# DC OFFSET time for a little education.

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by tomtom, Nov 3, 2005.

1. ### tomtomGuest

Hi,

Could someone explain what DC Offset is? I only have a vague idea of what it is. Been stuck trying to explain what it was to someone who had trouble with it the other day and... well, I couldn't...
I did a search on RO, but did not find anything satisfying enough.

Thank you!

2. ### IIRsWell-Known Member

Think of it as a very low frequency sine wave, so slow that it seems not to be moving at all. High-pass filtering should remove it very effectively..

3. ### Thomas W. BethelWell-Known Member

From the web

DC offset is an imbalance that sometimes occurs in A/D converters . It is a constant voltage that is present which can eat up headroom and cause clicks and pops during editing.

Imagine a sine wave with the top and bottom wave forms equally situated over the base line. Now imagine that the sine wave is shiffed up or down so it is no longer symetrical to the base line - that is DC offset.

Most times a high pass filter will take care of any DC offset problems.

4. ### tomtomGuest

Thank you for your quick answers. Do you have any idea why it happens?

5. ### David FrenchWell-Known Member

I'm no expert on thsi stuff, but I know that sometimes a DC signal is applied to a signal before an amplifier in order to shift the input signal into a band where the amp's performance is more linear. In poorly designed circuits, DC signal is not filtered out.

6. ### mpdGuest

I think the most common source of DC offset, is from what is called ADC offset error. Basically, this causes a shift in the input/output transfer function of the ADC.

To state this more plainly, when you apply 0V to a ADC, you should get the binary code 0 out. If you don't, then you have an offset error. Assuming the gain error of the ADC is zero, the same offset will appear for all input voltages. IIRC, offset error happens when the reference volatge in the ADC is off.

7. ### Michael FossenkemperDistinguished past mastering moderatorWell-Known Member

Do you know what was causing the offset?

Generally DC offset is a result of a cheap soundcard. Most better quality soundcard don't have that problem. Depending on your software, adding a simple filter without manipulating the controls, i.e. flat, will frequently eliminate the DC offset. Adobe Audition, I believe actually has a setting to eliminate DC offset. Computers can record DC values and there is no place for that in audio. If you can see the waveform, when recording silence, and then play that back, you may notice that the baseline may be higher or lower than zero. That's the offset.

9. ### audiowkstationActive Member

Although most engineers are cognizant of DC offset, the way it occurs vary widely. It normally occurs in the analog domain and the main cause is poor power transfer due to a power supply inadequatcy. Often a certain keyboard or synth using a "wall wart" or small power supply will display the artifacts. Certain patches with chamber can cause it. If one channel of your mix has excessive DC offset, this WILL cause issues with sinusoidal offset of the entire mix. When mixing, each channel in the digital domain can be monitored and with an editor, offset can be corrected.

Another common cause is improper gain management. If one component in the chain is overdriven, DC offset will result. Anytime the analog domain is overstressed, wave shape is modified and DC offset displayed.

Is DC offset a bad thing? Sometimes no! If you take a full Marshall stack and overdrive the amplifier, not just the input signal, you will have DC offset. The trick is to know when it is destructive to overall fidelity and destructive to your mix. Listening tests and track by track editing and a/bing your results should be excersized.

Clipping a power amplifier will cause offset. Some natural sounds actually contain offset.

10. ### ZillaActive Member

Any audio equipment which incorporates an analog stage can exhibit DC offset.

Audio signals oscillate in positive and negative polarities. In a word: bipolar. To reproduce these signals analog circuits usually are powered from bipolar power supplies ( +/- 15Volts for example). This allows the signal voltage to swing positive when a compression waveform is reproduced, and negative voltage on a rarefaction waveform. When there is no signal (silence) the output of the circuit should sit at ground potential: 0Volts.

However this is an ideal. In the real world component tolerances, temperature changes, topology, etc., cause circuit drift. So instead of sitting perfectly at 0volts during silence, you may find that it is +40millivolts or -3millivolts, for example. This voltage is not an oscillating quantity. It will be flowing in a single, fixed polarity; a direct current (DC). This is DC offset. A few millivolts offset is nothing to worry about. But if it becomes too great you will suffer with less signal headroom, pops when bypassing, and other maladies.

Another source of DC offset happens during recording. If a very slow draft from an A/C duct is blowing on a mic, this will induce a very low frequency (~1-10Hz) signal in the mic. So slow that it is considered essentially DC in nature and treated as DC offset.

Easier explained, computers can record DC voltage values. This is one of the primary reason why capacitors were invented. A capacitor can block DC voltages from traveling in one direction or the other depending on its polarity, provided that it is an electrolytic capacitor. A lot of audio guys don't like capacitors as they are also simple filters. They've never hampered my recordings. A lot of circuits nowadays utilize servos instead of capacitors to accomplish the same thing a simple capacitor can do.

12. ### Michael FossenkemperDistinguished past mastering moderatorWell-Known Member

I've found that keyboards are generally the culprit too.

13. ### CrestaActive Member

sorry for bumpin' this old topic, but I thought was better this way than creating a new one.

Does exist some soundcard without DC Offset at all?

Sure there are some cards that do not exhibit DC offsets. They are called good sound cards, with good circuit designs and implementation. Sound Blaster and many of the \$15 bargain Taiwanese sound cards the exhibit lots of DC offsets problems. So if you have a \$15 soundcard and are experiencing DC offsets problems, frequently almost any software has the ability to after-the-fact. Of course they don't tell you about the additional distortion that was created from the DC offsets to begin with but then with a \$15 soundcard, you shouldn't worry about it that much anyhow. So if you notice that the centerline of your waveform appears above or below the center baseline of your software, you have a crappy soundcard. So then you can correct for it in software.

The holidays are just around the corner and you might want to talk to the good religious fat Ferry bearing gifts to get you a better soundcard? He'll know if your mixes have been good or bad. So make them good for heaven's sakes. And what about those new Rudolph rednosed microphones?? I understand they record bells very nicely.

I record all of my fine arts concerts with the new Decca Menorah Microphone Tree. You just keep adding a new microphone every day and after the seventh microphone, you will have cut some wax! Then you can kickback and enjoy the fruits of your effort as long as it's not an apple from that nasty guys garden.

Ms. Remy Ann David

15. ### CrestaActive Member

I think my soundcard is not that crappy (M-Audio Delta 192), isn't?

16. ### dementedchordWell-Known Member

plz....not while i'm drinkin coffee....

17. ### CrestaActive Member

is it crappy? :shock:

18. ### reginaldGuest

Does DC Offset have a relation to the noise floor? (ive read somewhere 'headroom')