There are two fundamental brands of density perturbations—called adiabatic and isocurvature. A general density perturbation is a mixture of both, and different theories that purport to explain the primordial density perturbation spectrum predict different mixtures.

Adiabatic density perturbations

the fractional overdensity in each matter component (baryons, photons ...) is the same. That is, if there is 1% more energy in baryons than average in one spot, then with a pure adiabatic density perturbations there is also 1% more energy in photons, and 1% more energy in neutrinos, than average. Cosmic inflation predicts that the primordial perturbations are adiabatic.

Isocurvature density perturbations

the sum of the fractional overdensities is zero. That is, a perturbation where at some spot there is 1% more energy in baryons than average, 1% more energy in photons than average, and 2% less energy in neutrinos than average, would be a pure isocurvature perturbation. Cosmic strings would produce mostly isocurvature primordial perturbations.

The CMB spectrum is able to distinguish these two because these two brands of perturbations produce different peak locations. Isocurvature density perturbations produce a series of peaks whose angular scales (l-values of the peaks) are roughly in the ratio 1:3:5:..., while adiabatic density perturbations produce peaks whose locations are in the ratio 1:2:3:...[61] Observations are consistent with the primordial density perturbations being entirely adiabatic, providing key support for inflation, and ruling out many models of structure formation involving, for example, cosmic strings.