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Difference between Multiplexer and Decoder

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What is Multiplexer?

A Multiplexer, also known as a Multiplexor or Mux, is a device that takes multiple signals and combines them into a single signal. The opposite of a Multiplexer is a Demultiplexer, which takes a single signal and splits it into multiple signals. Multiplexers are often used in computer networks to combine multiple communication channels onto a single link. This allows for more efficient use of bandwidth and can save on the cost of infrastructure. Multiplexers can also be used to implemented security features such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems.

What is Decoder?

A decoder is a electronic device that converts signals from one form to another. For example, a radio Decoder will take the signal from an antenna and convert it into a form that can be heard by the listener. Decoder can also refer to software that converts data from one format to another. For example, there are Decoder that can convert images from one format to another or video Decoder that can convert video from one format to another. Decoder can also be used in cryptography, where it is used to convert ciphertext into plaintext.

Difference between Multiplexer and Decoder

Multiplexers and decoders are digital circuits used to select or distribute one or more input signals to one or more output destinations, respectively. Multiplexers are used to select among several input data sources and route the selected data to a single output line. A decoder is a digital circuit that converts coded information into a set of easily distinguishable forms.

  • The basic difference between multiplexers and decoders is that multiplexers are used to encode data while decoders are used to decode data. Multiplexers take advantage of time-division multiplexing (TDM) while decoders use frequency-division multiplexing (FDM). The multiplexer has 2^n input lines and n output lines while Decoder has n input lines and 2^n output lines.
  • The multiplexer is also known as a Data selector whereas a Decoder is also called a Code Converter. The main applications of a Multiplexer are Digital Radio, Satellite TV, etc whereas the main applications of a Decoder are CCD Image sensor, Remote Control, etc.
  • The multiplexer is an active device as it amplifies the signal strength whereas a Decoder is a passive device as it doesn’t amplify the signal strength. The transistor count for 2 to 1 Multiplexer is 5, for 4 to 1 Multiplexer is 9 and so on whereas the transistor count for 1 to 2 Decoder is 5, for 1 to 4 Decoder is 10, and so on.

The logic diagram of the 2to1 Multiplexer is shown in fig 1 whereas the logic diagram of the 1to2 decoder is shown in fig 2. Fig 1: Logic diagram of 2to1 Multiplexer Fig 2: Logic diagram of 1to2 decoder As we can see from the above discussion that though both Multiplexer and Decoder have the same basic function but they differ from each other in many ways like the number of inputs and outputs, working principle, applications, etc. Therefore we can say that they both are integral parts of digital electronics but cannot be used interchangeably.


Although the terms multiplexer and decoder are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings. A multiplexer combines several signals into one, while a decoder separates a single signal into several. Understanding the difference between these two components is essential for creating and understanding digital communication systems.

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