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In signal processing, oversampling is the process of sampling a signal at a sampling frequency significantly higher than the Nyquist rate. Theoretically, a bandwidth-limited signal can be perfectly reconstructed if sampled at the Nyquist rate or above it. The Nyquist rate is defined as twice the bandwidth of the signal. Oversampling is capable of improving resolution and signal-to-noise ratio, and can be helpful in avoiding aliasing and phase distortion by relaxing anti-aliasing filter performance requirements.


A signal is said to be oversampled by a factor of N if it is sampled at N times the Nyquist rate.


There are three main reasons for performing oversampling:


Oversampling can make it easier to realize analog anti-aliasing filters. [1] Without oversampling, it is very difficult to implement filters with the sharp cutoff necessary to maximize use of the available bandwidth without exceeding the Nyquist limit. By increasing the bandwidth of the sampling system, design constraints for the anti-aliasing filter may be relaxed. [2] Once sampled, the signal can be digitally filtered and downsampled to the desired sampling frequency. In modern integrated circuit technology, the digital filter associated with this downsampling are easier to implement than a comparable analog filter required by a non-oversampled system.


In practice, oversampling is implemented in order to reduce cost and improve performance of an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) or digital-to-analog converter (DAC). [1] When oversampling by a factor of N, the dynamic range also increases a factor of N because there are N times as many possible values for the sum. However, the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) increases by , because summing up uncorrelated noise increases its amplitude by , while summing up a coherent signal increases its average by N. As a result, the SNR increases by .

For instance, to implement a 24-bit converter, it is sufficient to use a 20-bit converter that can run at 256 times the target sampling rate. Combining 256 consecutive 20-bit samples can increase the SNR by a factor of 16, effectively adding 4 bits to the resolution and producing a single sample with 24-bit resolution. [3] While with N=256 there is an increase in dynamic range by 8 bits, and the level of coherent signal increases by a factor of N, the noise changes by a factor of =16, so the net SNR improves by a factor of 16, 4 bits or 24 dB.

The number of samples required to get bits of additional data precision is

To get the mean sample scaled up to an integer with additional bits, the sum of samples is divided by :

This averaging is only effective if the signal contains sufficient uncorrelated noise to be recorded by the ADC. [3] If not, in the case of a stationary input signal, all samples would have the same value and the resulting average would be identical to this value; so in this case, oversampling would have made no improvement. In similar cases where the ADC records no noise and the input signal is changing over time, oversampling improves the result, but to an inconsistent and unpredictable extent.

Adding some dithering noise to the input signal can actually improve the final result because the dither noise allows oversampling to work to improve resolution. In many practical applications, a small increase in noise is well worth a substantial increase in measurement resolution. In practice, the dithering noise can often be placed outside the frequency range of interest to the measurement, so that this noise can be subsequently filtered out in the digital domain—resulting in a final measurement, in the frequency range of interest, with both higher resolution and lower noise. [4]


If multiple samples are taken of the same quantity with uncorrelated noise [note 1] added to each sample, then because, as discussed above, uncorrelated signals combine more weakly than correlated ones, averaging N samples reduces the noise power by a factor of N. If, for example, we oversample by a factor of 4, the signal-to-noise ratio in terms of power improves by factor of 4 which corresponds to a factor of 2 improvement in terms of voltage.

Certain kinds of ADCs known as delta-sigma converters produce disproportionately more quantization noise at higher frequencies. By running these converters at some multiple of the target sampling rate, and low-pass filtering the oversampled signal down to half the target sampling rate, a final result with less noise (over the entire band of the converter) can be obtained. Delta-sigma converters use a technique called noise shaping to move the quantization noise to the higher frequencies.


Consider a signal with a bandwidth or highest frequency of B = 100  Hz. The sampling theorem states that sampling frequency would have to be greater than 200 Hz. Sampling at four times that rate requires a sampling frequency of 800 Hz. This gives the anti-aliasing filter a transition band of 300 Hz ((fs/2) B = (800 Hz/2) − 100 Hz = 300 Hz) instead of 0 Hz if the sampling frequency was 200 Hz. Achieving an anti-aliasing filter with 0 Hz transition band is unrealistic whereas an anti-aliasing filter with a transition band of 300 Hz is not difficult.

Oversampling in reconstruction

The term oversampling is also used to denote a process used in the reconstruction phase of digital-to-analog conversion, in which an intermediate high sampling rate is used between the digital input and the analogue output. Here, digital interpolation is used to add additional samples between recorded samples, thereby converting the data to a higher sample rate, a form of upsampling. When the resulting higher-rate samples are converted to analog, a less complex and less expensive analog reconstruction filter is required.. Essentially, this is a way to shift some of the complexity of reconstruction from analog to the digital domain. Oversampling in the ADC can achieve some of the same benefits as using a higher sample rate at the DAC.

See also


  1. A system's signal-to-noise ratio cannot necessarily be increased by simple over-sampling, since noise samples are partially correlated (only some portion of the noise due to sampling and analog-to-digital conversion will be uncorrelated).

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Delta modulation

A delta modulation is an analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog signal conversion technique used for transmission of voice information where quality is not of primary importance. DM is the simplest form of differential pulse-code modulation (DPCM) where the difference between successive samples are encoded into n-bit data streams. In delta modulation, the transmitted data are reduced to a 1-bit data stream. Its main features are:

Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and engineering that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. SNR is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise power, often expressed in decibels. A ratio higher than 1:1 indicates more signal than noise.

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Digital-to-analog converter device that converts a digital signal into an analog signal

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Sampling (signal processing) measurement of a signal at discrete time intervals

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Spectrum analyzer

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In signal processing, undersampling or bandpass sampling is a technique where one samples a bandpass-filtered signal at a sample rate below its Nyquist rate, but is still able to reconstruct the signal.

Noise shaping is a technique typically used in digital audio, image, and video processing, usually in combination with dithering, as part of the process of quantization or bit-depth reduction of a digital signal. Its purpose is to increase the apparent signal-to-noise ratio of the resultant signal. It does this by altering the spectral shape of the error that is introduced by dithering and quantization; such that the noise power is at a lower level in frequency bands at which noise is considered to be less desirable and at a correspondingly higher level in bands where it is considered to be more desirable. A popular noise shaping algorithm used in image processing is known as ‘Floyd Steinberg dithering’; and many noise shaping algorithms used in audio processing are based on an ‘Absolute threshold of hearing’ model.

An anti-aliasing filter (AAF) is a filter used before a signal sampler to restrict the bandwidth of a signal to approximately or completely satisfy the Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem over the band of interest. Since the theorem states that unambiguous reconstruction of the signal from its samples is possible when the power of frequencies above the Nyquist frequency is zero, a real anti-aliasing filter trades off between bandwidth and aliasing. A realizable anti-aliasing filter will typically either permit some aliasing to occur or else attenuate some in-band frequencies close to the Nyquist limit. For this reason, many practical systems sample higher than would be theoretically required by a perfect AAF in order to ensure that all frequencies of interest can be reconstructed, a practice called oversampling.

In digital signal processing, downsampling and decimation are terms associated with the process of resampling in a multi-rate digital signal processing system. Both terms are used by various authors to describe the entire process, which includes lowpass filtering, or just the part of the process that does not include filtering.  When downsampling (decimation) is performed on a sequence of samples of a signal or other continuous function, it produces an approximation of the sequence that would have been obtained by sampling the signal at a lower rate. The decimation factor is usually an integer or a rational fraction greater than one. This factor multiplies the sampling interval or, equivalently, divides the sampling rate. For example, if compact disc audio at 44,100 samples/second is decimated by a factor of 5/4, the resulting sample rate is 35,280. A system component that performs decimation is called a decimator.

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In a mixed-signal system, a reconstruction filter, sometimes called an anti-imaging filter, is used to construct a smooth analog signal from a digital input, as in the case of a digital to analog converter (DAC) or other sampled data output device.

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In digital audio using pulse-code modulation (PCM), bit depth is the number of bits of information in each sample, and it directly corresponds to the resolution of each sample. Examples of bit depth include Compact Disc Digital Audio, which uses 16 bits per sample, and DVD-Audio and Blu-ray Disc which can support up to 24 bits per sample.

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Spurious-free dynamic range (SFDR) is the strength ratio of the fundamental signal to the strongest spurious signal in the output. It is also defined as a measure used to specify analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters and radio receivers.


  1. 1 2 Kester, Walt. "Oversampling Interpolating DACs" (PDF). Analog Devices. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  2. Nauman Uppal (30 August 2004). "Upsampling vs. Oversampling for Digital Audio" . Retrieved 6 October 2012. Without increasing the sample rate, we would need to design a very sharp filter that would have to cutoff [sic] at just past 20kHz and be 80-100dB down at 22kHz. Such a filter is not only very difficult and expensive to implement, but may sacrifice some of the audible spectrum in its rolloff.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. 1 2 "Improving ADC Resolution by Oversampling and Averaging" (PDF). Silicon Laboratories Inc. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  4. Holma, Tomlinson (2012). Sound for Film and Television. CRC Press. pp. 52–53. ISBN   9781136046100 . Retrieved 4 February 2019.

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