Are you supposed to apply dither to stems when you export them?

If I’m sending stems to a collaborator who’s going to work on them, do I need to apply dither to the stems?

Here are the golden rules of applying dither:

  1. Only apply dither when you reduce the bit depth of digital audio.
  2. Only apply dither once, during the mastering process.

Most DAWs provide a 32-bit floating-point work environment. As such, you should export stems as 32-bit floating-point files. Since you’re not reducing the bit depth of your audio, you don’t need to apply dither.

You can’t upload 32-bit floating-point files to online music distributors like DistroKid, which is why you need to export 24-bit or 16-bit masters and apply dither. However, you can work with 32-bit floating-point files up until you render your master(s).