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Analog Signals vs Digital Signals

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There are two types of signals that are transferred between electronic devices. Analog and Digital. Both types are able to display the same quality of signal from various sources. However, while their output may be the same, the means with which they transfer a signal is quite different.

How Analog Works

Analog signals rely on varying levels of voltage to transmit a signal. This voltage corresponds to a linear representation of a sound or video—a continuous, bumpy line. This line, or wave, is an exact representation of the sound or video recorded and produces a more accurate recording of audio and video.

How Digital Works

Digital signals are captured and transmitted by recording the information as a series of “1’s” and “0’s”—which is binary code. Digital has become the standard for audio and video for several reasons even though it doesn’t necessarily result in superior quality.

Computers Can Only Process Digital

In order for a computer to edit, record, or display audio and video it must be converted into digital format. Therefore, even though a signal may first be created in analog format, it would have to be converted to digital in order to be edited in any way.

Digital Uses Less Bandwidth

Many cable companies have made the switch to digital format to free up bandwidth for their programming. Utilizing digital enables cable companies to output multiple video, audio, and data streams for their customers. This enables users to watch high definition, standard, surf the internet, as well as download “on demand” video from the same company.

Analog video, on the other hand, consumes much more bandwidth and does not have the same flexibility with multiple data streams.

Digital Backups

Digital file backups are an exact replica of the original. This is due to the binary format. The “1’s” and “0’s” will always amount to the same image or sound.

Analog copies get progressively worse as more copies are made. It’s like taking a picture of a picture. The analog copy will never be as good as the original.

Digital vs. Analog signal volatility

Another benefit of digital over analog is in signal reception. The performance of an analog device directly relates to the strength of the signal it receives. As the signal gets worse, so does the display or audio output of the device. However, as long as a digital device is receiving a signal, it will display perfectly.

Analog to Digital Conversion

For computers and televisions there are several options of conversion. Many older monitors and video cards utilize an analog—or VGA—signal. This signal can be converted using a VGA to DVI connector that connects directly to the video card. As well, a DVI to VGA connector is available.

Newer televisions may also require the conversion of analog to digital. For this, users may utilize a component to HDMI converter or a VGA to HDMI converter. However, it is important to note that while HDMI carries an audio signal, component and VGA do not. This will mean that handling the audio output will require its own conversion. This can be accomplished through a stereo receiver or by simply using analog audio and digital video.


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