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Quality Factor (Q)

The quality factor (Q) of a two-pole resonator is defined by [20, p. 184]

$\displaystyle \zbox {Q \isdefs \frac{\omega_0}{2\alpha}} \protect$ (E.7)

where $ \omega_0$ and $ \alpha$ are parameters of the resonator transfer function:

$\displaystyle H(s) \eqsp g\frac{2\alpha\,s}{s^2 + 2\alpha s + \omega_0^2} \isdefs g\frac{\frac{\omega_0}{Q}s}{s^2 + \frac{\omega_0}{Q}s + \omega_0^2} \isdefs g\frac{\frac{1}{Q}\tilde{s}}{\tilde{s}^2 + \frac{1}{Q}\tilde{s} + 1}, \quad \tilde{s}\isdef \frac{s}{\omega_0} \protect$ (E.8)

Note that Q is defined in the context of continuous-time resonators, so the transfer function $ H(s)$ is the Laplace transform (instead of the z transform) of the continuous (instead of discrete-time) impulse-response $ h(t)$ . An introduction to Laplace-transform analysis appears in Appendix D. The parameter $ \alpha$ is called the damping constant (or ``damping factor'') of the second-order transfer function, and $ \omega_0$ is called the resonant frequency [20, p. 179]. The resonant frequency $ \omega_0$ coincides with the physical oscillation frequency of the resonator impulse response when the damping constant $ \alpha$ is zero. For light damping, $ \omega_0$ is approximately the physical frequency of impulse-response oscillation ($ 2\pi$ times the zero-crossing rate of sinusoidal oscillation under an exponential decay). For larger damping constants, it is better to use the imaginary part of the pole location as a definition of resonance frequency (which is exact in the case of a single complex pole). (See §B.6 for a more complete discussion of resonators, in the discrete-time case.)

By the quadratic formula, the poles of the transfer function $ H(s)$ are given by [20, p. 624]

$\displaystyle p \eqsp -\alpha \pm \sqrt{\alpha^2 - \omega_0^2} \eqsp -\alpha \pm j\sqrt{\omega_0^2 - \alpha^2} \isdefs -\alpha \pm j\omega_d. \protect$ (E.9)

Therefore, the poles are complex only when $ Q>1/2$ . Since real poles do not resonate, we have $ Q>1/2$ for any resonator. The case $ Q=1/2$ is called critically damped, while $ Q<1/2$ is called overdamped. A resonator ($ Q>1/2$ ) is said to be underdamped, and the limiting case $ Q=\infty$ is simply undamped.

Since the imaginary parts of the complex resonator poles are $ \pm\omega_d$ , the zero-crossing rate of the resonator impulse response is $ \omega_d/\pi$ crossings per second. Moreover, $ \omega_d$ is very close to the peak-magnitude frequency in the resonator amplitude response. If we eliminate the negative-frequency pole, $ \omega_d$ becomes exactly the peak frequency in radians per second. In other words, as a measure of resonance peak frequency, $ \omega_d$ only neglects the interaction of the positive- and negative-frequency resonance peaks in the frequency response, which is usually negligible except for highly damped, low-frequency resonators. For any amount of damping $ \omega_d/\pi$ gives the impulse-response zero-crossing rate exactly, as is immediately seen from the derivation in the next section.

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``Introduction to Digital Filters with Audio Applications'', by Julius O. Smith III, (September 2007 Edition).
Copyright © 2017-03-02 by Julius O. Smith III
Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA),   Stanford University