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What Is a Digital Signal Converter?

By T. Carrier
Updated May 17, 2024
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A digital signal converter does as its name suggests, it converts the traditional analog audio or video signal into an advanced digital signal. Various classifications of converters provide general quality improvements to television, music, and other applications. The digital signal converter usually operates via high-speed mathematical and numerical processes.

Traditional video and audio broadcasts relied on analog signals, which were dependent on factors like temperature, light, and sound for delivered quality. As such, environmental disturbances like trees or storms could diminish the quality of the signal and thus the quality of the picture or sound. Electronic current factors such as voltage and frequency variations were used to deliver signals.

While analog signals are continuous electric wave fluctuations along a spectrum, a digital signal typically has two primary set numerical levels. The electric exchange moves back and forth between these levels. This binary code approach generally leads to a crisper, clearer reception that is unhindered by the aforementioned disturbances. For this reason, many regions oversaw the complete transformation of signaling into digital formats following the turn of the 21st century.

Modern television sets, for example, are usually produced with installed digital conversion technology. Older sets made in the 20th century did not have this advantage, however. As a result, individuals who have analog-only sets equipped with rabbit ears need a digital signal converter. If one does not possess a converter, then a delivered digital TV signal or digital cable signal will not produce any picture or sound at all.

Other mediums can effectively implement a digital signal converter as well. Digital video recorders (DVRs) make use of the technology. Audio quality, particularly in the music industry, has also benefited from the advancements brought about by digital signal processing. Many radio stations and music players make use of digital technology.

Due to the complex nature of converting analog to digital, systems may require both a digital-to-analog converter and an analog-to-digital converter component. A large percentage therefore use a mixed signal circuit. In other words, the electronic connections that guide and convert the signals have features of both digital and analog systems. This is due to the fact that mathematical equations produced at high rates of speed perform the digital conversions, and signals constantly transfer from analog to digital and back again during this process.

Several digital signal converter types are available to a consumer. Successful approximation converters and flash converters both use voltage — or electrical force intensity — to deliver the fastest conversions. Other types include dual slope integrating converters, charge balancing converters, and sigma-delta converters. These systems may be found in a larger integrated circuit box or device, or they could be found on a tiny electronic chip.

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