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The amplitude of a periodic variable is a measure of its change in a single period (such as time or spatial period). There are various definitions of amplitude (see below), which are all functions of the magnitude of the differences between the variable's extreme values. In older texts, the phase of a period function is sometimes called the amplitude.[1]

Root mean square (RMS) amplitude is used especially in electrical engineering: the RMS is defined as the square root of the mean over time of the square of the vertical distance of the graph from the rest state;[5] i.e. the RMS of the AC waveform (with no DC component).

For complicated waveforms, especially non-repeating signals like noise, the RMS amplitude is usually used because it is both unambiguous and has physical significance. For example, the average power transmitted by an acoustic or electromagnetic wave or by an electrical signal is proportional to the square of the RMS amplitude (and not, in general, to the square of the peak amplitude).[6]

For alternating current electric power, the universal practice is to specify RMS values of a sinusoidal waveform. One property of root mean square voltages and currents is that they produce the same heating effect as a direct current in a given resistance.

The peak-to-peak value is used, for example, when choosing rectifiers for power supplies, or when estimating the maximum voltage that insulation must withstand. Some common voltmeters are calibrated for RMS amplitude, but respond to the average value of a rectified waveform. Many digital voltmeters and all moving coil meters are in this category. The RMS calibration is only correct for a sine wave input since the ratio between peak, average and RMS values is dependent on waveform. If the wave shape being measured is greatly different from a sine wave, the relationship between RMS and average value changes. True RMS-responding meters were used in radio frequency measurements, where instruments measured the heating effect in a resistor to measure a current. The advent of microprocessor controlled meters capable of calculating RMS by sampling the waveform has made true RMS measurement commonplace.

Ambiguity

In general, the use of peak amplitude is simple and unambiguous only for symmetric periodic waves, like a sine wave, a square wave, or a triangle wave. For an asymmetric wave (periodic pulses in one direction, for example), the peak amplitude becomes ambiguous. This is because the value is different depending on whether the maximum positive signal is measured relative to the mean, the maximum negative signal is measured relative to the mean, or the maximum positive signal is measured relative to the maximum negative signal (the peak-to-peak amplitude) and then divided by two. In electrical engineering, the usual solution to this ambiguity is to measure the amplitude from a defined reference potential (such as ground or 0 V). Strictly speaking, this is no longer amplitude since there is the possibility that a constant (DC component) is included in the measurement.

Pulse amplitude

Semi-amplitude means half of the peak-to-peak amplitude.[2] Some scientists[3] use amplitude or peak amplitude to mean semi-amplitude.

It is the most widely used measure of orbital wobble in astronomy and the measurement of small radial velocity semi-amplitudes of nearby stars is important in the search for astronomy and the measurement of small radial velocity semi-amplitudes of nearby stars is important in the search for exoplanets (see Doppler spectroscopy).[4]

Root mean square (RMS) amplitude is used especially in electrical engineering: the RMS is defined as the square root of the mean over time of the square of the vertical distance of the graph from the rest state;[5] i.e. the RMS of the AC waveform (with no DC component).

For complicated waveforms, especially non-repeating signals like noise, the RMS amplitude is usually used because it is both unambiguous and has physical significance. For example, the average power transmitted by an acoustic or electromagnetic wave or by an electrical signal is proportional to the square of the RMS amplitude (and not, in general, to the square of the peak amplitude).For complicated waveforms, especially non-repeating signals like noise, the RMS amplitude is usually used because it is both unambiguous and has physical significance. For example, the average power transmitted by an acoustic or electromagnetic wave or by an electrical signal is proportional to the square of the RMS amplitude (and not, in general, to the square of the peak amplitude).[6]

For alternating current electric power, the universal practice is to specify RMS values of a sinusoidal waveform. One property of root mean square voltages and currents is that they produce the same heating effect as a direct current in a given resistance.

The peak-to-peak value is used, for example, when choosing rectifiers for power supplies, or when estimating the maximum voltage that insulation must withstand. Some common voltmeters are calibrated for RMS amplitude, but respond to the average value of a rectified waveform. Many digital voltmeters and all moving coil meters are in this category. The RMS calibration is only correct for a sine wave input since the ratio between peak, average and RMS values is dependent on waveform. If the wave shape being measured is greatly different from a sine wave, the relationship between RMS and average value changes. True RMS-responding meters were used in radio frequency measurements, where instruments measured the heating effect in a resistor to measure a current. The advent of microprocessor controlled meters capable of calculating RMS by sampling the waveform has made true RMS measurement commonplace.

In general, the use of peak amplitude is simple and unambiguous only for symmetric periodic waves, like a sine wave, a square wave, or a triangle wave. For an asymmetric wave (periodic pulses in one direction, for example), the peak amplitude becomes ambiguous. This is because the value is different depending on whether the maximum positive signal is measured relative to the mean, the maximum negative signal is measured relative to the mean, or the maximum positive signal is measured relative to the maximum negative signal (the peak-to-peak amplitude) and then divided by two. In electrical engineering, the usual solution to this ambiguity is to measure the amplitude from a defined reference potential (such as ground or 0 V). Strictly speaking, this is no longer amplitude since there is the possibility that a constant (DC component) is included in the measurement.

Pulse amplitude

A steady state amplitude remains constant during time, thus is represented by a scalar. Otherwise, the amplitude is transient and must be represented as either a continuous function or a discrete vector. For audio, transient amplitude envelopes model signals better because many common sounds have a transient loudness attack, decay, sustain, and release.

Other parameters can be assigned steady state or transient amplitude envelopes: high/low frequency/amplitude modulation, Gaussian noise, overtones, etc. [8]

Amplitude normalization

With waveforms containing many overtones, complex transient timbres can be achieved by assigning each overtone to its own distinct transient amplitude envelope. Unfortunately, this has the effect of modulating the loudness of the sound as well. It makes more sense to separate loudness and harmonic quality to be parameters controlled independently of each other.

To do so, harmonic amplitude envelopes are frame-by-frame normalized to become amplitude proportion envelopes, where at each time frame all the harmonic amplitudes will add to 100% (or 1). This way, the main loudness-controlling envelope can be cleanly controlled. [8]

In Sound Recognition, max amplitude normalization can be used to help align the key harmonic features of 2 alike sounds, allowing similar timbres to be recognized independent of loudness. [9][10]

See also