Datasheet Directories

ADCs and DACs

Written by Jeff Child

Resolution and Speed

ADCs and DACs are two of the key IC components that enable digital systems to interact with the real world. Makers of analog ICs are constantly evolving their DAC and ADC chips pushing the barriers of resolution and speed.

As critical enablers serving a wide variety of embedded applications, analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) and digital-to-analog converters (DACs) are available in many combinations of high-speed or high-resolution—or some tradeoff of both. Analog IC vendors continue to innovate, enhancing the performance and architectures of these critical devices.

For high-speed DACs the subsets of products include wideband radio frequency, intermediate frequency signal processing and general-purpose baseband classes. System designers use these DACs in wired and wireless communications, instrumentation, radar, electronic warfare and general waveform synthesis. The latest and greatest high-speed ADCs meanwhile seek to blend the high performance and optimized power consumption necessary for today’s demanding receiver/data acquisition applications. These products are used in wired and wireless communications, instrumentation, radar, electronic warfare and general data acquisition.
Simultaneous sampling capability is offered in some ADCs. That enables a single ADC device to take two or more measurements at the exact same time. This is particularly useful for systems where signal levels change quickly, such as motor control, distribution automation and ultrasound. Such systems benefit from the added precision that simultaneous sampling provides.

Resolution overrides demands for high speed for devices like precision DACs. These operate at less than 30 MHz and are critical data conversion components used in most high-performance signal processing systems. High-precision DACs range from 8 bits to 20 bits in resolution.
More than 100,000 ADCs from Analog Devices are used within CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) (Figure 1). Located outside Geneva, Switzerland, in a tunnel 100 meters underground and 27 kilometers in circumference, the LHC is one of the most sophisticated and expensive scientific instruments ever developed. CERN depends on ADI’s AD9042 high- speed, low-power monolithic 12-bit ADCs for high reliability and performance to ensure a continuous stream of ultraprecise data during carefully orchestrated, resource intensive LHC experiments. Maintaining 80 dB spurious-free dynamic range (SFDR) over a bandwidth of 20 MHz, AD9042 ADCs support the dynamic range required to measure the energy captured by an array of 64,000 lead tungstate crystals. These scintillating crystals are designed to absorb particles formed as electrons, positrons, and photons pass through the LHC’s electromagnetic calorimeter.

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Former Editor-in-Chief at Circuit Cellar | Website | + posts

Jeff served as Editor-in-Chief for both and its sister publication, Circuit Cellar magazine 6/2017—3/2022. In nearly three decades of covering the embedded electronics and computing industry, Jeff has also held senior editorial positions at EE Times, Computer Design, Electronic Design, Embedded Systems Development, and COTS Journal. His knowledge spans a broad range of electronics and computing topics, including CPUs, MCUs, memory, storage, graphics, power supplies, software development, and real-time OSes.

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ADCs and DACs

by Jeff Child time to read: 2 min