Glossary Definition for Data Converter

Glossary Term: Data Converter 


In electronics, a data converter is a circuit that converts analog to digital or vice-versa. An A/D converter (or ADC) converts a continuously varying analog signal to a stream of digital numbers representing the signal at various points in time. A D/A converter (DAC) does the reverse.


Analog-to-Digital Converters (or A/D converters or ADCs) are circuits that convert analog signals into a stream of digital data.

Types of ADCs

The most common ADC architectures are successive-approximation-register (SAR), sigma-delta, integrating, flash (or direct conversion), pipelined, and two-step. For an introduction to these six types of ADCs, see Tutorial 2094: A Simple ADC Comparison Matrix.

What is the best ADC for my application?

Choosing the right ADC requires tradeoffs between resolution, channel count, power consumption, size, conversion time, static performance, dynamic performance, and price. For low-speed applications, a sigma-delta ADC is likely the best. Faster signals likely require a SAR ADC or pipeline ADC. For more information, see Tutorial 6139: Selecting the Right ADC for Your Application.


Digital-to-Analog Converters (or D/A converters or DACs) receive digital data (a stream of numbers) and output a voltage or current proportional to the value of the digital data.

What is the best DAC for my application?

When choosing a DAC, it is important to look at parameters such as linearity, resolution, speed, and accuracy. Other choices to keep in mind include serial vs. parallel interface, resolution/number of bits, number of input channels, and voltage or current output. For more information on choosing a DAC, see Tutorial 1055: Digital to Analog Converters are a “Bit” Analog and Tutorial 4025: DACs vs. Digital Potentiometers: Which is Right for My Application?

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