AskDefine | Define jitter

Dictionary Definition

jitter n : small rapid variations in a waveform resulting from fluctuations in the voltage supply or mechanical vibrations or other sources

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A nervous action; a tic.
  2. A state of nervousness (primarily used in the plural - often with 'the'.)
    That creepy movie gave me the jitters.
  3. In the context of "telecommunications": An abrupt and unwanted variation of one or more signal characteristics.


A nervous action; a tic
A state of nervousnes; the jitters
(Telecommunications) an abrubt and unwanted variation of signal characteristics


  1. To be nervous.


Extensive Definition

Jitter is an unwanted variation of one or more characteristics of a periodic signal in electronics and telecommunications. Jitter may be seen in characteristics such as the interval between successive pulses, or the amplitude, frequency, or phase of successive cycles. Jitter is a significant factor in the design of almost all communications links (e.g. USB, PCI-e, SATA, OC-48).
Jitter can apply to a number of signal qualities (e.g. amplitude, phase, pulse width or pulse position), and can be quantified in the same terms as all time-varying signals (e.g. RMS, or peak-to-peak displacement). Also like other time-varying signals, jitter can be expressed in terms of spectral density (frequency content). Jitter period is the interval between two times of maximum effect (or between two times of minimum effect) of a jitter characteristic, for a jitter that varies regularly with time. Jitter frequency, the more commonly quoted figure, is its inverse. Generally, very low jitter frequency is not of interest in designing systems, and the low-frequency cutoff for jitter is typically specified at 1 Hz.


In the context of digital audio extraction from Compact Discs, seek jitter causes extracted audio samples to be doubled-up or skipped entirely if the Compact Disc drive re-seeks. The problem occurs during seeking because the Red Book (audio CD standard) doesn't require block-accurate addressing. As a result, the extraction process may restart a few samples early or late, resulting in doubled or omitted samples. These glitches often sound like tiny repeating clicks during playback. An approach that has produced good results is to do jitter correction in software, which involves performing overlapping reads, and then sliding the data around to find overlaps at the edges. Most extraction programs will perform seek jitter correction. CD manufacturers avoid seek jitter by extracting the entire disc in one continuous read using specific CD drive models at slower speeds so the drive will not re-seek.
Due to additional sector level addressing added in the Yellow Book (CD standard), CD-ROM data discs are not subject to seek jitter.
A jitter meter is a testing instrument for measuring clock jitter values, and is used in manufacturing DVD and CD-ROM discs.

Phase jitter metrics

For clock jitter, there are three commonly used metrics: absolute jitter, period jitter, and cycle to cycle jitter.
Cycle-to-cycle jitter is the difference in length of any two adjacent clock periods. Accordingly, it can be thought of as the discrete-time derivative of period jitter. It can be important for some types of clock generation circuitry used in microprocessors and RAM interfaces.
All of these jitter metrics are really measures of a single time-dependent quantity, and hence are related by derivatives as described above. Since they have different generation mechanisms, different circuit effects, and different measurement methodology, it is still useful to quantify them separately.
In the telecommunications world, the unit used for the above types of jitter is usually the UI (or Unit Interval) which quantifies the jitter in terms of a fraction of the ideal period of the clock. This unit is useful because it scales with clock frequency and thus allows relatively slow interconnects such as T1 to be compared to higher-speed internet backbone links such as OC-192. Absolute units such as picoseconds are more common in microprocessor applications. Units of degrees and radians are also used.
If jitter has a Gaussian distribution, it is usually quantified using the standard deviation of this distribution (aka. RMS). Often, jitter distribution is significantly non-Gaussian. This can occur if the jitter is caused by external sources such as power supply noise. In these cases, peak-to-peak measurements are more useful. Many efforts have been made to meaningfully quantify distributions that are neither Gaussian nor have meaningful peaks (which is the case in all real jitter). All have shortcomings but most tend to be good enough for the purposes of engineering work. Note that typically, the reference point for jitter is defined such that the mean jitter is 0.
In networking, in particular IP networks such as the Internet, jitter can refer to the variation (statistical dispersion) in the delay of the packets.

Jitter Types

Random Jitter

Random Jitter, also called Gaussian jitter, is unpredictable electronic timing noise. Random jitter typically follows a Gaussian distribution or Normal distribution. It is believed to follow this pattern because most noise or jitter in a electrical circuit is caused by thermal noise, which does have a Gaussian distribution. Another reason for random jitter to have a distribution like this is due to the Central limit theorem. The central limit theorem states that composite effect of many uncorrelated noise sources, regardless of the distributions, approaches a Gaussian distribution. One of the main differences between random and deterministic jitter is that deterministic jitter is bounded and random jitter is unbounded.

Deterministic Jitter

Deterministic jitter is a type of clock timing jitter or data signal jitter that is predictable and reproducible. The peak-to-peak value of this jitter is bounded, and the bounds can easily be observed and predicted. Periodic Jitter, Data-Dependent Jitter, and Duty-Cycle Dependent Jitter are all types of Deterministic Jitter.

Jitter testing

Jitter testing is of growing importance to electronics engineers due to the industry trend of increasing clock frequencies in digital electronic circuitry. Higher clock frequencies have commensurately smaller eye openings, and thus impose tighter tolerances on jitter. For example, modern computer motherboards have serial bus architectures with eye openings of 160 picoseconds or less. This is extremely small compared to parallel bus architectures with equivalent performance, which may have eye openings on the order of 1000 picoseconds.

Jitter measurement

Jitter is measured and evaluated in various ways depending on the type of circuitry that is being tested. For example, jitter in serial bus architectures is measured by means of eye diagrams, according to industry accepted standards. A less direct approach—in which analog waveforms are digitized and the resulting data stream analyzed—is employed when measuring pixel jitter in frame grabbers. In all cases, the goal of jitter measurement is to verify that the jitter will not disrupt normal operation of the circuitry.

Jitter injection

Engineers inject jitter into electronic components to test the jitter tolerance of the component.


There are standards for jitter measurement in serial bus architectures. The standards include jitter tolerance, jitter transfer function and jitter generation, with the required values for these attributes varying among different applications. Where applicable, manufactured systems are required to conform to these standards.

Jitter prevention

Anti-jitter circuits

Anti-jitter circuits (AJCs) are a class of electronic circuits designed to reduce the level of jitter in a regular pulse signal. AJCs operate by re-timing the output pulses so they align more closely to an idealised pulse signal. They are widely used in clock and data recovery circuits in digital communications, as well as for data sampling systems such as the analog-to-digital converter and digital-to-analog converter. Examples of anti-jitter circuits include phase-locked loop and delay-locked loop. Inside digital to analog converters jitter causes unwanted high-frequency distortions. In this case it can be suppressed with high fidelity clock signal usage.

Jitter buffers

Jitter buffers or de-jitter buffers are used to counter jitter introduced by packet switched networks so that a continuous playout of audio (or video) transmitted over the network can be ensured. The maximum jitter that can be countered by a de-jitter buffer is equal to the buffering delay introduced before starting the play-out of the mediastream. In the context of packet-switched networks, the term packet delay variation is often preferred over jitter.
Some systems use sophisticated delay-optimal de-jitter buffers which are capable of adapting the buffering delay to changing network jitter characteristics. These are known as adaptive de-jitter buffers and the adaptation logic is based on the jitter estimates computed from the arrival characteristics of the media packets. Adaptive de-jittering involves introducing discontinuities in the media play-out which may appear offensive to the listener or viewer. Adaptive de-jittering is usually carried out for audio play-outs which feature a VAD/DTX encoded audio, that allows the lengths of the silence periods to be adjusted, thus minimizing the perceptual impact of the adaptation.


A dejitterizer is a device that reduces jitter in a digital signal. A dejitterizer usually consists of an elastic buffer in which the signal is temporarily stored and then retransmitted at a rate based on the average rate of the incoming signal. A dejitterizer is usually ineffective in dealing with low-frequency jitter, such as waiting-time jitter.


External links

jitter in Czech: Jitter
jitter in German: Jitter
jitter in French: Gigue (électronique)
jitter in Italian: Jitter
jitter in Japanese: ジッター
jitter in Polish: Jitter
jitter in Portuguese: Jitter
jitter in Russian: Джиттер
jitter in Finnish: Jitter
jitter in Swedish: Jitter
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