Digital I/O vs Analog I/O

In today's world, we are surrounded by technology that uses either digital or analog input/output. These terms may sound familiar to you, either from the business you work in or with any personal devices you may use.

Digital vs analog input: what is the difference, which one is better?

Both of these input/output methods have their own benefits and downfalls, and understanding the differences between them is crucial in determining which one is best suited depending on your business needs.

We take a look at the differences between digital and analog and how they are both used, as well as defining what input and output is, and how it relates to your AV devices.

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What is input/output?

In order to know the difference between digital and analog, it's crucial to understand the basic concept of input/output. Essentially, input determines a device's actions following the program line within its controller.

The program will then determine as to which device should execute the output. Put simply, input refers to the information that is fed into a particular system, while output refers to the information that is produced by the system. Input vs output is all about how we interact with certain devices.

What’s The Difference Between Digital And Analog?

When it comes to transmitting information, there are two main types of signals, these are, of course, analog and digital. The primary difference between these two types of signals is how they are defined and used.

Analog signals, for instance, are defined as continuous electrical signals that flow seamlessly from one point to another. On the other hand, digital signals are defined as non-continuous electrical signals, meaning they have to be transmitted as a series of distinct, separate signals to work.

To help you understand the difference between these signals a bit better, they should be looked at separately.

Digital vs. Analog

What are analog signals?

As mentioned, an analog signal is a continuous signal where a time-varying quantity, like the voltage, represents another variable. One variable is, therefore, an “analog” of the other. This technically means that an analog system will allow for an endless number of values to be represented, even when this doesn’t seem to be the case.

What are digital signals?

Digital signals are the exact opposite, as they use what’s known as binary code, which is a series of ones and zeroes, to transmit information effectively. These are sent as electronic pulses and can be understood by other devices that use digital signals.

Digital signals have many uses, including telecommunications, digital audio and video. They are often seen as more reliable than analog signals as they can transmit more information in much less time in most cases.

An example of digital signals is through your smartphone or laptop, which uses digital signals to do everything you need.


Digital vs. analog input and output: Which is better?

While neither I/O method is better, understanding both will help you see where each is best used.

If you’re old enough, you may remember a time when televisions worldwide were changing from analogue to digital. This was put in place as digital signals became more efficient, and viewers witnessed the visual and audio benefits that came with the change, as the signals were much more resistant to interference.

This doesn’t mean that digital is necessarily better, though, as many communication systems still rely on analog. Everyday devices that use digital include:

  • Computers
  • Smartphones
  • Televisions
  • Discs such as CDs and DVDs

On the other hand, just a few examples of the great number of technologies that use analog signals include:

  • Photocopiers
  • Speakers
  • Some radio
  • Microphones

How to choose between analog and digital devices?

From offices to your home, there are likely a great number of devices you regularly use that utilize either analog or digital signals. It’s for this very reason that getting a better understanding of how they both work can be very beneficial.

For instance, if you work in a business that is often using microphones and speakers, you are regularly dealing with analogue signals. However, the smart devices you may be used to control those microphones or speakers will be digital.

How to choose?

When comparing two pieces of technology and deciding whether to opt for digital or analog, there are a few key differences to consider. Here’s what you need to think about when you’re choosing between digital and analog devices:


On average, devices that use analog are usually cheaper than those that use digital; this is usually due to the technology inside the devices being more complex, as well as the cost of raw materials to construct the insides of these devices.

While this isn’t always the case, it’s important to remember when choosing between the two, as you’ll need to budget for the difference in your AV plan.


Analog uses much more data than digital, as the latter has come a long way in perfecting how certain equipment works, with data converted into binary.


Digital devices could be subject to quality loss based on how they translate and put data back together, so it’s important to consider this when you’re using digital devices.

Certain computer advances have allowed for the use of error detection to remove disturbances from digital signals and improve quality, but there is still the risk.

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Final thoughts

Both analog and digital devices have a place in the modern technological world, with their uses spanning many different technologies and industries. However, when deciding between a digital version of a device and an analog version, it’s crucial to understand the difference to decide which will best suit your needs. Following our guide to the primary differences in characteristics and usage for digital and analog devices will ensure you make the best decision for your AV equipment.

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