When should you use a signal booster?

This is not a must do article, but is more of a best practice and common sense advice for when a TV signal booster or amplifier should be used. As an engineer I come across lots of examples of amplifiers being used in either the wrong configuration or when they’re not really needed.

An amplifier works by increasing the strength of signal being input into it. They do vary in a few ways such as with some having the ability to increase the amplification or decrease depending on the user. Then there are others that have their amplification set at a standard 10 to 12 db.

The two types of booster that we use are the set back amp and the masthead. So, what’s the difference and when would you use them?

  • The Set Back Amplifier – This is set up within the home and is often found in the loft, behind the TV or in a comms cupboard or cellar. They are also called distribution amps and can have from one to sixteen outputs. They generally have 10db gain on the input signal. They are used to help distribute a TV signal to multiple points in a home or building. Although they can help to boost a poor signal, they aren’t really designed for that.
  • The Masthead Amplifier – These are usually externally fit at the base of a TV aerial mast. They can usually have a variable db increase from either 0-10db or from 12-25db. These are excellent for boosting the signal and can also distribute from 1 to 6 outputs. We tend to use these in areas where the signal is poor.

When should a booster not be used?

We would only recommend using an amp for distributing or splitting the aerial signal for multiple rooms in a house when the signal is at an average level. We wouldn’t recommend using an amp if an existing signal that has previously been working starts to lose its strength. Although it may remedy the problem, it will only be temporary since whatever is causing the fault will get worse making the use of an amp pointless in the end and a waste of money. It would be more prudent to call out an engineer to fix the problem instead.

When we are fitting an aerial in an area where the signal is poor but not so bad that it cant be boosted, we will use a masthead amp. We use them because it has variable amplification and can be adjusted to give use the desired signal output strength. Ideal also for loft aerials, since an antenna installed within a loft can reduce the signal strength by up to 50%.

The most important thing is to get as good a quality signal as possible before any kind of distribution system is added. The booster should not be used if the signal you are looking to increase is already coming from an amp. You will only get a poor quality signal as it will both boost the signal but also the noise. Although this is a very brief post about amps it certainly isn’t an exhaustive guide to them. So, for more info or any help if you are experiencing signal problems, give us a call, we’re here top help.