Online DSP Classes: Why Such a High Dropout Rate?

Rick Lyons October 7, 201718 comments

Last year the IEEE Signal Processing Magazine published a lengthy article describing three university-sponsored online digital signal processing (DSP) courses [1]. The article detailed all the effort the professors expended in creating those courses and the courses' perceived values to students. 

However, one fact that struck me as important, but not thoroughly addressed in the article, was the shocking dropout rate of those online courses. For two of the courses the article's...

Errata for the book: 'Understanding Digital Signal Processing'

Rick Lyons October 4, 20177 comments
Errata 3rd Ed. International Version.pdfErrata 3rd Ed. International Version.pdf

This blog post provides, in one place, the errata for each of the many different Editions/Printings of my book Understanding Digital Signal Processing.

If you would like the errata for your copy of the book, merely scroll down and click on the appropriate red line below. For the American versions of the various Editions of the book you'll need to know the "Printing Number" of your copy of the...

Above-Average Smoothing of Impulsive Noise

Rick Lyons July 10, 201724 comments

In this blog I show a neat noise reduction scheme that has the high-frequency noise reduction behavior of a traditional moving average process but with much better impulsive-noise suppression.

In practice we may be required to make precise measurements in the presence of highly-impulsive noise. Without some sort of analog signal conditioning, or digital signal processing, it can be difficult to obtain stable and repeatable, measurements. This impulsive-noise smoothing trick,...

Looking For a Second Toolbox? This One's For Sale

Rick Lyons June 29, 2017
In case you're looking for a second toolbox, this used toolbox is for sale.

The blue-enameled steel toolbox measures 13 x 7 x 5 inches and, when opened, has a three-section tray attached to the lid. Showing signs of heavy use, the interior, tray, and exterior have collected a fair amount of dirt and grease and bear many scratches. The bottom of the box is worn from having been slid on rough surfaces. 

The toolbox currently resides in Italy. But don't worry, it can be shipped to you....

Sinusoidal Frequency Estimation Based on Time-Domain Samples

Rick Lyons April 20, 201719 comments

The topic of estimating a noise-free real or complex sinusoid's frequency, based on fast Fourier transform (FFT) samples, has been presented in recent blogs here on For completeness, it's worth knowing that simple frequency estimation algorithms exist that do not require FFTs to be performed . Below I present three frequency estimation algorithms that use time-domain samples, and illustrate a very important principle regarding so called "exact"...

Frequency Translation by Way of Lowpass FIR Filtering

Rick Lyons February 4, 20175 comments

Some weeks ago a question appeared on the dsp.related Forum regarding the notion of translating a signal down in frequency and lowpass filtering in a single operation [1]. It is possible to implement such a process by embedding a discrete cosine sequence's values within the coefficients of a traditional lowpass FIR filter. I first learned about this process from Reference [2]. Here's the story.

Traditional Frequency Translation Prior To Filtering

Think about the process shown in...

The Real Star of Star Trek

Rick Lyons September 25, 20168 comments

Unless you've been living under a rock recently, you're probably aware that this month is the 50-year anniversary of the original Star Trek show on American television. It's an anniversary worth noting, as did Time and Newsweek magazines with their special editions.


Over the years I've come to realize that a major star of the original Star Trek series wasn't an actor. It was a thing. The starship USS Enterprise! Before I explain my thinking, here's a little...

An s-Plane to z-Plane Mapping Example

Rick Lyons September 24, 20169 comments

While surfing around the Internet recently I encountered the 's-plane to z-plane mapping' diagram shown in Figure 1. At first I thought the diagram was neat because it's a good example of the old English idiom: "A picture is worth a thousand words." However, as I continued to look at Figure 1 I began to detect what I believe are errors in the diagram.

Reader, please take a few moments to see if you detect any errors in Figure 1.


Should DSP Undergraduate Students Study z-Transform Regions of Convergence?

Rick Lyons September 14, 201613 comments

Not long ago I presented my 3-day DSP class to a group of engineers at Tektronix Inc. in Beaverton Oregon [1]. After I finished covering my material on IIR filters' z-plane pole locations and filter stability, one of the Tektronix engineers asked a question similar to:

     "I noticed that you didn't discuss z-plane regions of      convergence here. In my undergraduate DSP class we      spent a lot of classroom and homework time on the  ...

Implementing Impractical Digital Filters

Rick Lyons July 19, 20162 comments

This blog discusses a problematic situation that can arise when we try to implement certain digital filters. Occasionally in the literature of DSP we encounter impractical digital IIR filter block diagrams, and by impractical I mean block diagrams that cannot be implemented. This blog gives examples of impractical digital IIR filters and what can be done to make them practical.

Implementing an Impractical Filter: Example 1

Reference [1] presented the digital IIR bandpass filter...

Sinusoidal Frequency Estimation Based on Time-Domain Samples

Rick Lyons April 20, 201719 comments

The topic of estimating a noise-free real or complex sinusoid's frequency, based on fast Fourier transform (FFT) samples, has been presented in recent blogs here on For completeness, it's worth knowing that simple frequency estimation algorithms exist that do not require FFTs to be performed . Below I present three frequency estimation algorithms that use time-domain samples, and illustrate a very important principle regarding so called "exact"...

Spectral Flipping Around Signal Center Frequency

Rick Lyons November 7, 20074 comments

Most of us are familiar with the process of flipping the spectrum (spectral inversion) of a real signal by multiplying that signal's time samples by (-1)n. In that process the center of spectral rotation is fs/4, where fs is the signal's sample rate in Hz. In this blog we discuss a different kind of spectral flipping process.

Consider the situation where we need to flip the X(f) spectrum in Figure 1(a) to obtain the desired Y(f) spectrum shown in Figure 1(b). Notice that the center of...

Generating Complex Baseband and Analytic Bandpass Signals

Rick Lyons November 2, 20112 comments

There are so many different time- and frequency-domain methods for generating complex baseband and analytic bandpass signals that I had trouble keeping those techniques straight in my mind. Thus, for my own benefit, I created a kind of reference table showing those methods. I present that table for your viewing pleasure in this blog.

For clarity, I define a complex baseband signal as follows: derived from an input analog xbp(t)bandpass signal whose spectrum is shown in Figure 1(a), or...

The History of CIC Filters: The Untold Story

Rick Lyons February 20, 20124 comments

If you have ever studied or designed a cascaded integrator-comb (CIC) lowpass filter then surely you've read Eugene Hogenauer's seminal 1981 IEEE paper where he first introduced the CIC filter to the signal processing world [1]. As it turns out, Hogenauer's famous paper was not the first formal document describing and proposing CIC filters. Here's the story.

In the Fall of 1979 Eugene Hogenauer was finalizing his development of the CIC filter, the filter now used in so many multirate signal...

Setting the 3-dB Cutoff Frequency of an Exponential Averager

Rick Lyons October 22, 20126 comments

This blog discusses two ways to determine an exponential averager's weighting factor so that the averager has a given 3-dB cutoff frequency. Here we assume the reader is familiar with exponential averaging lowpass filters, also called a "leaky integrators", to reduce noise fluctuations that contaminate constant-amplitude signal measurements. Exponential averagers are useful because they allow us to implement lowpass filtering at a low computational workload per output sample.

Figure 1 shows...

Goertzel Algorithm for a Non-integer Frequency Index

Rick Lyons October 7, 20135 comments

If you've read about the Goertzel algorithm, you know it's typically presented as an efficient way to compute an individual kth bin result of an N-point discrete Fourier transform (DFT). The integer-valued frequency index k is in the range of zero to N-1 and the standard block diagram for the Goertzel algorithm is shown in Figure 1. For example, if you want to efficiently compute just the 17th DFT bin result (output sample X17) of a 64-point DFT you set integer frequency index k = 17 and N =...

An Efficient Linear Interpolation Scheme

Rick Lyons December 27, 201725 comments

This blog presents a computationally-efficient linear interpolation trick that requires at most one multiply per output sample.

Background: Linear Interpolation

Looking at Figure 1(a) let's assume we have two points, [x(0),y(0)] and [x(1),y(1)], and we want to compute the value y, on the line joining those two points, associated with the value x. 

       Figure 1: Linear interpolation: given x, x(0), x(1), y(0), and y(1), compute the value of y. ...

Beat Notes: An Interesting Observation

Rick Lyons March 13, 20137 comments

Some weeks ago a friend of mine, a long time radio engineer as well as a piano player, called and asked me,

"When I travel in a DC-9 aircraft, and I sit back near the engines, I hear this fairly loud unpleasant whump whump whump whump sound. The frequency of that sound is, maybe, two cycles per second. I think that sound is a beat frequency because the DC-9's engines are turning at a slightly different number of revolutions per second. My question is, what sort of mechanism in the airplane...

Using the DFT as a Filter: Correcting a Misconception

Rick Lyons February 18, 201316 comments

I have read, in some of the literature of DSP, that when the discrete Fourier transform (DFT) is used as a filter the process of performing a DFT causes an input signal's spectrum to be frequency translated down to zero Hz (DC). I can understand why someone might say that, but I challenge that statement as being incorrect. Here are my thoughts.

Using the DFT as a Filter It may seem strange to think of the DFT as being used as a filter but there are a number of applications where this is...

Using Mason's Rule to Analyze DSP Networks

Rick Lyons August 31, 20096 comments

There have been times when I wanted to determine the z-domain transfer function of some discrete network, but my algebra skills failed me. Some time ago I learned Mason's Rule, which helped me solve my problems. If you're willing to learn the steps in using Mason's Rule, it has the power of George Foreman's right hand in solving network analysis problems.

This blog discusses a valuable analysis method (well known to our analog control system engineering brethren) to obtain the z-domain...