Which heart rate monitor is best for you – digital or analog?
As a heart rate monitor, i.e. ZONING fitness enthusiast, you can now choose between two different types of heart rate monitors – digital or analog. But, what is the difference between a digital and an analog heart rate monitor? And which of the two is best for you? The answer lies in the transmission of the heart rate number, the bpm or beats-per-minute. And that transmission – that wave or that binary code – can make all of the differences to you.
8/14 UPDATE: I have posted a new review about what I feel is the best indoor cycling heart rate monitor strap.
First, both digital and analog heart rate monitor transmitter belts detect the same electrical activity of the heart’s contraction using sensors. The sensor in your transmitter belt can be viewed by looking at the back side of the belt which goes next to your skin. On each side of the elastic strap there is a soft and black rubber-like material that is usually oval in shape. There are always two the sensors – one on each side of the transmitter – that detect the electrical changes in the heart beat by using the amplitude of the EKG wave of the heart muscle.
Both digital and analog transmitter belts and watches are equally accurate. What is different is how they transmit the beats-per-minute of the heartbeat to the wrist top watch. And, that watch must either have a digital or an analog receiver that can accept that signal and convert it to a number that displays on our wrist or on your forearm or on your mobile device like an iPhone.
Analog transmission uses signals to the watch that are exact replicas of a sound wave. Analog signals can interfere with other nearby signals and this challenge is called the “cross talk” of two signals. The main advantages of analog heart rate monitors are the following:
- Compatible with most, now about 99%, of the cardio machines at the gym,
- Analog transmitters and receivers in the watch are less expensive
- The signal is carried through water so swimmers and those doing water activities can use a heart rate monitor.
The disadvantage of analog heart rate monitors is that if you are within 3 feet of another analog wave transmitter which can be another person wearing a transmitter belt or another source of an analog signal you will experience “cross talk”. In this case, the receiver in the heart watch will accept both signal sources and add them together and you will get an incorrect number until there is only one signal for the receiver to sense.
Digital transmission converts the heart’s EKG activity into a digital signal using binary code which is made up of 0s and 1s. Digital transmission is a clearer signal because it is impossible with packets of data rather than analog wave signals for interference. Digital heart rate monitors are more expensive yet have the following advantages:
- The technology is newer
- Digital signals do not interfere or “cross talk with other users or other signals.
- Digital signals can be used with Bluetooth and ANT+ receivers in mobile devices like iPhones and others tools.
Digital heart rate monitors will not work for most swimmers because digital signals do not transmit from the transmitter to the watch under water. Here’s an example for you. If you are working out with another person who is using a heart rate monitor, the digital monitor is better because it will not receive both watches data and hence cross talk or allow interference.
What’s the best heart rate monitor for you – digital or analog? The answer is simple: it depends. It depends on price with analog less expensive, it depends if you are working out with others, digital is better because there is no cross talk, and if you are a triathlete or a swimmer – well – it depends because you cannot use it for swimming. My answer – just get a digital and get a less expensive analog and you have the best of both worlds.
Sally Edwards, author
ZONING, Fitness in a Blink
The Heart Rate Monitor GUIDEBOOK
This was originally posted by Sally at http://zoningfitness.com/blog/heart-rate-training-for-weight-loss/which-heart-rate-monitor-is-best-for-you-digital-or-analog/