A sine wave is characterized by its frequency, the number of cycles per second, its amplitude, the size of each cycle, and its phase that indicates the time alignment relative to a zero-time reference point. A pure tone has the property – unique among real-valued wave shapes – that its wave shape is unchanged by linear time-invariant systems; that is, only the phase and amplitude change between such a system's pure-tone input and its output.
Sine and cosine waves can be used as basic building blocks of more complex waves. A pure tone of any frequency and phase can be decomposed into, or built up from, a sine wave and a cosine wave of that frequency. As additional sine waves having different frequencies are combined, the waveform transforms from a sinusoidal shape into a more complex shape.
- ANSI S1.1-1994 Acoustical Terminology
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