# Fast Fourier transform

A fast Fourier transform (FFT) is an efficient algorithm to compute the discrete Fourier transform (DFT) and its inverse. FFTs are of great importance to a wide variety of applications, from digital signal processing to solving partial differential equations to algorithms for quickly multiplying large integers. This article describes the algorithms, of which there are many; see discrete Fourier transform for properties and applications of the transform.

Let x0, ...., xn-1 be complex numbers. The DFT is defined by the formula

[itex] f_j = \sum_{k=0}^{n-1} x_k e^{-{2\pi i \over n} jk }

Evaluating these sums directly would take O(n2) arithmetical operations (see Big O notation). An FFT is an algorithm to compute the same result in only O(n log n) operations. In general, such algorithms depend upon the factorization of n, but (contrary to popular misconception) there are O(n log n) FFTs for all n, even prime n.

Since the inverse DFT is the same as the DFT, but with the opposite sign in the exponent and a 1/n factor, any FFT algorithm can easily be adapted for it as well.

 Contents

## The Cooley-Tukey algorithm

Main article: Cooley-Tukey FFT algorithm.

By far the most common FFT is the Cooley-Tukey algorithm. This is a divide and conquer algorithm that recursively breaks down a DFT of any composite size n = n1n2 into many smaller DFTs of sizes n1 and n2, along with O(n) multiplications by complex roots of unity traditionally called twiddle factors.

This method (and the general idea of an FFT) was popularized by a publication of J. W. Cooley and J. W. Tukey in 1965, but it was later discovered that those two authors had independently re-invented an algorithm known to Carl Friedrich Gauss around 1805 (and subsequently rediscovered several times in limited forms).

The most well-known use of the Cooley-Tukey algorithm is to divide the transform into two pieces of size [itex]n / 2[itex] at each step, and is therefore limited to power-of-two sizes, but any factorization can be used in general (as was known to both Gauss and Cooley/Tukey). These are called the radix-2 and mixed-radix cases, respectively (and other variants have their own names as well). Although the basic idea is recursive, most traditional implementations rearrange the algorithm to avoid explicit recursion. Also, because the Cooley-Tukey algorithm breaks the DFT into smaller DFTs, it can be combined arbitrarily with any other algorithm for the DFT, such as those described below.

## FFT algorithms specialized for real and/or symmetric data

In many applications, the input data for the DFT are purely real, in which case the outputs satisfy the symmetry

[itex]f_{n-j} = f_j^*,[itex]

and efficient FFT algorithms have been designed for this situation (see e.g. Sorensen, 1987). One approach consists of taking an ordinary algorithm (e.g. Cooley-Tukey) and removing the redundant parts of the computation, saving roughly a factor of two in time and memory. Alternatively, it is possible to express an even-length real-input DFT as a complex DFT of half the length (whose real and imaginary parts are the even/odd elements of the original real data), followed by O(n) post-processing operations.

It was once believed that real-input DFTs could be more efficiently computed by means of the Discrete Hartley transform (DHT), but it was subsequently argued that a specialized real-input DFT algorithm (FFT) can typically be found that requires fewer operations than the corresponding DHT algorithm (FHT) for the same number of inputs. Bruun's algorithm (above) is another method that was initially proposed to take advantage of real inputs, but it has not proved popular.

There are further FFT specializations for the cases of real data that have even/odd symmetry, in which case one can gain another factor of (roughly) two in time and memory and the DFT becomes the discrete cosine/sine transform(s) (DCT/DST). Instead of directly modifying an FFT algorithm for these cases, DCTs/DSTs can also be computed via FFTs of real data combined with O(n) pre/post processing.

## Accuracy and approximations

All of the FFT algorithms discussed so far compute the DFT exactly (in exact arithmetic, i.e. neglecting floating-point errors). A few "FFT" algorithms have been proposed, however, that compute the DFT approximately, with an error that can be made arbitrarily small at the expense of increased computations. Such algorithms trade the approximation error for increased speed or other properties. For example, an approximate FFT algorithm by Edelman et al. (1999) achieves lower communication requirements for parallel computing with the help of a fast-multipole method. A wavelet-based approximate FFT by Guo and Burrus (1996) takes sparse inputs/outputs (time/frequency localization) into account more efficiently than is possible with an exact FFT. Another algorithm for approximate computation of a subset of the DFT outputs is due to Shentov et al. (1995). Only the Edelman algorithm works equally well for sparse and non-sparse data, however, since it is based on the compressibility (rank deficiency) of the Fourier matrix itself rather than the compressibility (sparsity) of the data.

Even the "exact" FFT algorithms have errors when finite-precision floating-point arithmetic is used, but these errors are typically quite small; most FFT algorithms, e.g. Cooley-Tukey, have excellent numerical properties. The upper bound on the relative error for the Cooley-Tukey algorithm is O(ε log n), compared to O(ε n3/2) for the naïve DFT formula (Gentleman and Sande, 1966), where ε is the machine floating-point relative precision. In fact, the root mean square (rms) errors are much better than these upper bounds, being only O(ε √log n) for Cooley-Tukey and O(ε √n) for the naïve DFT (Schatzman, 1996). These results, however, are very sensitive to the accuracy of the twiddle factors used in the FFT (i.e. the trigonometric function values), and it is not unusual for incautious FFT implementations to have much worse accuracy, e.g. if they use inaccurate trigonometric recurrence formulas. Some FFTs other than Cooley-Tukey, such as the Rader-Brenner algorithm, are intrinsically less stable.

In fixed-point arithmetic, the finite-precision errors accumulated by FFT algorithms are worse, with rms errors growing as O(√n) for the Cooley-Tukey algorithm (Oppenheim & Schafer, 1975). Moreover, even achieving this accuracy requires careful attention to scaling in order to minimize the loss of precision, and fixed-point FFT algorithms involve rescaling at each intermediate stage of decompositions like Cooley-Tukey.

To verify the correctness of an FFT implementation, rigorous guarantees can be obtained in O(n log n) time by a simple procedure checking the linearity, impulse-response, and time-shift properties of the transform on random inputs (Ergün, 1995).

## References

• James W. Cooley and John W. Tukey, "An algorithm for the machine calculation of complex Fourier series," Math. Comput. 19, 297–301 (1965).
• Carl Friedrich Gauss, "Nachlass: Theoria interpolationis methodo nova tractata," Werke band 3, 265–327 (Königliche Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, Göttingen, 1866). See also M. T. Heideman, D. H. Johnson, and C. S. Burrus, "Gauss and the history of the fast Fourier transform," IEEE ASSP Magazine 1 (4), 14–21 (1984).
• P. Duhamel and M. Vetterli, "Fast Fourier transforms: a tutorial review and a state of the art," Signal Processing 19, 259–299 (1990).
• W. M. Gentleman and G. Sande, "Fast Fourier transforms—for fun and profit," Proc. AFIPS 29, 563–578 (1966).
• H. Guo, G. A. Sitton, and C. S. Burrus, "The Quick Discrete Fourier Transform," Proc. IEEE Conf. Acoust. Speech and Sig. Processing (ICASSP) 3, 445–448 (1994).
• H. V. Sorensen, D. L. Jones, M. T. Heideman, and C. S. Burrus, "Real-valued fast Fourier transform algorithms," IEEE Trans. Acoust. Speech Sig. Processing ASSP-35, 849–863 (1987).
• A. Edelman, P. McCorquodale, and S. Toledo, "The future fast Fourier transform?" SIAM J. Sci. Computing 20, 1094–1114 (1999).
• H. Guo and C. S. Burrus, "Fast approximate Fourier transform via wavelets transform," Proc. SPIE Intl. Soc. Opt. Eng. 2825, 250–259 (1996).
• O. V. Shentov, S. K. Mitra, U. Heute, and A. N. Hossen, "Subband DFT. I. Definition, interpretations and extensions," Signal Processing 41 (3), 261–277 (1995).
• James C. Schatzman, "Accuracy of the discrete Fourier transform and the fast Fourier transform," SIAM J. Sci. Comput. 17 (5), 1150–1166 (1996).
• A. V. Oppenheim and R. Schafer, Digital Signal Processing (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975).
• Funda Ergün, "Testing multivariate linear functions: Overcoming the generator bottleneck," Proc. 27th ACM Symposium on the Theory of Computing, 407–416 (1995).

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