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This paper presents new techniques to implement direct digital frequency synthesizers (DDFSs) with optimized piecewise-polynomial approximation. DDFS performances with piecewise-polynomial approximation are first analyzed, providing theoretical upperbounds for the spurious-free dynamic range (SFDR), the maximum absolute error, and the signal-to-noise ratio. A novel approach to evaluate, with reduced computational effort, the near optimal fixed-point coefficients which maximize the SFDR is described. Several piecewise-linear and quadratic DDFS are implemented in the paper by using novel, single-summation-tree architectures. The tradeoff between ROM and arithmetic circuits complexity is discussed, pointing out that a sensible silicon area reduction can be achieved by increasing ROM size and reducing arithmetic circuitry. The use of fixed-width arithmetic can be combined with the single-summation-tree approach to further increase performances. It is shown that piecewise-quadratic DDFSs become effective against piecewise-linear designs for an SFDR higher than 100 dBc. Third-order DDFSs are expected to give advantages for an SFDR higher than 180 dBc. The DDFS circuits proposed in this paper compare favorably with previously proposed approaches.