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How do I Choose Between an Analog and Digital Signal?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 17, 2024
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Choosing between an analog and digital signal does not have to be a complicated task. In fact, in many areas analog signal is no longer available for TV viewers. If you do live in an area where analog is still available, you may have questions regarding the quality, expense, and necessity of switching to a digital signal.

There is one key difference between analog and digital signal technology. Analog signals record waveform in their original state, while digital signals are created by converting analog signals into a group of numbers that closely resembles the original. Digital signals are generally a much higher quality than analog. In fact, many movies, music recordings, and other media originally recorded in analog have now been digitally re-mastered.

To choose between an analog and digital signal, you must first consider the pros and cons of both options. The most obvious pro of having an analog signal, where still available, is that TV reception of this kind does not cost any money. Other than your television set and possibly an antenna, you will need no special equipment to view programming. With digital signals, a digital television must be purchased or you will need an analog to digital converter box. Prices for each of these varies based on size of TV, location, and brand.

Once you have purchased a converter box, only an antenna is needed and programming is still free of charge. Programming of this kind is often very limited, however, even with a converter box. To get the most programming, you will need to have cable or satellite television installed and connected to your TV. Both of these options are already converted into a digital signal, but many more channels are available. Fees vary based on how many channels you want and the company you do business with.

Although analog signals may require less equipment and cost than digital, the quality of a digital signal far outweighs the price for obtaining a converter box. Additionally, if you live in an area where analog is not longer available, you will no longer have a choice between analog and digital signal technologies. In most areas where analog has been discontinued, there is government assistance available for obtaining a digital converter box.

Should you choose to stay with an analog signal and avoid paying any fees for service or equipment, be sure to check your local regulations and upcoming changes that may be made. An increasing number of locations may be switching to all digital programming, so you will want to be informed of when a change may be made and how to handle it. You may also look into ways to improve your analog signal performance through better antennas and other equipment.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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