Intermodulation or intermodulation distortion (IMD) is the amplitude modulation ofsignals containing two or more different frequencies in a system with nonlinearities. The intermodulation between each frequency component will form additional signals at frequencies that are not just at harmonic frequencies (integer multiples) of either, but also at the sum and difference frequencies of the original frequencies and at multiples of those sum and difference frequencies.
Intermodulation is caused by non-linear behaviour of the signal processing being used. The theoretical outcome of these non-linearities can be calculated by generating aVolterra series of the characteristic, while the usual approximation of those non-linearities is obtained by generating a Taylor series.
Intermodulation is rarely desirable in radio or audio processing, as it creates unwanted spurious emissions, often in the form of sidebands. For radio transmissions this increases the occupied bandwidth, leading to adjacent channel interference, which can reduce audio clarity or increase spectrum usage. It should not be confused withharmonic distortion (which has common musical applications), nor with intentional modulation (such as a frequency mixer in superheterodyne receivers) where signals to be modulated are presented to an intentional nonlinear element (multiplied) (see non-linear mixers such as mixer diodes and even single-transistor oscillator-mixer circuits). In audio, the intermodulation products are nonharmonically related to the input frequencies and therefore "off-key" with respect to the common Western musical scale.