Digital snakes have several advantages over copper wire.
Multiple audio channels are multiplexed onto inexpensive, light weight CAT-5 cable or Fiber lightpipe.
Mic preamps and A/D converters are located at the input end.
Preamp parameters are viewable & controllable from the output end (on certain systems).
Capable of carrying RS-232, RS422, GPIO, and other data channels (on certain systems).
Cable length can be from hundreds to thousands of feet without loss of signal or phantom power.
They are immune from electrical and RF interference, ground loops, hums & buzzes.
Stage and field boxes can be networked to share or multiply channels.
Multiple trucks or mixers can be networked together without ground issues
There are significant differences to be aware of when evaluating the technology. Latency or input to output delay time would be the first spec to consider. System latency delays range from microseconds to several milliseconds. For some types of productions, a couple of milliseconds delay will not be an issue. For others, it could kill the show. The major difference between systems is the digital protocol used. CobraNet and Ethersound are open architecture and licensed to various hardware manufacturers, while others use proprietary coding on an Ethernet architecture.
Your choice of system should consider CAT-5 or Fiber cable, networking capability, mic preamp specs, stage box power requirements, and processing capabilities are other considerations.
You can convert between CAT-5, and Fiber for distances beyond CAT-5’s limitation. Point to Point Optical Laser can be where cable runs would be impractical.
Light Viper - 16x8 & 32x8 Optical Fiber systems.
Aviom - 16 channel unidirectionsl CAT5 & 64 channel bidirectional CAT5 sytems, plus digital personal monitor mixing.
Audio Rail - 32x32 channelss, utilizing ADAT I/O modules for analog interfacing.
Whirlwind E-Snake - 16 & 64 channel Cobranet & Ethersound systems, Optical Laser.
RSS by Roland - 32x8 Channel CAT 5 system