A general approach for a full 1 × N demultiplexer using a tree of filter stages is proposed. The device architecture is compact, requiring at least N - 1 filter stages, and flexible, as each filter stage can be arbitrarily designed, with the only constraint of the half-band power property. The filters can be realized using any optical filtering techniques as thin-film interference, Bragg gratings, or planar delay-line circuits. The performances of the proposed architecture are illustrated with respect to different lattice-form finite impulse response (FIR) and infinite impulse response (IIR) filter stages, showing that the demultiplexer inherently presents low crosstalk and flat passband. A design example of a 1 × 4 demultiplexer consisting of three all-pass (AP) filters is compared with a generalized Mach-Zehnder interferometer (MZI) with four AP filters in its arms, showing that the two approaches achieve similar results.