Is It True That j is Equal to the Square Root of -1 ?

Rick Lyons September 16, 20137 comments

A few days ago, on the web site, I watched an interesting video concerning complex numbers and the j operator. The video's author claimed that the statement "j is equal to the square root of negative one" is incorrect. What he said was:

He justified his claim by going through the following exercise, starting with:

Based on the algebraic identity:

the author rewrites Eq. (1) as:

If we assume

Eq. (3) can be rewritten...

A Table of Digital Frequency Notation

Rick Lyons August 5, 2013

When we read the literature of digital signal processing (DSP) we encounter a number of different, and equally valid, ways to algebraically represent the notion of frequency for discrete-time signals. (By frequency I mean a measure of angular repetitions per unit of time.)

The various mathematical expressions for sinusoidal signals use a number of different forms of a frequency variable and the units of measure (dimensions) of those variables are different. It's sometimes a nuisance to keep...

A Quadrature Signals Tutorial: Complex, But Not Complicated

Rick Lyons April 12, 201351 comments

Introduction Quadrature signals are based on the notion of complex numbers and perhaps no other topic causes more heartache for newcomers to DSP than these numbers and their strange terminology of j operator, complex, imaginary, real, and orthogonal. If you're a little unsure of the physical meaning of complex numbers and the j = √-1 operator, don't feel bad because you're in good company. Why even Karl Gauss, one the world's greatest mathematicians, called the j-operator the "shadow of...

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, 201314 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...

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, 201224 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...

An Astounding Digital Filter Design Application

Rick Lyons July 7, 201612 comments

I've recently encountered a digital filter design application that astonished me with its design flexibility, capability, and ease of use. The software is called the "ASN Filter Designer." After experimenting with a demo version of this filter design software I was so impressed that I simply had publicize it to the subscribers here on

What I Liked About the ASN Filter Designer

With typical filter design software packages the user enters numerical values for the...

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...

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...

An Efficient Linear Interpolation Scheme

Rick Lyons December 27, 201723 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. ...

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...

Multiplierless Exponential Averaging

Rick Lyons December 5, 20089 comments

This blog discusses an interesting approach to exponential averaging. To begin my story, a traditional exponential averager (also called a "leaky integrator"), shown in Figure 1(a), is commonly used to reduce noise fluctuations that contaminate relatively constant-amplitude signal measurements.

Figure 1 Exponential averaging: (a) standard network; (b) single-multiply network.

That exponential averager's difference equation is

y(n) = αx(n) + (1 –...

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...

Do Multirate Systems Have Transfer Functions?

Rick Lyons May 30, 20112 comments

The following text describes why I ask the strange question in the title of this blog. Some months ago I was asked to review a article manuscript, for possible publication in a signal processing journal, that presented a method for improving the performance of cascaded integrator-comb (CIC) decimation filters [1].

Thinking about such filters, Figure 1(a) shows the block diagram of a traditional 2nd-order CIC decimation filter followed by downsampling by the sample rate factor R. There we...

Specifying the Maximum Amplifier Noise When Driving an ADC

Rick Lyons June 9, 20148 comments

I recently learned an interesting rule of thumb regarding the use of an amplifier to drive the input of an analog to digital converter (ADC). The rule of thumb describes how to specify the maximum allowable noise power of the amplifier [1].

The Problem Here's the situation for an ADC whose maximum analog input voltage range is –VRef to +VRef. If we drive an ADC's analog input with an sine wave whose peak amplitude is VP = VRef, the ADC's output signal to noise ratio is maximized. We'll...

A New Contender in the Digital Differentiator Race

Rick Lyons September 30, 20152 comments

This blog proposes a novel differentiator worth your consideration. Although simple, the differentiator provides a fairly wide 'frequency range of linear operation' and can be implemented, if need be, without performing numerical multiplications.


In reference [1] I presented a computationally-efficient tapped-delay line digital differentiator whose $h_{ref}(k)$ impulse response is:

$$ h_{ref}(k) = {-1/16}, \ 0, \ 1, \ 0, \ {-1}, \ 0, \ 1/16 \tag{1} $$