The Little Fruit Market

Rick Lyons January 14, 20135 comments

There used to be a fruit market located at 391 San Antonio Road in Mountain View, California. In the 1990's I worked part time in Mountain View and drove past this market's building, shown in Figure 1, many times, unaware of its history. What happened at that fruit market has changed the lives of almost everyone on our planet. Here's the story.

William Shockley In 1948 the brilliant physicist William Shockley, along with John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, co-invented the transistor at Bell...

Coupled-Form 2nd-Order IIR Resonators: A Contradiction Resolved

Rick Lyons November 23, 20122 comments

This blog clarifies how to obtain and interpret the z-domain transfer function of the coupled-form 2nd-order IIR resonator. The coupled-form 2nd-order IIR resonator was developed to overcome a shortcoming in the standard 2nd-order IIR resonator. With that thought in mind, let's take a brief look at a standard 2nd-order IIR resonator.

Standard 2nd-Order IIR Resonator A block diagram of the standard 2nd-order IIR resonator is shown in Figure 1(a). You've probably seen that block diagram many...

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...

Understanding the 'Phasing Method' of Single Sideband Demodulation

Rick Lyons August 8, 201217 comments

There are four ways to demodulate a transmitted single sideband (SSB) signal. Those four methods are:

  • synchronous detection,
  • phasing method,
  • Weaver method, and
  • filtering method.

Here we review synchronous detection in preparation for explaining, in detail, how the phasing method works. This blog contains lots of preliminary information, so if you're already familiar with SSB signals you might want to scroll down to the 'SSB DEMODULATION BY SYNCHRONOUS DETECTION'...

How Discrete Signal Interpolation Improves D/A Conversion

Rick Lyons May 28, 20121 comment
This blog post is also available in pdf format. Download here.

Earlier this year, for the Linear Audio magazine, published in the Netherlands whose subscribers are technically-skilled hi-fi audio enthusiasts, I wrote an article on the fundamentals of interpolation as it's used to improve the performance of analog-to-digital conversion. Perhaps that article will be of some value to the subscribers of Here's what I wrote:

We encounter the process of digital-to-analog...

How Not to Reduce DFT Leakage

Rick Lyons May 23, 201211 comments

This blog describes a technique to reduce the effects of spectral leakage when using the discrete Fourier transform (DFT).

In late April 2012 there was a thread on the comp.dsp newsgroup discussing ways to reduce the spectral leakage problem encountered when using the DFT. One post in that thread caught my eye [1]. That post referred to a website presenting a paper describing a DFT leakage method that I'd never heard of before [2]. (Of course, not that I've heard...

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...

Accurate Measurement of a Sinusoid's Peak Amplitude Based on FFT Data

Rick Lyons December 14, 20116 comments

There are two code snippets associated with this blog post:

Flat-Top Windowing Function for the Accurate Measurement of a Sinusoid's Peak Amplitude Based on FFT Data


Testing the Flat-Top Windowing Function

This blog discusses an accurate method of estimating time-domain sinewave peak amplitudes based on fast Fourier transform (FFT) data. Such an operation sounds simple, but the scalloping loss characteristic of FFTs complicates the process. We eliminate that complication by...

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...

Orfanidis Textbooks are Available Online

Rick Lyons July 12, 2011

I have just learned that Sophocles J. Orfanidis, the well-known professor with the ECE Department of Rutgers University, has made two of his signal processing textbooks available for downloading on the Internet. The first textbook is: "Introduction to Signal Processing" available at:

Happily, also available at the above web site are:

  • Errata for the textbook.
  • Homework Solutions Manual
  • Errata for Solutions...

The Number 9, Not So Magic After All

Rick Lyons October 2, 20144 comments

This blog is not about signal processing. Rather, it discusses an interesting topic in number theory, the magic of the number 9. As such, this blog is for people who are charmed by the behavior and properties of numbers.

For decades I've thought the number 9 had tricky, almost magical, qualities. Many people feel the same way. I have a book on number theory, whose chapter 8 is titled "Digits — and the Magic of 9", that discusses all sorts of interesting mathematical characteristics of the...

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...

Improved Narrowband Lowpass IIR Filters

Rick Lyons November 6, 20101 comment

Here's a neat IIR filter trick. It's excerpted from the "DSP Tricks" chapter of the new 3rd edition of my book "Understanding Digital Signal Processing". Perhaps this trick will be of some value to the subscribers of

Due to their resistance to quantized-coefficient errors, traditional 2nd-order infinite impulse response (IIR) filters are the fundamental building blocks in computationally-efficient high-order IIR digital filter implementations. However, when used in...

A Remarkable Bit of DFT Trivia

Rick Lyons December 26, 20133 comments

I recently noticed a rather peculiar example of discrete Fourier transform (DFT) trivia; an unexpected coincidence regarding the scalloping loss of the DFT. Here's the story.

DFT SCALLOPING LOSS As you know, if we perform an N-point DFT on N real-valued time-domain samples of a discrete sine wave, whose frequency is an integer multiple of fs/N (fs is the sample rate in Hz), the peak magnitude of the sine wave's positive-frequency spectral component will be

where A is the peak amplitude...

Computing Chebyshev Window Sequences

Rick Lyons January 8, 20089 comments

Chebyshev windows (also called Dolph-Chebyshev, or Tchebyschev windows), have several useful properties. Those windows, unlike the fixed Hanning, Hamming, or Blackman window functions, have adjustable sidelobe levels. For a given user-defined sidelobe level and window sequence length, Chebyshev windows yield the most narrow mainlobe compared to any fixed window functions.

However, for some reason, detailed descriptions of how to compute Chebyshev window sequences are not readily available...

Orfanidis Textbooks are Available Online

Rick Lyons July 12, 2011

I have just learned that Sophocles J. Orfanidis, the well-known professor with the ECE Department of Rutgers University, has made two of his signal processing textbooks available for downloading on the Internet. The first textbook is: "Introduction to Signal Processing" available at:

Happily, also available at the above web site are:

  • Errata for the textbook.
  • Homework Solutions Manual
  • Errata for Solutions...

"Neat" Rectangular to Polar Conversion Algorithm

Rick Lyons November 15, 20105 comments

The subject of finding algorithms that estimate the magnitude of a complex number, without having to perform one of those pesky square root operations, has been discussed many times in the past on the comp.dsp newsgroup. That is, given the complex number R + jI in rectangular notation, we want to estimate the magnitude of that number represented by M as:

On August 25th, 2009, Jerry (Mr. Wizard) Avins posted an interesting message on this subject to the comp.dsp newsgroup (Subject: "Re:

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...

Correcting an Important Goertzel Filter Misconception

Rick Lyons July 6, 201512 comments

Recently I was on the Signal Processing Stack Exchange web site (a question and answer site for DSP people) and I read a posted question regarding Goertzel filters [1]. One of the subscribers posted a reply to the question by pointing interested readers to a Wikipedia web page discussing Goertzel filters [2]. I noticed the Wiki web site stated that a Goertzel filter:

" marginally stable and vulnerable tonumerical error accumulation when computed usinglow-precision arithmetic and...

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  ...