I wish to design an all-pole formant filter by specifying frequency θ (between 0 and π radians for Nyquist) and bandwidth Φ such that the response of the filter at θ-Φ and at θ+Φ should be roughly 50% of the response at θ.

I start by specifying a pole at $p=[r,θ]=re^{jθ}$.

My question is this: How to estimate $r$ as a function of $Φ$?

Note: A fairly crude estimate will suffice for my purposes (vowel synthesis).

This is my approach so far:

Adding a conjugate pole, I construct a transfer function $H(z) = \frac{1}{p-z}\frac{1}{p^*-z}$

$$\frac{1}{H(z)} = (p-z)(p^*-z)$$

$$= pp^* -z(p+p^*) + z^2$$

$$ = r^2 -z(2r cos θ) + z^2 $$

The gain at frequency α will be $\text{Gain}(α) = |H(e^{jα})|$, so the gain at θ is as follows:

$$ \frac{1}{H(e^{jθ})} = r^2 -e^{jθ}(2 rcos θ) + (e^{jθ})^2 $$

$$ = r^2 -re^{jθ}(e^{jθ} + e^{-jθ}) + e^{j\cdot2θ} $$

$$ = r^2 -r(e^{j\cdot2θ} - 1) + e^{j\cdot2θ} $$

$$ = r(r-1) - e^{j2θ}(r-1) $$

$$ = (r-1)(r - e^{j2θ}) $$

So $\text{Gain}(θ) = |H(e^{jθ})| = \frac{1}{(r-1)(r - e^{j2θ})} $ as $0<r<1$. So far so good, nice and tidy!

But now it gets tricky. I require Φ such that:

$$ \text{Gain}(θ) = 2 \text{Gain}(Φ)$$

$$ \frac{1}{|(r-1)(r - e^{j2θ})|} = \frac{2}{|r^2 -z(2r cos θ) + z^2|} \text{where} z=e^{jΦ} $$

$$ 2|(r-1)(r - e^{j2θ})| = |r^2 -e^{jΦ}(2r cos θ) + e^{j2Φ}| $$

Now I should be able to split out real and imaginary components inside each modulus: $2|A+jB| = |C+jD| => 4(A^2+B^2) = C^2+D^2$

But this is starting to look very heavy. How would an engineer approach this?

Is there any way I can do it using iPython/numpy/scipy?

  • $\begingroup$ If you don't mind using a general second order biquad filter instead of an all-pole filter, you could use the formulas in the Audio-EQ-Cookbook ('Peaking EQ filter'). You just need to fill in the desired center frequency and bandwidth, and you'll get the filter coefficients. $\endgroup$
    – Matt L.
    Nov 2, 2015 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ @MattL. A peaking filter is not exactly the same as a purely resonant all pole filter. I'm pretty sure the OP wants the latter. $\endgroup$
    – Jazzmaniac
    Nov 2, 2015 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Jazzmaniac: That's true, but this was meant as a suggestion/question to the OP. The two filters are similar and for one of them the solution is very simple. $\endgroup$
    – Matt L.
    Nov 3, 2015 at 7:45

2 Answers 2


This is an exact solution to the problem. First, a few remarks on what can be achieved and what can't. Unless the pole angle is $\theta=\pi/2$ the response will by asymmetrical, so it's not possible to have the same magnitude response at $\omega_0+\Delta$ and $\omega_0-\Delta$, where $\omega_0$ is the frequency where the amplitude has its peak. Also note that in general $\omega_0\neq\theta$, so the pole angle does not coincide with the location of the maximum. For a large pole radius $r$ and a pole angle $\theta$ not too close to $\omega=0$ and $\omega=\pi$, the pole angle approximates $\omega_0$ reasonably well, but in general it doesn't.

The derivations are a bit tedious, so I will present a cookbook solution, proving its correctness by examples. We're talking about a second order all-pole filter with two complex conjugate poles at $z=re^{j\theta}$ and $z=re^{-j\theta}$:


We want to find $r$ and $\theta$ such that the maximum of $|H(e^{j\omega})|$ occurs at a given value $\omega_0$, and such that its value at $\omega_0\pm\Delta$ is half the maximum value. Since in general not both values at $\omega_0+\Delta$ and $\omega_0-\Delta$ can be identical, we choose to specify the value at $\omega_0+\Delta$ if $\omega_0<\pi/2$, and at $\omega_0-\Delta$ if $\omega_0\ge\pi/2$.

These are the steps for computing the required values of $r$ and $\theta$:

  1. Choose the desired peak frequency $\omega_0$ such that $0<\omega_0<\pi$, and the desired width $\Delta$ such that the magnitude assumes half of its peak value at $\omega_0+\Delta$ or at $\omega_0-\Delta$, depending on the value of $\omega_0$ (see below).

  2. Define constants $$\begin{align}B&=2\cos(\omega_0)\cos(\omega_x)-\cos^2(\omega_x)\\ C&=4\cos^2(\omega_0)\\a&=\frac43(B-C)\\b&=\frac23(4B+2C-3)\end{align}$$ where $\omega_x=\omega_0+\Delta$ if $\omega_0<\pi/2$, and $\omega_x=\omega_0-\Delta$ otherwise.

  3. Solve the following quartic equation for $R$: $$R^4+aR^3+bR^2+aR+1=0$$ Of the four solutions, choose the one which is real-valued and which satisfies $0<R<1$. This solution is given by $$R=\frac{x}{2}-\sqrt{\frac{x^2}{4}-1}\qquad\text{with}\quad x=-\frac{a}{2}+\sqrt{\frac{a^2}{4}-b+2}\tag{2}$$ The pole radius is then obtained as $r=\sqrt{R}$.

  4. Compute the pole angle from $r$ and $\omega_0$: $$\cos(\theta)=\frac{2r}{1+r^2}\cos(\omega_0)$$

The figure below illustrates some designs. $(a)$: $\omega_0=\pi/2$, d=$0.1\pi$, $(b)$: $\omega_0=0.2\pi$, $d=0.05\pi$, $(c)$: $\omega_0=0.8\pi$, $d=0.2\pi$, $(d)$ $\omega_0=0.6\pi$, $d=0.02\pi$. enter image description here


I have here a very pretty answer supplied by @Jazzmaniac, which I will transcribe from our conversation (on IRC Freenode ##dsp).

enter image description here

The key insight is that the gain is inversely proportional to the distance from the pole.

So, double the distance, halve the gain.

(This can be seen by imagining a single pole on the origin with the transfer function $H(z) = 1/z$)

The small circle represents the peak gain (at frequency $e^{jθ}$).

The bigger circle represents a locus of half that gain.

Hence, it is clear that $Φ$ = bandwidth/2

It is worth observing that we now have $r(Φ)$ (i.e. r is independent of $θ$).

  • $\begingroup$ dsprelated.com/freebooks/filters/… gives a simpler formula! $\endgroup$
    – P i
    Nov 3, 2015 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ That simpler formula only holds in the limit of infinite sampling rate! $\endgroup$
    – Jazzmaniac
    Nov 3, 2015 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Jazzmaniac I am forever grateful for your expertise, patience and tutelage from the IRC days. Are you reachable these days? I sent an email to your soundtheory address some weeks back. $\endgroup$
    – P i
    Jun 1, 2022 at 15:40

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