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Digital vs Analog Microphone: Uses & Technologies


The debate on digital vs analog microphone performance can be argued for hours. Generally speaking, analog and digital wireless microphones can offer great sound quality and performance provided the sound system is prepped right. However, these systems present their strengths that make one produce better audio quality than the other in certain applications and scenarios.

What are Digital Wireless Systems and Analog Systems?

Digital vs Analog Microphone: Uses & Technologies

The battle between analog vs digital wireless microphone systems is a heated one in the audio world. Before diving into it, let’s first differentiate and define the two systems.

Digital Wireless System

Digital wireless systems encode sounds as digital signals, which will be sent over the air to be decoded by a receiver. Once the signal has been decoded, this will then be converted to sound. Such digital circuitry can affect the overall performance of digital systems in select components.

Digital wireless systems also convert audio to a digital signal that will then modulate a radio carrier or carrier frequency in ones and zeroes (binary code). This makes its audio signal unaffected by any radio link when it arrives at the receiver. This allows digital systems to transmit a flat-frequency response across audible ranges.

Analog Wireless System

Analog systems use a process called companding which compresses the analog signals transmitted from a microphone and expands it once it reaches the receiver. This entire process helps maximize the dynamic range of an audio signal while minimizing noise.

What is the Difference Between Analog and Digital MEMS Microphones?

Digital vs Analog Microphone: Uses & Technologies

Micro-electro-mechanical systems or MEMS microphones are created by playing two semiconductor chips into a single package. The first semiconductor chip is the MEMS membrane, which converts sound waves into an electrical signal. The second semiconductor chip is the amplifier, which sometimes has an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) depending on the type of microphone.

An analog MEMS microphone will have an analog output. Analog devices must be used to connect to the host circuit of an analog MEMS microphone as it makes use of an internal amplifier. With this type of system, analog microphones already have a reasonable signal level with a low output impedance.

On the other hand, digital MEMS microphones have digital interfaces that are encoded with a pulse density modulation (PDM). The PDM allows an analog signal voltage to be converted into a digital stream with logic-high signals. This process allows digital wireless microphones to have a bit of electrical noise immunity, bit error tolerance, and a simpler hardware interface compared to an analog system.

Another difference between analog and digital wireless mics is how they generate their RF signal. An analog mic would have a transmitter that compresses audio signals and sends the transmission frequency and audio signal over the air for the receiver to expand. On the other hand, a digital wireless microphone would have a transmitter that will encode the original sound as a digital signal so it can send it over the air for the receiver to decode.

Would a Microphone Be a Digital or Analog Sensor?

Digital vs Analog Microphone: Uses & Technologies

Whether we’re talking about an analog or digital microphone, these microphones all begin with an analog audio signal and use a preamplifier. These components help an analog or digital microphone boost its audio while retaining a low level within the range of human hearing. These microphones also use capacitive sensor technology to help convert their digital circuitry into the required electrical signal.

All that said, both wireless systems have transmitters that would generate an analog carrier, making all wireless microphones have an analog sensor.

Which is Better: a Digital Wireless Microphone System or an Analog Wireless Microphone System?

Digital vs Analog Microphone: Uses & Technologies

Preference aside, one should look at the four fundamental components of each system to compare the two: sound quality, latency, RF performance, and security.

Sound Quality

Given that digital wireless systems have transmitters that encode signals and a receiver to decode them, this results in a clearer and interference-free sound. Such a system allows digital wireless microphones to maintain the full dynamic range and frequency range of an incoming audio signal and carrier wave.

A digital system can also convert audio to a higher resolution (24-bit/48kHz) digital signal than an analog system. Often, this results in a sound quality with minimal RF interference, background noise, and better noise reduction.

On the other hand, the sound quality derived from analog systems often results in a loss of both dynamic and frequency range because of the compression system done when sending analog signals and radio waves over the air. To combat this, you would need to purchase more advanced analog systems.


Analog systems take the cake in terms of latency performance as they generally have next to no latency compared to digital systems. Meanwhile, the latency of digital systems varies, which makes them more tricky to use in differing applications.

For this reason, using digital wireless microphones for live performance will need more monitoring as there could be a time delay between signal input and output.

RF Performance

While both systems can operate in the UHF band and range, a digital system can operate with twice as many microphones. This makes it a better choice if you plan on using multiple mics.

However, this does not necessarily mean you have more wireless channels to use. A digital system in the 2.4 GHz range can only handle 4-5 systems.


If signal security is a concern of yours, then digital systems are better. Digital microphones allow a user to encrypt the outgoing signal making them safe and secure to use.

Some digital wireless mics and systems operate in dedicated radio frequency bands allowing for more security. This also keeps other devices from possibly interfering during transmission. With that, applications wherein sensitive information is being transmitted are better protected.

What Are the Benefits of Digital Wireless Microphone Systems?

Digital vs Analog Microphone: Uses & Technologies

To simplify and sum up the benefits of digital wireless mic systems, you would have cleaner sound quality, longer battery life, generally more channels and spectrum coverage, and a license-free standard.

A digital wireless mic has superior quality because it lacks a “compander”. It also has a flat frequency response across an audible range to help yield a clear audio transmission across radio waves. These systems also have 30-40% longer battery life with some models like the Shure SB900B sporting a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

More channels are possible with digital wireless systems since the deviation of its signals is more predictable than an analog’s because of its FM modulation. Thus, frequency coordination and coverage within the same location are easier without having cell phones or other technologies interfering with the channels.

Lastly, since digital wireless systems usually operate in a 2.4GHz space, they would fall under a global and license-free standard.

What Are the Benefits of Analog Wireless Systems?

Digital vs Analog Microphone: Uses & Technologies

A major benefit of analog systems is their little to no latency. With that, there is less delay between an audio or MDI input and output coming from the mic to the speakers. Thus, analog systems are great for live applications and performances.

Final Note

The debate on analog vs digital microphone systems is a loaded one. At the end of the day, the answer will depend on the preferences and priorities of the user. Nonetheless, each system has differing uses and technologies that make them great in their own right.

Naomi Feller

Originally from the East Coast, Naomi started singing as young as 3 years old. In her early teens Naomi made some embarrassing YouTube videos before settling on a love for Podcast editing. When she's not pouring over endless amounts of audio, she lends her expertise to us here at Shout4Music with her crystal clear and finely tuned microphone reviews.

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