Single-ended signaling

Signal transmission mechanism in wires / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Single-ended signaling is the simplest and most commonly used method of transmitting electrical signals over wires. One wire carries a varying voltage that represents the signal, while the other wire is connected to a reference voltage, usually ground. The main alternative to single-ended signaling is called differential signaling where the two conductors carry signals equal in magnitude but of opposite electric polarity.

Single-ended signaling is less expensive to implement than differential, but it has a distinct disadvantage: a single-ended system requires a power supply voltage equal to the maximum amplitude of the signal to be received whereas a differential system only requires a voltage half of the signal amplitude to be received. For a given power supply voltage then, a differential system produces signals of twice the amplitude and therefore has twice as good noise immunity (6 dB higher signal-to-noise ratio) as a single-ended system.

The main advantage of single-ended over differential signaling is that fewer wires are needed to transmit multiple signals. If there are n signals, then there are n+1 wires, one for each signal and one for ground, while differential signaling uses at least 2n wires. A disadvantage of single-ended systems that utilize a common return is that the return currents for all the signals use the same conductor (even if separate ground wires are used, the grounds are inevitably connected together at each end), and this can sometimes cause interference (crosstalk) between the signals.