Another name for a booster is “amplifier” The problem the consumer has and indeed some technicians as well is what one to use under what circumstances! You have Masthead varieties, distribution varieties, single channel varieties and many types within the category group.
First of all let’s define each general type:
Masthead – this means the power supply and the amplifier are separate pieces of equipment. The amplifier fits under the antenna and the power to drive it is located within the Caravan or in a room in your home apartment etc. This category is most often referred to as a booster. The most effective method of improving weak signal situations. More on this later in the article. Typical cost including power supply $120
Distribution amplifier – the names says it all. The idea is to amplifier your signal enough so multiple television outlets can be provided with adequate signal. This type of unit is powered directly from the power point. There has been some very poor product sold in recent times; in actual fact by definition a distribution amplifier claimed by some shopkeepers to be a booster that plugs into your tv outlet. They are very poor performers and the approach is all wrong. Why? – you are amplifying a weak signal after it has travelled down the cable, through the poor outlet and in many cases very poor fly leads – it has just got a whole lot weaker. It is a bit like trying to fix a leaking tap with some “blue tac”. It might work for a moment but then starts failing again. These amplifiers typically are needed for more than 6 television points and that is provided the signal at the antenna is adequate. Typical cost for a commercial grade $400
Single Channel Amplifier – A single channel amplifier is for one channel only. Eg 2,7,9 and 10 would require four single channel amplifiers. Commonly called a “head end” and is usually mounted within a rack for supplying signal to 100 or more homes. We currently service villages with over 200 homes and this unit is used. Typical cost $2,000
Boosters/Mast Head Amplifiers
It has always been true that it is not the gain of the booster but the sensitivity of the booster that separate a good choice from a bad choice. A couple of examples:
Signal is okay at the antenna terminal but the cable is long so a high gain booster/masthead unit would be a good choice. The signal is okay so by placing the booster at the antenna terminal the signal will arrive at the end of the cable and can be viewed or a distribution amplifier be fitted to provide signal to a multiple number of outlets. Difficult signal areas use this type of technique because the signal is in the valley but not available on the home so the solution is to run a cable back to the house. The power is provided from the house.
However weak signals at the antenna require a different approach. The thing we want to do is preserve the signal quality we have. The way to do this is to ensure the sensitivity of the amplifier is as good as available. What does sensitivity mean. All electronic devices produce noise. This noise in the circuit is something the electronics industry battles or tries to eliminate as every improvement improves the performance. When you try and get a lot of signal out of signal that is weak you produce noise. High gain boosters do exactly that. A caravan antenna is just supplying a TV that is very close so it makes far more sense to have a masthead amplifier /booster that produces minimal noise thus it does not destroy the television picture. explorer-rv caravan antennas do this. They are designed for weak or problem television signals.
So when we read all about the massive gain of some devices sold to the public for weak signals we smile and know our competitor is lacking real knowledge and experience.
There is more to this subject. However the caravanner or RV traveller does not have to worry if buying from the explorer-rv range as we have made or selected the very best combination of antenna and amplifier for fringe area reception. The grey nomad will find our product works on the outback tracks when others do not.
RF Consultant Founder
Wilkgard Technology Group P/L