In electronics, crosstalk is any phenomenon by which a signal transmitted on one circuit or channel of a transmission system creates an undesired effect in another circuit or channel. Crosstalk is usually caused by undesired capacitive, inductive, or conductive coupling from one circuit or channel to another.
Every electrical signal is associated with a varying field, whether electrical, magnetic or traveling. Where these fields overlap, they interfere with each other's signals. This electromagnetic interference creates crosstalk. For example, if two wires next to each other carry different signals, the currents in them will create magnetic fields that will induce a smaller signal in the neighboring wire.
In structured cabling, crosstalk refers to electromagnetic interference from one unshielded twisted pair to another twisted pair, normally running in parallel. Signals traveling through adjacent pairs of wire create magnetic fields that interact with each other, inducing interference in the neighboring pair. The pair causing the interference is called the "disturbing pair", while the pair experiencing the interference is the "disturbed pair".
In stereo audio reproduction, crosstalk can refer to signal leakage across from one program channel to another, reducing channel separation and stereo imaging. Crosstalk between channels in mixing consoles, and between studio feeds is a much more noticeable problem, as these are likely to be carrying very different programs or material.
Crosstalk is an electrical effect and can be quantified with a crosstalk measurement. Crosstalk measurements are made on audio systems to determine the amount of signal leaking across from one channel to another. The Independent Broadcasting Authority published a weighting curve for use in crosstalk measurement that gives due emphasis to the subjective audibility of different frequencies. In the absence of any international standards, this is still in use despite the demise of the IBA.
Good crosstalk performance for a stereo system is not difficult to achieve in today's digital audio systems, though it is hard to keep below the desired figure of -30 dB or so on vinyl recordings and FM radio.
In telecommunication or telephony, crosstalk is often distinguishable as pieces of speech or in-band signaling tones leaking from other people's connections. If the connection is analog, twisted pair cabling can often be used to reduce crosstalk. Alternatively, the signals can be converted to digital form, which is typically less susceptible to crosstalk.
In integrated circuit design, crosstalk normally refers to a signal affecting another nearby signal. Usually, the coupling is capacitive, and to the nearest neighbor, but other forms of coupling and effects on signal further away are sometimes important, especially in analog designs. See signal integrity for tools used to measure and prevent this problem, and substrate coupling for a discussion of crosstalk conveyed through the integrated circuit substrate. There are a wide variety of repair solutions, with increased spacing, wire re-ordering, and shielding being the most common.
In full-field optical coherence tomography, "crosstalk" refers to the phenomenon that due to highly scattering objects, multiple scattered photons reach the image plane and generate coherent signal after traveling a pathlength that matches that of the sample depth within a coherence length.
In stereoscopic 3D displays, crosstalk refers to the incomplete isolation of the left and right image channels so that one bleeds into the other - like a double exposure, which produces a ghosting effect.