I am measuring a room's acoustic impulse response by playing a log sine-sweep through a speaker from 20hz to 24 khz, and then recording it using a microphone.

The sweep is 10 seconds long, followed by 4 seconds of silence. There is some fading at the end of the sweep.

In order to compute the room's impulse response, I am taking


And I am taking the real part of this.

I am getting these strange peaks at around sample 625000 (13.02 seconds in). They always happen at around the same time:

enter image description here

Here it is zoomed in: enter image description here

I am wondering if anyone can help me explain why I am getting these for all recordings at around the same time.

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    $\begingroup$ Looks like time domain aliasing at first glance, which would occur when using the FFT to determine the transfer function. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2023 at 0:21
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    $\begingroup$ What I would do, with your sweep, is taper the amplitude a little on both ends. It wouldn't have to be a traditional window, but just some simple tapering so that, at the beginning and at the end, where your sweep is appended to silence, you don't have some nasty edge effect. Then when you send this to the FFT, make the FFT twice as big and zero pad both the driving function and the output with silence. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2023 at 4:00
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    $\begingroup$ Another thing, as long as your driving function is full of frequency content (no dead zones in the spectrum), it doesn't have to be a linear or log sweep. It could be a Shepard tone. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2023 at 4:02
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    $\begingroup$ Repeated sweeps at odd location are often signs of some moderate non-linear distortion and/or some sort of a time variance. Have you run some LTI tests on your system ? $\endgroup$
    – Hilmar
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 8:04
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    $\begingroup$ What the hell, I'm certain I edited my comment to say "zero pad input and filter"... so: try ifft(fft(pad(recording)) * fft(pad(ifft(1 / fft(sweep))))), if no improvement then no boundary effects / "time aliasing" $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2023 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


I would agree on Hilmar's comment, it's probably harmonics generated by nonlinearities of the system in combination with how the logarithmic frequency sweep response is deconvolved into an impulse response.

Your sweep has instantaneous frequency $f$ at time $t$, following:

$$f(t) = \exp(0.7090076835\,t/\text{s})\times20\text{ Hz}.$$

This is the logarithmic sweep (a linear sweep in a logarithmic frequency scale) that satisfies $f(0\text{ s}) = 20\text{ Hz}$ and $f(10\text{ s}) = 24\text{ kHz}$.

We can solve from this the time $t$ at which frequency $f$ appears:

$$\Rightarrow\quad t(f) = 1.41042195\ln(f/\text{Hz})\text{ s} - 4.225246556\text{ s}.$$

The frequency domain division in your deconvolution formula "IFFT(FFT(Recording)/FFT(Sweep))" shifts in time any frequency $f$ appearing at time $t(f)$ in the sweep, by $-t(f)$, back to time 0 in the impulse. However an $n$th harmonic of any frequency $f$ will be shifted by $-t(nf)$ from time $t(f)$, to time:

$$t_n(f) = t(f) - t(nf).$$

Due to the frequency sweep being logarithmic, this turns out to be independent of $f$:

$$\Rightarrow\quad t_n = t_n(f) = -1.410421949\ln(n)\text{ s}.$$

We can tabulate some values:

$$\begin{align} t_1 &=& 0,\\ t_2 &=& -0.9776299980\text{ s},\\ t_3 &=& -1.549506886\text{ s},\\ t_4 &=& -1.955259996\text{ s},\\ t_5 &=& -2.269986558\text{ s}.\end{align}$$

Add to those any delay due to delays in the system and that's where you'd see in the deconvolution result the peak corresponding to each harmonic. Multiplication or division in the discrete frequency domain does circular convolution or deconvolution. I don't know for sure what size discrete Fourier transform (DFT) and inverse DFT you used, but for a vector spanning 14 seconds you'd see a 2nd harmonic peak at $14\text{ s} + (-0.9776299980\text{ s}) = 13.02237000\text{ s}$ or a bit later due to any delays in the system. That seems to agree with your finding of "13.02 seconds", although I would expect your number to be closer to 13.03 s if you have the mic at least 1 m away from the speaker. If you look at a spectrogram of your sweep response, the harmonics should be visible there above the fundamental sweep.

More generally, for a rising sweep going from frequency $f_0$ at time 0 to frequency $f_1$ at time $T$:

$$f(t) = \exp\left(\frac{\ln\left(f_1/f_0\right)}{T}\times t\right)\times f_0,$$ $$\Rightarrow\quad t(f) = \frac{T\ln(f/f_0)}{\ln(f_1/f_0)},$$

the impulse response of an $n$th harmonic will be time-shifted by deconvolution to: $$t_n = -\frac{T\ln(n)}{\ln(f_1/f_0)}.$$

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    $\begingroup$ Olli that's a great explanation. Assuming appropriate zero-padding took place, the harmonic distortion products would have to be present before the causal part of the impulse response though. So do you suggest that time aliasing brought those products to the end of the IR? $\endgroup$
    – ZaellixA
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah apologies, this is what I meant. I am not sure circular (de)convolution and time aliasing are all that different. Circularly convolving a signal sequence/vector through the Frequency Domain can and will result in wrapping - i.e. aliasing - in the Time Domain. This is why I am asking for more info. To my mind and according to Farina's paper, the harmonic products should reside in the anti-causal part of the Impulse Response. $\endgroup$
    – ZaellixA
    Commented May 23, 2023 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ @ZaellixA Yes, we mean the same thing, and your understanding sounds correct to me. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2023 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ That this agrees with data within four significant figures is good. Suspiciously good. In fact to me it's self-invalidating until explained - does OP work in a silicon factory? $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2023 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ @OverLordGoldDragon If all digital sources of delay are correctly compensated for, the biggest source of variation is probably from room temperature which affects the speed of sound. A 1 m distance results in a delay difference of about 0.00006 s between 20 deg C and 30 deg C temperatures. Clock drift can increase the variation by a further 0.0000002 s or so, taking into account the type of test signal and that the playback and record sample clocks are typically synchronized. It's not meaningful to look at significant figures in this context. $\endgroup$ Commented May 26, 2023 at 17:41

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