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# NVH Basics The Frequency and Time Domains Page 1

## Rev. 03/26/2011 total pages 6

2. The Frequency and Time Domains

2.0 Introduction

Noise and vibration are the result of sound pressure and displacement oscillations which can be represented
as sums of sine wave oscillations with specified frequencies i.e. oscillations per second. This representation in
terms of sine waves is known as the frequency domain representation and is the key to many NVH
phenomena. This section will cover the basic rationale for using the frequency domain and the basic
terminology, including some terminology common to music theory.

2. 1 NVH and the Frequency Domain.

The frequency domain description of noise and vibration is very useful for a number of reasons:

- Human sensitivity to noise and vibration is most easily parameterized in the frequency domain

- Many vehicle noise and vibration issues can be simply parameterized in the frequency domain

- The response of structures and sound package is most easily analyzed in the frequency domain.

2.2 Units of Frequency

The units of frequency are called Herz, and written Hz. So 100 Hz means 100 cycles per second.
This is shown in the figure 2.2 where each oscillation takes .01 seconds to complete.

Figure 2.2: 100 Hz sine wave

2.3 Peak and RMS Amplitude

The peak amplitude of a sine wave is the maximum deviation above zero, and the figure shows a sine wave of
amplitude 1.0 . The rms amplitude is the root mean square value, and for a sine wave it is found by dividing
the peak amplitude by 2. The peak to peak amplitude is occasionally used, particularly in tire wheel
applications, and it is twice the peak amplitude.

-1.5
-1
-0.5
0
0.5
1
1.5
0 0.01 0.02 0.03 0.04 0.05
A
m
p
l
i
t
u
d
e
Time (seconds)
NVH Basics The Frequency and Time Domains Page 2

Rev. 03/26/2011 total pages 6

2.4 Fourier Analysis

The mathematical technique for splitting any signal into sine waves is called Fourier analysis, after its
inventor, the French mathematician J. B. Fourier. The acronyms FFT and DFT are used for the Fast Fourier
Transform and the Discrete Fourier Transform.

2.5 Example of a Triangular Wave - Harmonics

Fourier analysis can be simply demonstrated by the example of a triangular wave form split into sinusoidal
wave forms which have frequencies that are integer multiples of the repetition frequency of the triangular
wave, as shown in Figure 2.5.1 Note that only odd harmonics (1, 3, 5) occur.

Figure 2.5.1: Harmonics of a Triangular Wave Time Domain Plot

The common NVH convention is to display these results as a frequency spectrum where each spectral peak
represents the root mean square of the amplitude of the corresponding sine wave (i.e the peak amplitude
divided by 2). This is shown in figure 2.5.2 for the triangular wave. Note that the amplitude decreases
rapidly with frequency so that the 5
th
harmonic would be barely visible on a linear scale.

Figure 2.5.2: Frequency Spectrum of a Triangular Wave (logarithmic scale)
-1.1
-0.6
-0.1
0.4
0.9
0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4
Time
P
r
e
s
s
u
r
e
/
V
i
b
r
a
t
i
o
n
Triangular Wave
First Harmonic
3rd Harmonic
5th Harmonic
1.E-04
1.E-03
1.E-02
1.E-01
1.E+00
0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Frequency/f1
R
M
S

A
m
p
l
i
t
u
d
e
NVH Basics The Frequency and Time Domains Page 3

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2.6 Discrete Fourier Transforms (DFT) Narrow Band Analysis

The original Fourier method was based on the mathematics of continuous functions. For test purposes it is
necessary to sample the noise or vibration signals at fixed intervals of time T, and to analyze data records of
fixed length T. Figure 2.6.1 shows a section of a typical time history, in this case the sound signal from a
musicians electronic tuner set to the pitch (frequency) of 440 Hz (440 Hz , or 440 herz, means 440 complete
oscillations per second). The signal repeats at intervals of 1/440 seconds, but is not a pure sine wave. The
basic 440 hz signal is combined with signals at multiples (harmonics) of 440 hz.

Figure 2.6.1 Time Domain Plot for Sound - Musicians Electronic Tuner at A-440 hz

The frequency content is found using Discrete Fourier Transforms (DFTs). Because of the discrete nature of
the analysis the resulting frequency spectrum consists of sine waves that can only have frequencies which are
multiples of f=1/T, and the calculated amplitude of each sine wave includes energy in a narrow band around
the nominal frequency. The result of applying this procedure to the tuner signal is shown in figure 2.6.2 .

Figure 2.6.2: Frequency Spectrum of Sound Due to Tuner at 440 hz
0.00
0.01
0.01
0.02
0.02
0.03
0.03
0
4
4
6
8
9
2
1
3
3
7
1
7
8
3
2
2
2
9
2
6
7
5
Frequency (hz)
S
o
u
n
d

P
r
e
s
s
u
r
e

(
P
a
)
Tuner -A440 hz
-0.3
-0.2
-0.1
0
0.1
0.2
0.010 0.012 0.013 0.015 0.017 0.019
Time (sec)
S
o
u
n
d

P
r
e
s
s
u
r
e

(
P
a
)
NVH Basics The Frequency and Time Domains Page 4

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The peak at zero hz is arises because the test instrumentation has produced a small constant voltage,
sometimes called DC offset. The peak at 440 hz is the fundamental or first harmonic. The higher peaks at
880 hz, 1320 hz, and 1760 hz represent the amplitude of higher harmonics. It can be seen that the energy of
the signal appears to be spread over a small region around the frequency of each harmonic. This phenomenon
is called leakage, and arises if the sine waves to be analyzed do not have frequencies that are exact multiples
of 1/T. Leakage can be reduced by a method called windowing.

Figure 2.6.3 shows the time variation of the sound pressure due to a bowed string instrument (viola) also
tuned to 440 hz. Once again the time history repeats itself at 1/440 seconds, but the repeating pattern is
different from that of the tuner.

Figure 2.6.3. Time Domain Plot of Bowed String Instrument Sound at A 440 hz

The frequency spectrum also has a somewhat different pattern from that of the tuner signal

Figure 2.6.4: Frequency Spectrum of Bowed String Instrument (Viola) at A-440 hz

-0.06
-0.04
-0.02
0
0.02
0.04
0.06
0.08
0.1
0 0.0025 0.005 0.0075 0.01
Time (sec)
S
o
u
n
d

P
r
e
s
s
u
r
e

(
P
a
)
0
0.002
0.004
0.006
0.008
0.01
0.012
0
2
2
0
4
3
9
6
5
9
8
7
9
1
0
9
9
1
3
1
8
1
5
3
8
1
7
5
8
1
9
7
8
2
1
9
7
2
4
1
7
2
6
3
7
2
8
5
6
Frequency (hz)
S
o
u
n
d

P
r
e
s
s
u
r
e

(
P
a
)
NVH Basics The Frequency and Time Domains Page 5

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2.7 Frequency Domain and Musical Terminology (Octaves) etc

Figure 2.7.1 shows the black and white keys at the center section of a piano or organ keyboard (a section that
is technically known as the 4
th
octave). The letters indicate the name of the note produced by the key (the
subscript 4 implying 4
th
octave), and the number above or below the letter gives the frequency of the first
harmonic of the sound produced.

278 Hz 313 Hz 373 Hz 415 Hz 466 Hz
C# D# F# G# A#
C#
262 Hz 332 Hz 392 Hz 494 Hz
C
4
D
4
E
4
F
4
G
4
A
4
B
5
C
5
295 Hz 352 Hz 440 Hz 524 Hz

Figure 2.7.1: Center Piano Keyboard (4
th
Octave)

The pattern repeats up and down the keyboard with a frequency doubling for each repetition (octave) e.g.

C3 = 131 hz
C4 = 262 hz {Middle C, also called c}
C5 = 524 hz

The frequency doubling is called an octave because it occurs after every 8 white keys. The frequency ratio
between each adjacent key (including both black and white keys) is 2
1/12
or 1/12
th
octave, for example:

Frequency of C
#
= 278 hz = 2
1/12
x 262 hz (frequency of C4 )

Frequency of F4 = 352 hz = 2
1/12
x 332 hz (frequency of E4 )

In music theory the frequency step corresponding to the factor of 2
1/12
is known as a semi-tone (1/2 tone).

2.8 RMS Levels

As mentioned earlier it is common to use RMS levels for NVH purposes. So, for example, in the case of sound
pressure we use Prms:

2 / 1
0
2
) (
1
)
`

=
}
T
rms
dt t P
T
P

The choice of the averaging period depends on the application, but usually T~1second.

The RMS level of a discrete frequency spectrum for a given frequency range is:

{ }
2 / 1
2
,
) (
max) min
i f f rms
f P P =

NVH Basics The Frequency and Time Domains Page 6

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Here the P(fi) are RMS values.

2.9 Scientific and Engineering Use of Octave (Broadband) Analysis

We previously described the discrete frequency analysis system which split the spectrum into fixed steps of
f=1/T. This is sometimes called narrow band analysis. For many purposes it is convenient to lump together
all the acoustic or vibration energy in a broad range of frequencies (broad-band analysis). To this end a
standard system of octave, 1/3
rd
octave, 1/12
th
octave and 1/24
th
octave bands has been developed based on
frequency increments using factors of 2, 2
1/3
, 2
1/12
, 2
1/24
etc. The standard frequencies corresponding to these
bands are called preferred frequencies.

The preferred octave and 1/3
rd
octave bands are listed in tables 2.8.1 and 2.8.2.

Table 2.8.1 Preferred Octave Bands

Lower Limit 22 44 88 177 354 707 1414 2828 5656
Band Center 31.5 63 125 250 500 1000 2000 4000 8000
Upper Limit 44 88 177 354 707 1414 2828 5656 11312

Table 2.8.2 Preferred 1/3
rd
Octave Bands

Lower Limit 28 36 45 56 71 89 112 141 178 224 280 360 450
Band Center 31.5 40 50 63 80 100 125 160 200 250 315 400 500
Upper Limit 36 45 56 71 89 112 141 178 224 280 360 450 560

Technical Note:

For 1/3
rd
octave calculations the powers of 2 are replaced by essentially equivalent powers of 10, using:

2 9953 . 1 10
10
3
~ =

Also, the frequency multiplier equivalent to 3 octaves plus 1/3
rd
octave is 10:

3 Octaves + 1/3
rd
Octave: 10 10
)
3
1
3 (
10
3
=
(

+

As a result the high frequency bands can be obtained by multiplying by 10, and the center frequencies above
500 Hz are 630 Hz, 800 Hz, 1000 Hz, 1250 Hz, etc.

For further detailed information see the ANSI Standard ANSI S1.6-1984 and British Standard B.S. 2045:1965
British Standard Preferred Numbers. The British Standard is useful for a general discussion of preferred
numbers applicable to n
th
octave bands, and the application of preferred numbers to other applications such
as the sizing of screws.