All About Sound: What is Distortion?

Coloration is caused by physical resonances in a speaker or its enclosure, its frequency response imbalance, directivity and harmonic distortion. Distortion is the creation of additional sounds resulting from unwanted tones or noise caused by the speaker's mechanical or electrical operation.

Two kinds of distortion are most common. The first, Harmonic distortion is heard as additional tones which are simple multiples of the original note played. If a speaker is supposed to reproduce a 40-Hz note, for example, it may also produce output at 80 Hz, 120 Hz, 160 Hz and so on, even though these tones are not part of the original sound.

The second kind, non-harmonic distortion does not have a simple mathematical relationship with the original note — we typically hear this as a buzz, rattle or other “mechanical” noise.

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