation whenever the signal
kilohertz, and appears as a low-level tone. Applying encounters the nonlinearities. Input quantizer nonlin-
dither to an ADM will tend to randomize the cycling, earities cannot be removed by digital dither, and must
making it less objectionable. At the same time it may be dealt with by analog dither applied before the ADC.
increase the signal-to-noise ratio as shown in Jayant If the digital system employs both input analog dither
and Rabiner [2] for a linear delta modulator. For noise and output digital dither, then the dither-averaged output
and low-level characteristics we would expect this to is given by
apply to an ADM as well. In fact, for audio the clock
frequency may be greater than 500 kHz, so that a sig- f(V) = _'_ Pk fc fk(V + v)p(v) dv (12)
nificant decrease in the noise in the audio band will k J-
occur with optimally applied dither.
wherefk represents the input-output staircase as mod-
ified by adding the number k to the intermediate digital
3 DIGITAL DITHER data. The probabilities Pk describe the digital dither
Let us consider the effect of adding a random digital values k, as before.
noise, of an integral number of LSBs in amplitude, to An important situation for digital dither concerns
the digital words constituting the data stream that is to the result of fading or other manipulation of digital
be reconstructed as audio by the DAC. Such dither signals, as well as computer generation of digital sig-
cannot increase the low-level resolution, but it can nals. Such digital devices as mixing desks, equalizers,
alleviate such problems as nonmonotonicity or nonlin- reverberation units, synthesizers, and sampling standard
earity in the DAC. If Vi represents the output voltage converters all potentially give rise to truncation prob-
of the/th quantization level, and Pk represents the nor- lems which can be alleviated by proper application of
malized probability of the digital dither number k being fractional-LSB digital dither. If a digital manipulation
added to the output, then the new dither-averaged output (such as a gain reduction) is performed, there may be
level Vi is given by a tendency to take the intermediate higher precision
numbers generated by the multiplication and simply
Vi = E Vi+kPk (10) truncate or round them to the bit width of the system.
This will in many cases leave the signal improperly
dithered. An example of a properly dithered digital
This relationship is analogous to Eq. (1), which de- manipulation is shown in Fig. 9. An integer digital
scribes the dither-averaged output voltage as resulting word Di (say with 16 bits) is modified by multiplication
from the transfer characteristic convolved with the input with a coefficient Q having integer and/or fractional
noise dither. We earlier called such a process analog parts. The result is shown as P, again with integer and
convolved. For Eq. (10), however, the output voltage fractional parts. If we simply used the integer part of
levels will be said to be digitally convolved with the P as our modified word, it may be underdithered and
digital dither noise, described by the probabilities Pk various deleterious effects may occur as a result. When
representing the "probability density" of this digital the random fractional number Rf is added to P, the
dither, carry bit at the binary point acts as dither for the integer

972 J. Audio Eng. Soc., Vol. 35, No. 12, 1987 December

part of the result P*. The carry bit thus contains the 4 CONCLUSION
best dither for the integer truncation or rounding of
P*, which optimally preserves the information in the This paper has studied some of the interesting aspects
truncated bits. The fractional truncated bits have some of dither in quantized systems relating to small-scale
influence on the dither, in keeping with their relative linearization of the transfer characteristic and modu-
position. If cost or processing time were no object, lation of the quantization noise. We have shown that
then any digital manipulation should be carried out dither having a Gaussian pdf (normal random noise)
with full accuracy, and the dither carry bit (0 or 1) can gives good linearization with very little noise modu-
be determined by an appropriate digital random number lation when the rms level of the dither lies between
added to the bits to be truncated. In practice such one-third and one-half of a quantizing interval. In the
schemes would probably work well by considering only digital domain it is suggested that digital manipulation
the first 3 or 4 bits to be truncated. The whole question be accompanied by appropriate dither algorithms so
of digital dither is the subject Of a separate paper [13]. that undithered signals do not result because of bit
truncation brought about by digital arithmetic [13].
[ I I I [ I [ I I


This work has

and Engineering beensupportedby the
Research Council NaturalSciences
of Canada. The au-

[ _


would also like to thank Michael Heal for the

c3 [1] L. G. Roberts,"PictureCodingUsingPseudo-
Random Noise," IRE Trans. Inform. Theory, vol. IT-

[2] N. S. Jayant and L. R. Rabiner, "The Application

-..... 8, pp. 145-154(1962Feb.).
of Dither to the Quantization of Speech Signals," Bell
Sys. Tech. J., vol. 51, pp. 1293-1304 (1972 July/
i i i a , , a i [3] L. R. Rabiner and J. A. Johnson, "Perceptual
Evaluation of the Effects of Dither on Low Bit Rate
INPUT PCM Systems," Bell Sys. Tech. J., vol. 51, pp. 1487-
Fig. 8. Illustrating how the use of digital dither can reduce 1494 (1972 Sept.).
output DAC nonlinearities. Solid line--original characteristic; [4] J. Vanderkooy and S P. Lipshitz, "Resolution
dashed line--dither-averaged output when digital dither is
applied for which numbers - 1, 0, and + 1 are added with Below the Least Significant Bit in Digital Systems with
equal probability to digital words feeding the DAC. Dither," J. Audio Eng. Soc., vol. 32, pp. 106-113
(1984 Mar.); correction ibid., p. 889 (1984 Nov.).

Input Word /_ D_ I, . 0 on [5] L. Schuchman,

Quantization Noise,""Dither
IEEE Signals
Trans. and Their Effect
Commun. Tech-
nol., vol. COM-12, pp. 162-165 (1964 Dec.).
x [I Q_ II ] O, [ [6] G. G. Furman, "Improving the Quantization of
L____:L_J Random Signals by Dithering," Rand Corp. Memo.
RM-3504-PR (1963 May).
= /L P_ [. I P, [
I L-.-.-.-----.---..-_ [7] M. G. Croll, "Pulse Code Modulation for High
Quality Sound Distribution: Quantizing Distortion at
I I Very Low Signal Levels," BBC Research Dept., Eng.
+ 0 _ Div., Rep. 1970/18 (1970).
[8] D. E. L. Shorter and J. R. Chew, "Application

= Pi j o _ in aPulse-Code
of BroadcastingModulation
Network,"to Sound-Signal
Proc. lEE, vol.
119, pp.
1442-1448 (1972 Oct.).
[| P* J| 0 [9] S.
Signal R. Ely, BBC
Systems," "Idle-ChannelNoise
Research Dept., in PCM
Eng. Sound-
Div., Rep.
Fig. 9. Illustrating how an integer digital word D can be 1978/4 (1978 Feb.).
redithered if a signal manipulation (here a multiplication) [10] L. R. Carley, "Quantization Noise in an Over-
takes place. Here Q represents the multiplier and this process sampled A/D Converter," Proc. 1986 IEEE ASSP
leaves a fractional
fractional partthe
number Rf, Pftruncated
in the result. By addingresult
(or rounded) a random
P* is Workshop on Applications of Signal Processing to Audio
properly dithered by the carry bit. and Acoustics (New Paltz, NY, 1986 Sept. 15-17),

J. AudioEng.Soc.,Vol.35,No.12,1987December 973

paper 7.3. ing the first two terms in the bracket, and note that
[11] L. R. Carley, "An Oversampling Analog-to- fp(v) dv = 1. Although Q depends on v and V, it is
Digital Converter Topology for High-Resolution Signal periodic, and the integral of Q2 over one quantization
Acquisition Systems," IEEE Trans. Circuits and Sys- interval for V gives for the first term just the total mean
terns, vol. CAS-34, pp. 83-90 (1987 Jan.). square quantization noise, whereas for the second term
[12] B. A. Blesser and B. N. Locanthi, "The Ap- Q averages to zero. The third term defines the mean
plication of Narrow-Band Dither Operating at the square dither noise, so we have for the total noise
Nyquist Frequency in Digital Systems to Provide Im-
proved Signal-to-Noise Ratio over Conventional Dith- Vt:ut= A2/12 + v_s (8)
ering," J. Audio Eng. Soc., vol. 35, pp. 446-454 (1987
June). asdesired.
[13] S. P. Lipshitz and J. Vanderkooy, "Digital The output noise due to dither alone is given by Eq.
Dither," presented at the 81 st Convention of the Audio (3). It cannot be simplified to yield as simple a result,
Engineering Society, J. Audio Eng. Soc. (Abstracts), since the included function f(V) must depend on the
vol. 34, p. 1030 (1986 Dec.), preprint 2412. dither. If we define
[14] W. R. Bennett, "Spectra of Quantized Signals,"
Bell Sys. Tech. J., vol. 27, pp. 446-472 (1948 July). f(V) = V + P(V) (15)

APPENDIX where the function P(V) is the periodic zero-mean de-

viation of the dither-averaged transfer characteristic
canTobeprove Eq. as(8) from Eq. (4) we note thatf(V
written + v) from a straight line of slope unity, then Eq. (3) becomes

f(V + v) = V + v + Q(V + v) (13) v2 = _ o0

[(Q - P) + vl2p(v) dvdV. (16)

where the linear part of Eq. (6) has been extracted,

leaving the quantization error function Q. This error Here Q - P is the deviation of the output from the
has zero mean and is periodic, repeating itself over mean. Using arguments as before, we arrive at
each quantizing interval A. Eq. (4) becomes
= vo 2+ v2s (17)
Vt2ot = lf:f
_ oo [Q(V + v) + v]2p(v) dv dV in which Qp describes the rms value of the deviation
Q - P. However, vQp depends on the functional shape
of the dither pdf, becoming zero as the dither noise is

=_ (Q2 + 2vQ + v2)p(v)dv dV. decreased to zero. vQp does not, however, depend
oo (14) strongly on the pdf shape, as shown by the dashed
curve in Fig. 5, which represents both rectangular and
We exchange the order of integration in consider- Gaussian dither to the accuracy of the pen width.


J. Vanderkooy S. Lipshitz

John Vanderkooy was born in The Netherlands in A member of the AES and IEEE, Dr. Vanderkooy
1941 and received all of his education in Canada, earn- has contributed a series of papers at conventions and
ing a B.Eng. degree in engineering physics in 1963 to the Journal, many in collaboration with his colleague
and a Ph.D. in physics in 1967, both from McMaster Stanley Lipshitz. Together with a few graduate students
University in Hamilton, Ontario. For some years he they form the Audio Research Group at the University
followed his doctoral interests in low-temperature of Waterloo. His current interests are digital audio signal
physics of metals at the University of Waterloo, where processing, measurement of transfer functions with
he is currently an associate professor of physics. His maximum-length sequences, wavefront reconstruction
research is now mainly in electroacoustics, in multichannel sound reproduction, and the role of

974 J. AudioEng.Soc.,Vol.35,No.12,1987December

eddy currents in loudspeaker drivers, and other audio topics in the Journal and elsewhere
and has presented numerous papers and participated
in workshops at AES conventions.
Stanley Lipshitz is an associate professor of both A fellow of the AES, he is now its president-elect
applied mathematics and physics at the University of and will assume office in 1988 November. He is also
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and amemberofits Audio a member of the IEEE, the Acoustical Society of
Research Group. His current research interests include America, and the Canadian Acoustical Association.
digital signal processing for audio applications, elec- As vice president of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber
troacoustic transducer measurement, acoustic diffrac- Music Society, he records most of their concerts for
tion effects, and surround sound wavefront recon- broadcast on the University's radio station CKMS-
struction problems. He has published widely on these FM.

J. AudioEng.Soc.,Vol.35, No.12, 1987December 975