Lets assume I want to apply a matched filter h which is non-symmetric to my signal x and the output is y in matlab:


Now I am interested in comparing the information between my filtered signal yand my input x. For this I want to compensate for the delay of the filter h.

When googling this topic I found the following tutorial which handles linear-phase fir filters. Obviously in such a case the group delay is $\frac{N-1}{2}$ given that the filter has the length $N$.

%this is the example from matlab
delay = mean(grpdelay(h,1,128)); 
x = x(1:end-delay);
y(1:delay) = [];

However, I am aware that the group delay of a non symmetric filter is frequency depending and I am not sure how to proceed to align my signals in time to compare them. As I am interested in real time application the function filtfilter is not applicable.

So my question is, how do I estimate in the best way the time delay to align (sync?) my signals in time given the coefficients of a non-symmetric filter h?

delay = .... h ....? 
x = x(1:end-delay);
y(1:delay) = [];

The desired output should look like the red curve in the following figure


Here the signal in blue is the input signal x and in green the filtered signal y. However, I would like to to compensate for the delay of the green signal so that the input and output align in time as in the case of the red curve.

  • $\begingroup$ I think the solution lies in your definition of "time delay" of a filter with a delay that depends on frequency. There is no single way to align the input and output signals of such a filter. The question is what you really mean by "align". $\endgroup$
    – Matt L.
    Sep 5, 2019 at 7:02
  • $\begingroup$ I edited my question and added a plot. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2019 at 7:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It looks like cross-correlation should work here. $\endgroup$
    – Matt L.
    Sep 5, 2019 at 7:16
  • $\begingroup$ I see, but this would be an approach which works well for offline analysis, however, is there a way, knowing the shape of the non-symmetric filter, to estimate the delay in advance and apply it online? Or is your idea to apply cross-correlation in advance and estimate this delay for later online processing? Would this delay not be dependent on the shape of the input signal? In other words can I generalize the delay from a cross-correlation of one input signal to all kind of input signals? $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2019 at 7:22

1 Answer 1


If your filters have a low pass characteristic (which at least the one in your example appears to have), then a possibly useful measure for the delay is the center of gravity of the impulse response:


For more general impulse responses, other than low pass, you can modify $(1)$ by either taking magnitudes or squares of $h[n]$. Note that $(1)$ is the filter's group delay evaluated at DC.

  • $\begingroup$ First of all thank you, first tests indicate that this is a good estimation. Have you any source for this approach where the idea is elaborated? $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2019 at 8:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Irreducible: Great that it seems to work! Well, the center of gravity (center of mass) is of course a very general concept, which can be applied to any function. So I don't have a specific reference right now, but just for your intuition, imagine that $h[n]$ were a probability mass function of some random variable, then $(1)$ would be the expected value. $\endgroup$
    – Matt L.
    Sep 5, 2019 at 8:42
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the additional interpretation. $\endgroup$ Sep 5, 2019 at 9:30

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