The main advantage that switched capacitor filters seem to have over digital filters is the potential to achieve a high dynamic range, since the signal does not have to be quantized.

As discrete time filters, they share the digital filter's frequency aliasing problem, and may need multiple clocks at different frequencies as well. Digital filters seem more flexible and easy to design, and analog filters are still needed to deal with frequencies above the Nyquist limit.

What other advantages do switched capacitor filters have over digital filters?


3 Answers 3


The primary advantage of switched capacitor filters is that they can be easily implemented on an integrated circuit. You can get performance similar to an analog RC op-amp based filter using a switched capacitor topology, while avoiding the need for an ADC, DSP, and DAC on a chip.

Switched capacitor circuits use capacitors and switches to emulate the behavior of resistors. Additionally, the frequency response is determined by the ratio of the capacitors, so even low frequency filters can be easily realized on-chip. The real benefit for IC implementations is that while the absolute value of capacitances and resistances have a poor tolerance, the matching between similar devices is very good. This makes it possible to implement relatively high precision analog filters on a chip.

In an integrated circuit, you would choose a switched capacitor filter for the following reasons:

  • Minimizing chip area is a priority
  • You will not be doing significant digital processing on the chip
  • The output of the DSP would be an analog signal

Practically, you would not use a discrete switched capacitor filter (using op-amps, capacitors, and analog switches) at the board level - you would use an active RC continuous-time filter. There are switched capacitor chips that can provide good filtering results with just a few additional components. Using a general-purpose DSP on a board level design will require additional programming, and may not have analog outputs.


Another advantage is that the filter's frequency characteristics can be changed on the fly by changing the clock speed. The value of the simulated reistors are a function of the capacitance and the clock speed. By varying the clock speed, you can adjust the effective resistance on the fly electronically, something that is hard to do in a controlled and reliable way in analog otherwise.

This feature of switched capacitors can also be used outside of filters for other purposes, like electronically controlled variable gain.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I had forgotten about that - and I even worked on a circuit that took advantage of that feature... \$\endgroup\$
    – W5VO
    Jul 21, 2012 at 15:31
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That would of course be true of DSP type filters as well, provided either that you can get away with varying the sample rate of the whole system, or have a sample rate converter interfacing the fixed frequency part. But it can easily show up as a minor headache for digital filters in a simple audio system that must accept either 44.1 or 48KSPS input and runs at that rate without a sample rate converter. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 1, 2013 at 19:38
  1. Higher order filters (4th order and up) are implemented by simply cascading additional packages, and all the classical filters (such as Butterworth, Bessel, Elliptic, and Chebyshev) can be realized. with 60dB range easily at low cost up to 100KHz.

  2. It is easy to make harmonic filters.


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