# Spectral density

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In signal processing, the power spectrum ${\displaystyle S_{xx}(f)}$ of a continuous time signal ${\displaystyle x(t)}$ describes the distribution of power into frequency components ${\displaystyle f}$ composing that signal.[1] According to Fourier analysis, any physical signal can be decomposed into a number of discrete frequencies, or a spectrum of frequencies over a continuous range. The statistical average of any sort of signal (including noise) as analyzed in terms of its frequency content, is called its spectrum.
When the energy of the signal is concentrated around a finite time interval, especially if its total energy is finite, one may compute the energy spectral density. More commonly used is the power spectral density (or simply power spectrum), which applies to signals existing over all time, or over a time period large enough (especially in relation to the duration of a measurement) that it could as well have been over an infinite time interval. The power spectral density (PSD) then refers to the spectral energy distribution that would be found per unit time, since the total energy of such a signal over all time would generally be infinite. Summation or integration of the spectral components yields the total power (for a physical process) or variance (in a statistical process), identical to what would be obtained by integrating ${\displaystyle x^{2}(t)}$ over the time domain, as dictated by Parseval's theorem.[1]
The spectrum of a physical process ${\displaystyle x(t)}$ often contains essential information about the nature of ${\displaystyle x}$. For instance, the pitch and timbre of a musical instrument are immediately determined from a spectral analysis. The color of a light source is determined by the spectrum of the electromagnetic wave's electric field ${\displaystyle E(t)}$ as it fluctuates at an extremely high frequency. Obtaining a spectrum from time series such as these involves the Fourier transform, and generalizations based on Fourier analysis. In many cases the time domain is not specifically employed in practice, such as when a dispersive prism is used to obtain a spectrum of light in a spectrograph, or when a sound is perceived through its effect on the auditory receptors of the inner ear, each of which is sensitive to a particular frequency.