Are you struggling with learning the difference between a digital snake vs analog snake?
Do you have no absolute idea which of the two you should use?
No need to worry anymore because we will run you through a brief overview and help you figure out which is the right system for you and your music!
How Are They Different From Each Other?
Generally speaking, a digital snake and an analog snake perform the same function.
- The main task of analog and digital snakes is to move audio from point A to point B, with minimum audio signal quality loss.
- The difference between their system is that digital mixing consoles are immune to noise which makes them preferable for long cable runs.
- This converts the mixer inputs back to the analog signal to feed in the mixer.
If you already know how audio transmission works over a standard multi-core cable, it will be much easier for you to figure out how it works with a digital mixing console or a digital snake.
How Do Digital Snakes Work?
In a digital snake system, the regular audio is encoded to DIGITAL with the assistance of converters.
Even though there are different flavors of digital snake, each with different characteristics such as:
- Communication protocols
Audio is mostly transferred via ethernet cable. In the end, a digital snake system is simply an information pipeline.
When Should You Use a Digital Snake
Some digital users boast that they have a digital snake.
But do you need one, or can you use the “copper wire” that is already in place?
Some digital mixers connect the same way an analog mixer does. The mixer has all of the connectors to the cables.
Other kinds of digital mixers have a stage box rack mount chassis that houses the input plug microphone preamps and analog-to-digital converters.
- Depending on your situation, buying digital snakes can either save money or cost more money.
- It could be a good idea to convert the input signal as close as possible to the plug source.
- A decent audio snake can be up to 300 feet long before any noticeable degradation takes place.
Advantages of Using A Digital Snake Systems
A digital snake does the job.
Here are some of the advantages you can get from its system.
Eliminates Long Audio Signal Transfers
The big advantage of digital snakes is that it eliminates long audio signal transfers and the signal degradation that always comes along with them.
Even if you still use an analog console, you can gain an enormous performance increase from using one in your system.
No Loss in Sound Quality
Digital snakes are said to be highly reliable.
The digital mixing console has high-quality mic preamps, which increase the input gain where the best quality audio signal is found.
This is achieved by converting audio signals at the stage position, which allows them to be transferred hundreds of feet with absolutely no loss in sound quality.
Once the signals are in a digital form, it becomes resistant to long-distance cabling losses.
Some of the digital snake devices that cost a fortune on the market can provide you with up to 2km audio transfer but only with dedicated optical cables.
This becomes even more important for live sound in large venues or an enormous stage that could echo the sound of microphones!
High Channel Count
Using a digital mixer means the possibility of utilizing MANY channels.
Sure, you can buy a digital mixer with a small number of channels, but you can also get digital mixers that support up to 2,000 channels!
The system will allow you to run up to 512 channels of audio on one single cable plug.
Allows Linking Multiple Consoles
The most common reason for using multiple consoles is to use them for the front-of-house (FOH) mix and the other for monitors.
Using digital mixers often eliminates the need for an analog split.
Since digital mixers are essentially just computers, they can be linked together to share data and the snake’s inputs and outputs.
Digital snakes give you more functionality and control over your audio.
Many digital snakes have microphone preamplifiers (mic pres) and Digital Signal Processing (DSP) built-in, which you can access either from the board or through software.
Another big advantage of digital snakes is the way it handles digital audio.
Copper wire is susceptible to RF interference and ground loops, which can obviously affect your audio signals in the form of buzzes, crackles, and pops.
How Do Analog Snakes Work?
Traditional snakes use analog technology and consist of a large diameter cable containing multiple wires.
- One wire for each channel carries the audio signals from one location to the other. A large stage box with jacks for connecting audio sources is at one end of the cable.
- Analog snakes provide the means to transfer multiple audio sources such as microphones and electronic instruments between the platform area and the audio mixing gear.
Typically, the audio mixing gear is positioned at the rear of the hall, 100 feet or more from the platform.
The traditional types of snakes are bulky, heavy, and very expensive. On top of that, they don’t always provide the best possible sound feature.
But now, thanks to new cutting-edge technology, sound has been improved and transformed for the digital age.
How Does the Analog Stage Box Work?
It claims to have a couple of functions, but its main role is to act as an interface for an audio signal between the stage and the mix position.
- These consist of multiple shielded wires that are run along one single shielded cable.
- You can think of them as a whole bunch of XLR cables taped together for convenience.
- A veteran audio engineer appreciates all these individual controls’ visual feedback, which allows them to assess and fix signal flow problems very quickly.
A positive note is that these stage boxes are easy to use and understand!
If you can use a microphone cable and count, you likely won’t have any trouble with other devices or other kinds of microphones.
On the downside, the stage box can cost a lot of money. The more cables you add to your multi-core, the more expensive it becomes.
Advantages of Using An Analog Snake
You Can Switch From One Channel to Another
If something is wrong with one channel, then you can easily switch to another channel.
You can still utilize the other cables for other devices or instruments even if one is not functioning well.
Convenient and Easier to Understand
Luckily, these are much easier to understand and work with!
If you are not really into that new modern technology, this could be better for you.
Easy Troubleshoot Process
Troubleshooting isn’t nearly as easy on a digital snake as it is with live sound.
When a problem arises, you must first find out whether or not it is a user error.
This can mean lots of menu diving and searching for problems you aren’t even sure exist!
When Should You Use an Analog Snake
Technically, you can use it with a digital mixer.
Analog mixers are much easier to operate because they have only one function per control.
You should use these mixers when you can easily get confused if you can assign multiple functions to one knob or button.
The simpler the design, the better suited it is for those learning how to use mixers.
What Are Snake Cables?
It is a bundle of cables that have been enclosed in some form of cable wrap to keep them neat and organized.
The equipment you need is:
- Stage box
- PA system
How Do They Work?
A good example would be using these for your cables and even other inputs to avoid messing up the digital audio quality, especially when some cables are bent over.
Rather than running multiple lines from one place to another, these cables can be run instead.
This reduces labor and keeps things tidy!
How to Properly Set-Up An Audio Snake Cable
Using snakes will spare you from buying an extension cable for your wires and cables that have nothing to do with your music project.
For you to properly set up an audio snake cable, read and carefully follow these three easy steps:
Step 1: Inventory
Take an inventory of the cables you want to combine into a snake.
Make sure that you don’t group together cables that need to head in opposite directions.
Step 2: Plug it in
Plug-in microphones and/or devices into a stage casket.
The snake’s cables are plugged into the XLR inputs that usually have labels on them.
Step 3: Connect to panel
Carefully plug them with the digital audio route numbers on the mixing panel.
What are Audial Returns?
An audial return refers to the signal moving in the opposite direction.
Examples of audio returns include monitor feeds and communication systems.
What are Audial Sends?
An audial send means sending music from an output (mic transducer, electric instrument, etc.) through the snakes to appropriate input cables.
Are Snakes Needed?
They’re not necessarily needed but snakes immensely help in simplifying workflow and reducing clutter but are not absolutely necessary for proper cable running!
If you are not much of a techy-kind of person and wouldn’t have too much of the modern ways of making music projects and recordings, go ANALOG.
They are much easier to understand and work with; an ideal for beginners in the music-making industry.
However, based on what we’ve mentioned, if going digital would suit your taste buds, go for it as well!
As for the cables, if you are a bit of a clean freak and prefer things to be organized and well put together, then they are necessary!
That will be all! We hope this guide was helpful in helping you distinguish between the two snakes and we wish you good luck in using them!