Solid Signal’s HANDS ON REVIEW: Televes Mast-Mounted Amplifiers

Televes’ mast-mounted amplifiers are a little different from other amplifiers you’ll find on the market. They’re sort of a mix between preamplifier and distribution amplifier — the power levels are extremely high, but then you have the ability to combine multiple signals and, at least according to the manufacturer, there’s a higher noise figure than you normally find in a true preamp.

The company is really addressing the way amplifiers are used in the 21st century. When all TV broadcasting was analog, the preamp itself was more important for pulling in distant signals, and the noise figure was something that was absolutely all-important. After all, it was possible to pull in a very weak signal and amplify it so it would be stronger, but you certainly didn’t want to add a lot of noise as well.

Today, the main reason for amplifying is to overcome long cable runs or distribute the signal to multiple TVs. Televes’ engineers built their amplifiers for that purpose, making them super-powerful, and also adding the ability to power antennas that, themselves, are already amplified. It’s supposed to be the best of both worlds… but does it really work?

We reviewed and tested Televes’ two-input and three-input amplifiers to see if we thought they were made to hold up to decades of use.

This review is available in PDF format! Download it now!

Amplifiers: What’s in the box

No matter which amplifier you choose, the unboxing experience is pretty much the same. What you get is this shiny little orange box:

which looks solid and weatherproof and seems to be very high quality plastic.

The back side has a notch through which you can put a sturdy zip tie, for easy attachment to a mast…

…and a zip tie is provided, as well as a printed instruction manual. That’s all there is to it.

Opening up the amplifier

It’s a good idea to get the amplifier wired and ready before zip tying it to the mast. To open the amp enclosure, firmly grasp it at its widest point and slide upwards.

There is actually a plastic screwdriver attached near the bottom, visible in the picture above. It can be used for adjusting power levels if needed, or any precision screwdriver will work.

With the enclosure lifted you can get to most of the controls, but the switches that control DC power passing are still hidden. To get to them, push on the sides of the plastic enclosure to release the tabs holding the enclosure in place.

There is a swing-up panel that makes it easy to insert coaxial cables. This amplifier uses the “Easy F” system for attaching cables without the need for connectors.

536040 Two-Input amplifier

For those who want to use one or two antennas, the 536040 Two-input amplifier is the best choice. Shown above, it lets you combine two antennas — one UHF only and one UHF/VHF, and adjust the power level of the UHF/VHF antenna to help with any issues that can come with combining the two. For example, you could reduce the amplification of the UHF section of the UHF/VHF antenna and let the UHF-only antenna shine through.

This amplifier will pass power to both antennas if you choose by making sure the switches on top are set to “on.” In general it is not necessary to double-amplify and it can cause distortion to the signal, but you do have the choice here.

The three adjustment screws on this amplifier control the UHF/VHF connection. The rightmost one is UHF and the leftmost one, labeled BIII, is for VHF. The middle one is for DAB, a European broadcast frequency around 225MHz, between US channels 13 and 14.

Both this amplifier and the three-input model feature LTE filtering, meaning that cell phone signals will not ruin your signal. The US-spec frequency of 698MHz is filtered out here.

536041 Three Input Amplifier

The three input version goes by the unassuming name of 536041 Three Input Mast Amplifier, and as you can see, it shares the same basic design as the two-input model. It’s really more specialized, and designed for people who want to put up two UHF antennas and a VHF antenna and control the gain of each.

Without the plastic shell, you see that only the rightmost input will pass power if the switch at top is turned on. The other two antennas will not pass power. In this case the three adjustment screws correspond to the three inputs, making it easy to control the amount of amplifcation. Both amplifiers have some auto gain control, meaning that it’s not generally going to be necessary to make these adjustments.

As with the two-input version, US LTE frequencies at 698MHz are blocked, meaning that a cell phone signal will not mess with the auto gain control circuitry.

Power Injector

The Televes amplifiers are powered using the same power injector as is used in the DAT series of antennas. However, in this case, the amplifiers will not work without power.

The power injector will power the amplifier itself and, if you choose, will also power the internal amplifiers found in the DAT790 antennas from Televes. As they’re simply providing 12 volts DC, they will probably power other devices as well but neither Televes nor another company is going to honor a warranty in a case like that.

The left port on the power injector goes up to the amplifier, while the rightmost port provides the strongest signal output. While you can use this injector to run two televisions, the rightmost port should be used if you only plan to run one television.

Making “Easy F” Connections

Televes amplifiers use the “Easy F” connection system which allows for secure connections without the need to actually put a connector on the end of the cable. Simply prep the cable much as you normally would, insert the center conductor into the holes in the amplifier, and tighten down the hinged “hatch” that keeps the cable in place and also connects the braid to the amplifier’s outer body.

We’ve created a full tutorial on creating “Easy F” connections, including a video, here.

Basic Installation

Televes Amps

Testing results

In real world testing, gain from this amplifier was extraordinarily high, averaging 26dB throughout the usable range. As you can see from the chart, the strongest gain was in the lower end of the UHF spectrum which is perfect for most broadcast applications as the majority of broadcasts are in that range.

Various documents available on the web put the noise figure of these amps between 7.5 and 10 dB. That seemed very high even for a distribution amplifier, which is more of what this amp is. Without a full laboratory to test, our labs tried two different methods to derive the real-world effect of noise on the amplifier.

Using mathematics and analyzing the difference between the signal-to-noise ratios of unamplified and amplified modes, the data suggest that the amplifiers add about 2.75dB of noise when operating, far less than the rated number.

Using a secondary methodology, the antenna’s output was “padded” by 26dB to remove the increase in gain. Therefore, the difference between the signal-to-noise ratio of an unamplified antenna and the signal-to-noise ratio of an amplifed antenna should be the amount of noise inherent in the amplifier. The result, 3.15dB, is very consistent with the mathematical result and the difference between the two numbers could be attributed to minor differences in reception as the tests were taking place.

As a control test, the same measurements and methods were applied to a Winegard LNA100 amplifier, which has a published noise figure of 1dB. The Winegard amp’s number, using those methods, was 1.15dB, which suggests that the calculations are reasonably accurate.

When it comes to Televes’ published specs, they seem largely attributable to extreme honesty and scrutiny in the testing process and real-world results for this amp are far more consistent with other amplifiers with similar power levels.

Conclusion

Not everyone needs an amplifier and combiner with up to 30dB of power, especially one with variable inputs and industrial design. However, using an ampifier like these could help you eliminate a rotator in your antenna setup, which is especially important since today’s rotators have a tendency to last no more than five years. Televes’ amplifiers continue in their tradition of quality and value and bring industrial-level performance to the home user with easy installation and a “set-it-and-forget-it” strategy that will keep you in the living room watching TV instead of up on the roof adjusting the amplifiers.

Shop for Televes amplifiers at Solid Signal now!