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Thread: How digital speakers work

  1. #1
    Triple Platinum Member wumply's Avatar
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    How digital speakers work

    Hi:

    THE REALLY IMPORTANT QUQESTION I HAVE HERE IS NO. 3, SO IF I'VE GOTTEN TOO DETAILED, PLEASE ANSWER JUST THAT QUESTION.

    And if you could refer me to a good source of information, that would be cool!!

    My son has digital speakers and digital soundcard but that's as far as he goes. Me being me, I want to know how digital speakers work...how they are different from the analog speakers. Aren't all speakers themselves analog?

    So here goes. I don't have digital speakers/headphones.

    1. Do you need a digital soundcard for the digital speakers?

    2. Are the speakers themselves like ordinary speakers--I mean the 2 little Altec spkrs I have beside my monitor with a woofer down below---speakers purchased in 1995---that is, do digital speakers have a magnet and cones? Or what?

    3. If I had a digital soundcard could I still use the speakers AND HEADPHONES I've had since 1995? I ask this question because while my son gets sound over his digital speakers but not over the earphones he's always had. If 'yes', I take it the sound quality would not compete with digital speakers sound?

    John
    I've created my own website...a collection of moving, sad and happy and humorous poems which I would like to share with others. They come from stories my dad used to tell me when I was a kid. If you could glance at my site and if you know of others who might enjoy it and perhaps tell them of it, I would be most appreciative. Thank you. The address is www.metrocast.net/~wumply/exper-1.html

  2. #2
    Techzonez Governor Super Moderator Conan's Avatar
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    1) Yes you do. The soundcard's purpose is to "process" sound from a digital source and then somewhere along the way convert it back to "analog".

    2)There is no difference in speaker construction between "analog" and "digital" speakers. It's mostly a marketing term.

    3) I'm not sure about this, I will leave it to my fellow Techzonerz with sound cards to answer this question as I only have my motherboard's sound processing.

  3. #3
    Triple Platinum Member wumply's Avatar
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    So Conan...

    First thank for your good response.
    But your answer or my confusion leads to this question:

    As I understand it any natural sounds in our world are analog; to record them in a computer we sample them 48,100 times a second, converting each sampling into a 1 or a 0, as the computer is a digital device. Now to play them back, they are re-converted back into analog so that the speakers can play them...speakers being analog devices. And I assume that if a computer creates a sound, it is digital to start so it is still converted to analog for us to hear it over a speaker.

    So is the term digital speaker something of a misnomer? Or does the term have some validity I am not aware of?

    John
    I've created my own website...a collection of moving, sad and happy and humorous poems which I would like to share with others. They come from stories my dad used to tell me when I was a kid. If you could glance at my site and if you know of others who might enjoy it and perhaps tell them of it, I would be most appreciative. Thank you. The address is www.metrocast.net/~wumply/exper-1.html

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Super Moderator Big Booger's Avatar
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    I am no audio genius, but I think it can be stated like so:

    1 you convert audio analog file into digital format. then you play on analog speaker through sound card that converts the sound back to analog...

    Coverting the audio into digital once, and the reconverting it back to analog leads to quality loss.

    Converting the audio into digital, and then playing on a digital sound card with digital speakers produces better quality because you don't have to convert the second time, thus the sound is cleaner, clearer and richer.

    I know whenever I play a trailer from say apple.com, on my computer with analog video, the image is wretched looking with lots of macros, artifacts etc.. even in windowed mode.

    But when I play it through my digital output into my television that has a digital input, it looks sweet.. even in full screen..
    I guess that would be the same way with audio.

    I don't know really and I am anxious to see someone post something definitive on here about this topic as it is really interesting.

  5. #5
    Triple Platinum Member wumply's Avatar
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    So BB:

    Read your answer. Fascinating. It would appear then that digital speakers ARE somehow of different design and presumably would not play analog sound or not play it well. I wonder: HOW are they different, if they are?

    Do you think this is the case?

    Do you have any references re this entire topic? Do you have much hope that someone will pick up this thread? Because I am as curious as you.

    I searched Texas Instruments and Creative sites and Google, but I didn't find much.

    John
    I've created my own website...a collection of moving, sad and happy and humorous poems which I would like to share with others. They come from stories my dad used to tell me when I was a kid. If you could glance at my site and if you know of others who might enjoy it and perhaps tell them of it, I would be most appreciative. Thank you. The address is www.metrocast.net/~wumply/exper-1.html

  6. #6
    Super Moderator Super Moderator Big Booger's Avatar
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    I did a little research.

    First more on digital versus analog technology in general:
    http://www.virtualpbx.com/ana_vs_dig.html

    Great read, really explains a lot.

    Another article, below, explaining the difference between digital and analog:
    http://www.howstuffworks.com/analog-digital.htm

    I think the basic difference between analog and digital speakers is the technology employed,

    From the TI site:
    The first is the digital audio pulse-width-modulation (PWM) processor, which employs advanced digital signal processing and fourth order noise-shaping to convert the digital data from the source into the PWM format. The second stage is the digital amplifier power stage, which applies the digital PWM signal directly to the speakers, maintaining a complete digital path from the source to ear.

    I don't think analog speakers contain the PWN pulse width modulation processor.. Also I think the amplifiers are different as well. As for the tweaters, woofers, coils etc... I am not sure if they are actually the same, but I am still looking.

    I would think that the speaker hardware would remain the same, other than the input and output and how it is transcribed over the different hardware.
    Not too sure.

    I hope someone can help out in this.


    Finally found something on how the sound is produced in the digital speaker:
    http://focus.ti.com/docs/apps/catalo...pId=1&bdId=348

    Have a look. The main difference would be that the input of the digital signal goes straight into the speaker, whereas with the analog, it has to be converted first, along with some signal conditioning...
    Last edited by Big Booger; March 3rd, 2003 at 04:18 AM.

  7. #7
    Triple Platinum Member wumply's Avatar
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    I willl have a look, BB, and I thank you for doing that research and for the information you've given me.

    John
    I've created my own website...a collection of moving, sad and happy and humorous poems which I would like to share with others. They come from stories my dad used to tell me when I was a kid. If you could glance at my site and if you know of others who might enjoy it and perhaps tell them of it, I would be most appreciative. Thank you. The address is www.metrocast.net/~wumply/exper-1.html

  8. #8
    Techzonez Governor Super Moderator Conan's Avatar
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    Let me say it again there is no difference between Digital and Analog speakers. I have a full-blown Home Theater set-up in my room and there is nothing in my JBL Studio Series speakers that would differentiate it from any other normal speaker, except for the build quality of JBL.

    I think the basic difference between analog and digital speakers is the technology employed,

    From the TI site:
    The first is the digital audio pulse-width-modulation (PWM) processor, which employs advanced digital signal processing and fourth order noise-shaping to convert the digital data from the source into the PWM format. The second stage is the digital amplifier power stage, which applies the digital PWM signal directly to the speakers, maintaining a complete digital path from the source to ear.

    I don't think analog speakers contain the PWN pulse width modulation processor.. Also I think the amplifiers are different as well. As for the tweaters, woofers, coils etc... I am not sure if they are actually the same, but I am still looking.

    I would think that the speaker hardware would remain the same, other than the input and output and how it is transcribed over the different hardware.
    Not too sure.
    That is all contained in the digital processor or digital amplifier. Speakers are only capable of accepting "Speaker Cables" which by no means are digital in nature.

    For example, I have a Digital DVD Player connected to my Dolby Digital/DTS Amplifier by means of an Optical Digital Cable, hence the digital links are continuous from the DVD Player to the Digital Amplifier. Now from the Amplifier to the speaker, it's just normal speaker cable (of course the proper thickness shoud be observed) and there is no other decoder within my speaker's cabinet.

  9. #9
    Hardware guy Super Moderator FastGame's Avatar
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    Conan is right, all speakers are analog. The digital speakers that are used with computers contain the DAC's ( Digital to Analog converters) with the AMP and use those instead of the DAC's on the sound card, other than that the signal is analog by the time it reaches the speakers.
    Last edited by FastGame; March 3rd, 2003 at 13:27 PM.

  10. #10
    Super Moderator Super Moderator Big Booger's Avatar
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    Ok,
    You may be right but from reading the TI site:


    I
    , maintaining a complete digital path from the source to ear.
    how could it maintain a complete digital path, from source to ear, while using an analog speaker?

    From what you say and what they write, it doesn't make sense... care to clarify that?

    i may also be mistaken, but conan where in that JBL article does it mention that those speakers you linked to are digital speakers?
    Just need clarification in this matter becuase it seems to me that they wouldn't label a speaker digital unless it was distinguishable from analog speakers...
    I mean is it just a label? If so that is a crock of shit.
    Last edited by Big Booger; March 3rd, 2003 at 13:57 PM.

  11. #11
    Hardware guy Super Moderator FastGame's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Big Booger
    Ok,
    You may be right but from reading the TI site:
    quote:, maintaining a complete digital path from the source to ear.

    how could it maintain a complete digital path, from source to ear, while using an analog speaker?

    From what you say and what they write, it doesn't make sense... care to clarify that?
    Well that statement in it's self (from source to ear) is crock...from spearker to ear is a thing called space what crosses that space is a sound wave prue & simple unless these speakers come with a coax or fiber optic cable that plugs into your ear....

    Anyway thats me...can someone provide a link to some 100% all digital speakers ? the signal may be digital all the way to the speakers, I want too see if they never convert over to analog....

  12. #12
    Titanium Member
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    FG is correct - Digital signals are converted to analog before it reaches the speakers. It is possible (if the speakers are powered) to have a digital cable to the speaker (therefore "digital speaker"), which will then be converted and amplified within the speaker cabinet - sent as analog to the speaker terminals.
    as far as I know, a digital signal does not have the electrical current to provide amplitude for the speakers.

    Of course, i've been out of the audio scene for a while now - this is confusing -

    The digital revolution is taking over the audio world. Analog speakers can't reproduce true audio with the clarity and power of digital speakers. With digital speakers, you can have movie-theater sound quality at home and on your PC. TI has turned passive analog speakers into rich, high fidelity and interactive speakers. With the introduction of its first four devices, TI provides speaker manufacturers and PC original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with the industry's first complete digital speaker solution that addresses all of the audio subsystem needs. By using TI's digital signal processor (DSP) technology, audio speakers will produce a crisper, clearer and richer sound than analog speakers - allowing PC users and PC gaming enthusiasts to enjoy a superior audio experience. This technology also enables new audio applications in the commercial and the business place by improving the quality of internet conferencing/chat and speech recognition. Come see what all the noise is about.
    Last edited by lynchknot; March 3rd, 2003 at 15:50 PM.

  13. #13
    Succeded in braking Windo TZ Veteran Dehcbad25's Avatar
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    Well for all SB Live 5.1 to up owners this can be a bit more clear. In the conectors there is a Digital conection. Just to clarify, the Speakers are analog but the conection itself is digital. Some speakers like the Digital BA7500 from Boston Acustic
    looks like a standard four-channel array of speakers plus a subwoofer; the Boston set, however, uses digital coaxial input (a primary connection type for digital components) to create a virtual central channel of sound from the front pair of speakers
    Now, this set is a bit expensive, and a 5.1 seems better choice, since the final price is the same
    to add a litle more, I search in How Stuff Works, and I couldn't quite find exactly "Digital Speakers" but I found THIS about the flat speakers (maybe this are the Digital Speakers)
    Basically, by theory, almost everything here is right. Sound Stored in the HD si digital (bits) but the speakers are analog. When talking about digital speakers it is the conection.
    Hope this helps a little bit, since all this is getting kind of confusing

  14. #14
    Titanium Member
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    So yeah, powered speakers that handle the conversion within the cabinet.........

  15. #15
    Super Moderator Super Moderator Big Booger's Avatar
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    So to sum it up, the conversion of the signal for a digitally connected sound system happens in the speaker rather than in the card?

    And an analog sound system, the conversion happens in the card rather than the speaker?

    If that is true then I kind of understand this... if not this is utterly confusing...

    And the difference between an analog speaker and a digital speaker is basically the inputs?

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