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In processing electronic audio signals, pre-emphasis refers to a system process designed to increase (within a frequency band) the magnitude of some (usually higher) frequencies with respect to the magnitude of other (usually lower) frequencies in order to improve the overall signal-to-noise ratio by minimizing the adverse effects of such phenomena as attenuation distortion or saturation of recording media in subsequent parts of the system. That is the mirror of the deemphasis. The whole system is called emphasis. The frequency curve is decided by special time constants. The cutoff frequency can be calculated from that value.

Pre-emphasis is commonly used in telecommunications, digital audio recording, record cutting, in FM broadcasting transmissions, and in displaying the spectrograms of speech signals.

An example of this is the RIAA equalization curve on 33 rpm and 45 rpm vinyl records.

In high speed digital transmission, pre-emphasis is used to improve signal quality at the output of a data transmission. In transmitting signals at high data rates, the transmission medium may introduce distortions, so pre-emphasis is used to distort the transmitted signal to correct for this distortion. When done properly this produces a received signal which more closely resembles the original or desired signal, allowing the use of higher frequencies or producing fewer bit errors.

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