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Harmonic's 1st, 3rd, 7th?
Harmonic's 1st, 3rd, 7th?
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Old 28th March 2011, 03:07 AM   #1
Outside The Box is offline Outside The Box  United States
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Default Harmonic's 1st, 3rd, 7th?

After reading the “Minimum Detectable Distortion” post

I noticed people talking about 1st Order Harmonics, 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc.

Are Harmonics a type of “feedback” or “steady state of one sound” that IS distortion?
I’m guessing that distortion can be anywhere in OUR audible hearing (20-20kHz), or is it at the low end and at clipping?

I bought a Cambridge digital table top radio (for work) years back and was blown away with the clarity.
I could hear the inhale of a flutist. The turning of the page from a violinist in amongst a huge orchestra.
15 coworkers ended up purchasing the unit who were blown away from the 3watts of solid state grunt.
Can an example of a harmonic in the 1st, 3rd or whatever Harmonic be described that I can relate to in the (my) real world.

I’d like to thank the people who developed this web site.
Also, thanks to the members for the wealth of info that us rookies will need for our 1st build.

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Old 28th March 2011, 03:35 AM   #2
sofaspud is offline sofaspud  United States
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This is an Internet definition:
"A harmonic is a signal or wave whose frequency is an integral (whole-number) multiple of the frequency of some reference signal or wave. The term can also refer to the ratio of the frequency of such a signal or wave to the frequency of the reference signal or wave.
Let f represent the main, or fundamental, frequency of an alternating current ( AC ) signal, electromagnetic field , or sound wave. This frequency, usually expressed in hertz , is the frequency at which most of the energy is contained, or at which the signal is defined to occur. If the signal is displayed on an oscilloscope, the waveform will appear to repeat at a rate corresponding to f Hz.
For a signal whose fundamental frequency is f , the second harmonic has a frequency 2 f , the third harmonic has a frequency of 3 f , and so on. Let w represent the wavelength of the signal or wave in a specified medium. The second harmonic has a wavelength of w /2, the third harmonic has a wavelength of w /3, and so on. Signals occurring at frequencies of 2 f , 4 f , 6 f , etc. are called even harmonics; the signals at frequencies of 3 f , 5 f , 7 f , etc. are called odd harmonics. A signal can, in theory, have infinitely many harmonics.
Nearly all signals contain energy at harmonic frequencies, in addition to the energy at the fundamental frequency. If all the energy in a signal is contained at the fundamental frequency, then that signal is a perfect sine wave. If the signal is not a perfect sine wave, then some energy is contained in the harmonics. Some waveforms contain large amounts of energy at harmonic frequencies. Examples are square waves, sawtooth waves, and triangular waves."

I have no formal training in acoustic physics, but my understanding is that harmonics can be good or bad. IIRC even harmonics tend to be gentler on the ears, whereas odd harmonics produce "distortion" in the perceived sound.
For real world, it's harmonics that cause a C-sharp note on a piano to sound different than a C-sharp from a trumpet.
BTW, I have a Cambridge 2.1 system that I really enjoy. Impressive audio for sure.

Last edited by sofaspud; 28th March 2011 at 03:42 AM.
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Old 28th March 2011, 03:50 AM   #3
ostripper is offline ostripper  United States
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To start off ....
A cool applet that lets you add the harmonic of your choice and see the resulting waveform :
Guitar Distortion 101

Guitar distortion is like a sawtooth wave:
Click the image to open in full size.
Sawtooth wave - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia , with all harmonics. Bright and raw , it really "tickles" the ears. The odd harmonics give this quality.


Even order distortion products are the result of softly clipped sine waves 2nd , 4th .... these sound smoother and might even be musical. Flutes and pianos are sine waves with a little even order distortion. Most real instruments are not pure fundamentals but just "dirty" sine waves.

This relates to distortion in different amps , some like the "tube sound" with it's soft clipping (even harmonics) better than the transistor sound with it's full spread of "nasties". Some of the better solid state amps reduce all the harmonics to very low levels ... but if you drive them to clipping , you will know you have solid state devices. A very subjective topic , sure to get many on a soapbox here at DIYA.

Edit : guitar distortion made with a overdriven tube has more even order , this is why musicians seek this out (and spend more $$).
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Last edited by ostripper; 28th March 2011 at 03:56 AM.
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