All acoustic sources are of finite spatial extent. In volumetric wave-based simulation approaches (including, e.g., the finite difference time domain method among many others), a direct approach is to represent such continuous source distributions in terms of a collection of point like sources at grid locations. Such a representation requires interpolation over the grid, and leads to common staircasing effects, particularly under rotation or translation of the distribution. In this article, a different representation is shown, based on a spherical harmonic representation of a given distribution. The source itself is decoupled from any particular arrangement of grid points, and is compactly represented as a series of filter responses used to drive a canonical set of source terms, each activating a given spherical harmonic directivity pattern. Such filter responses are derived for a variety of commonly-encountered distributions. Simulation results are presented, illustrating various features of such a representation, including convergence, behaviour under rotation, the extension to the time varying case and differences in computational cost relative to standard grid-based source representations.