Analogue filters are a basic building block of signal processing much used in electronics. Amongst their many applications are the separation of an audio signal before application to bass, mid-range and tweeter loudspeakers; the combining and later separation of multiple telephone conversations onto a single channel; the selection of a chosen radio station in a radio receiver and rejection of others.
Passive linear electronic analogue filters are those filters which can be described with linear differential equations (linear); they are composed of capacitors, inductors and, sometimes, resistors (passive) and are designed to operate on continuously varying (analogue) signals. There are many linear filters which are not analogue in implementation (digital filter), and there are many electronic filters which may not have a passive topology – both of which may have the same transfer function of the filters described in this article. Analogue filters are most often used in wave filtering applications, that is, where it is required to pass particular frequency components and to reject others from analogue (continuous-time) signals.
Analogue filters have played an important part in the development of electronics. Especially in the field of telecommunications, filters have been of crucial importance in a number of technological breakthroughs and have been the source of enormous profits for telecommunications companies. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the early development of filters was intimately connected with transmission lines. Transmission line theory gave rise to filter theory, which initially took a very similar form, and the main application of filters was for use on telecommunication transmission lines. However, the arrival of network synthesis techniques greatly enhanced the degree of control of the designer.
Today, it is often preferred to carry out filtering in the digital domain where complex algorithms are much easier to implement, but analogue filters do still find applications, especially for low-order simple filtering tasks and are often still the norm at higher frequencies where digital technology is still impractical, or at least, less cost effective. Wherever possible, and especially at low frequencies, analogue filters are now implemented in a filter topology which is active in order to avoid the wound components required by passive topology.
It is possible to design linear analogue mechanical filters using mechanical components which filter mechanical vibrations or acoustic waves. While there are few applications for such devices in mechanics per se, they can be used in electronics with the addition of transducers to convert to and from the electrical domain. Indeed some of the earliest ideas for filters were acoustic resonators because the electronics technology was poorly understood at the time. In principle, the design of such filters can be achieved entirely in terms of the electronic counterparts of mechanical quantities, with kinetic energy, potential energy and heat energy corresponding to the energy in inductors, capacitors and resistors respectively.