Choosing the Right TV Antenna Amplifier

Frequently Asked Questions

A TV antenna amplifier corrects weak signal in your TV antenna installation.  Solid Signal shows you whether you need a preamplifier or a distribution amplifier.

Choosing the right TV antenna amplifier is about finding the right preamplifier or distribution amplifier.  An amplifier is a general purpose term for any circuit or device that keeps the characteristics of a signal the same while increasing the amount of current. A preamplifier is used to compensate for signal loss from a long cable run.  A distribution amplifier is designed to amplify a signal for the purpose of overcoming losses due to splitters.  Depending upon your TV antenna installation, you might need a preamplifier, distribution amplifier, or both of these devices.

 

When You Need a TV Antenna Preamplifier

TV Antenna Signal Loss

As previously stated, a TV antenna preamplifier is used to compensate for signal loss commonly experienced in installations with long cable runs.  These devices usually are placed outdoors near the TV antenna.  When it comes to TV antenna preamplifiers, there are many makes and models, all with their own unique features and benefits.  How do you know you’re getting the right one?  The key to choosing a preamplifier is to get one with enough gain to make up for the signal you lose from the cable run.

An amplifier isn’t always the answer. With digital signals, the only thing you need to worry about is whether the signal is stronger than the noise around it.  If the signal is so weak that a long cable run will make it impossible for your TV’s tuner to detect, then you need a preamplifier.  If you have good signal in general, but it’s occasionally interrupted by trees or weather, an amplifier might not help. Not only that, over-amplifying a signal can damage your TV’s tuner.  If you’re not sure whether or not you truly need an amplifier, give us a call at 877.312.4547.

Here are two rough estimates of TV signal loss from long cable runs:

  • If you’re using an RG6 Coax Cable, you lose approximately 6dB of signal for every hundred feet of cable used.
  • When using an RG59 Coax, you’re losing 10dB of signal per hundred feet of cable.

If you need a preamplifier for your TV antenna installation, try the Winegard Boost XT ultra low-noise antenna preamplifier.  This device reduces signal drop out and pixelation for your HDTV antenna.  This preamp has a 1dB noise figure, 18dB gain, and offers twin amps for separate VHF/UHF amplification.  We also carry three Televes TV antennas that have built-in Televes preamplifiers, as well as a Televes 2-input and 3-input mast-mounted preamplifiers.  Call us at 877.312.4547 so our product experts can match you with the best preamplifier for your TV antenna installation.   

 

Preamplifier Terminology

To help you better understand and choose the right TV antenna preamplifier, here are some terms used to describe certain qualities of these devices:

Gain: This is the most important factor in choosing a preamplifier. You must make sure your gain is equal to or greater than your signal loss.  For instance, if you have 100ft of RG6 cable, which has 8dB of loss, you must make sure your amp is at least 8dB or stronger.  Amps range from about 12-30dB. Warning: Higher-gain amps aren’t necessarily better.  If you only have 15dB of loss on your longest cable run and you use a 30dB amp, you can overdrive your tuner with too much signal.

Noise Figure: With digital signals, this often is more important than gain. When an amp is added to a system, a small amount of signal noise is generated.  The higher the noise figure, the lower the sensitivity of the tuners being used to pick up the signal.  Channel Master’s CM7777 is sought after for its low noise figure of about 2dB on UHF.  This is a considered good noise figure. A high noise figure would be 4-6dB.

Frequency VHF UHF FM: This one is pretty simple.  If your TV Antenna receives VHF and UHF signal, you need a pre-amp that passes VHF/UHF signal.  Using a VHF/UHF antenna on a VHF-only or UHF-only amp will result in one of those frequencies being blocked.  Most amplifiers will pass all frequencies, but read carefully.

Auto Gain Control: This feature allows an amplifier to automatically reduce gain if a signal is so strong that it could harm your TV’s tuner.  Televes amplifiers feature advanced auto gain control that allows weak signals to get maximum amplification while limiting strong signals to stop potential damage.

FM Trap: FM Traps strongly reduce FM Signal.  This feature is used to knock down the signal level of strong local FM stations that might cause interference to your TV station.  FM Traps are either fixed, or switchable.  These devices are only a consideration if the station you want to receive is on VHF channel 6 or 7, which is rare.

LTE Filter: Cellular phone data now uses some of the frequencies that were originally used for television channels 52-83. An amplifier with an LTE filter can help stop interference from cell data that can overwhelm your TV's tuner.

Dual Input Amplifier: These amps have two inputs, one for VHF and one for UHF.  This allows you to join a VHF and UHF signal with almost no loss.

 

When You Need a Distribution Amplifier

A distribution amplifier increases signal to overcome losses due to splitters, which deliver signal to multiple TVs and receivers in the building.  If your home has a TV in nearly every room, or if you own a hotel, motel, or similar multi-room dwelling, there’s a good chance you’ll need a distribution amplifier.

Here are some estimates of TV signal loss due to splitter use:

  • If a 2-way splitter is used, you’ll lose 4dB of signal.
  • For 3-way splitters, you’ll experience an 8dB loss.
  • If you’re using a 4-way splitter, you’re losing 8dB of signal.
  • Installations that have 8-way splitters lose 14-15dB of signal.
  • Note: Even if ports are left unused on a splitter, your install still suffers the same amount of signal loss.

 

Need a Distribution Amplifier?

If you need a distribution amplifier to overcome the loss inherent to splitting a signal across multiple lines, we have a solution for you.  Solid Signal carries all the top brands of distribution amplifiers including Blonder Tongue, Eagle Aspen, Winegard, and more.  Each of these devices have different numbers of inputs and other features and benefits.  We recommend you call us at 877.312.4547 to get the distribution amplifier you need.

 

When you Need a Preamplifier and a Distribution Amplifier

We’ve seen many cases where someone’s TV antenna installation needed both a preamplifier and a distribution amplifier.  Imagine a TV antenna atop a 100-foot tower that’s 50 feet from the house.  This distance alone requires a preamplifier.  But if that same antenna cable feeds eight TV sets inside the house, a distribution amplifier is also needed.  Only the combination of these devices will maintain signal strength from the TV antenna to the multiple receivers.

 

Here's a table comparing capabilities of current models. To purchase, scroll to the bottom of this page.

 

How to Install a TV Antenna Amplifier

Are you planning a TV antenna installation?  Or do you want to improve the signal in the installation you have?  We carry a wide variety of preamplifiers and distribution amplifiers from today’s top manufacturers.  Our team of product experts will be happy to recommend the best product for your installation.  We also have tutorials that teach you how to install a TV antenna amplifier.  For a product recommendation or more information, call our product experts at 877.312.4547.

 







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