Digital, Analog and You
One of the biggest changes in home audio and video in the past few years has been the emergence of digital audio.
The core concept is similar for both audio and video, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll talk about audio. Some of our favourite devices use analog, some are digital signals, and some can do both!
Let’s break this down a bit. To understand the difference, Let’s start with a basic 2-channel (stereo) analog setup, pictured below.
Our “Classic” system is an example of an analog 2-channel system. We see our source, which can be a turntable, or almost anything using a headphone jack (whether 1/4 inch or 3.5 mm mini), or the red and white RCA plugs would be carrying an analog signal. Also, basic adapters can change these plugs to make them fit. An iPod 3.5mm headphone jack can easily plugged into a receiver’s R&W RCA jacks.
What is a “digital” signal?
A digital signal is information regarding video or audio (or both), which is stored and decoded using a form of computation.
A key point here is to note that speakers only play an analog signal. At at some point, a digital signal is converted to an analog signal.
In this case, our source is sending a digital signal. These signals are carried using optical, HDMI, and sometimes digital coax. The DAC (digital-analog converter) then takes the digital signal, and processes the signal, turning it into an analog signal, which can then be amplified and played through your speakers. Receivers/integrated amps often have a built in DAC in today’s market, which is what the red box indicates in the figure above. An example of an amp with an integrated DAC would be found in our “Beethoven” system.
Why is this important?
Depending on what you are looking to do, one solution may be better than the other. Usually, a mixture of analog and digital sources is what most people end up using. To find out how to get the most out of your system, come into Bay Bloor Radio, have a listen, and have one of our experts put together a great solution to suit your needs.
The author, Phil Skladowski, is a local musician and one of Bay Bloor Radio's tech specialists.