“I only have two lines coming from my dish…”

I was recently contacted by a customer with an interesting question. He showed me a picture of his Slimline dish and said it had only two lines coming from it. He wanted to hook up more equipment, but didn’t know the best way to do it.

In order to answer him (and you) I need to explain a little bit.

How a Slimline dish works

DIRECTV’s HD dishes have been around since about 2003. They were redesigned in about 2008 into the Slimline version we know today. Before that there were a variety of different designs. One thing they all had in common was a set of four outputs. You can see them at the bottom of the picture above.

There’s a good reason to have four outputs. The most important is that the satellite TV system used by DIRECTV uses a combination of voltage and “tone” to have four different types of signals over a cable. The line can carry either 13 volts or 18 (or something close to those numbers) and can either have a 22KHz signal on the line or not. If you know which of these four combinations you have on a line you can successfully tune to the channel you want.

In an old-school DIRECTV system a receiver, here’s what really happens when you choose a channel from the guide. The receiver looks up which combination of tone and voltage is actually needed. Roughly one quarter of the signals are on each combination. It sends a request to the dish for the right combination, and that’s what goes on the line.

This works great if you have only four receivers but if you need more than that you need a multiswitch. The multiswitch does the same thing, distributing the right combination of tone and voltage to a receiver. In order to do that, it needs full-time access to all four choices. Hence, four outputs.

But… two lines?

As I said you can run an old-school DIRECTV system like this without an external multiswitch. If you only have two receivers, you can run two lines into the house. The other two connections aren’t used.

The problem is when you’re looking to expand. If you want to use a modern SWM multiswitch you need four lines from the dish, not two. Having only two is only going to give you problems.

The better choice is just swapping in a new LNB.

This SWM-enabled LNB is a direct swap for an older 4-line LNB and has a built-in 8-port multiswitch. This is enough to run two older DVRs and four receivers, or an HR54 Genie, a receiver, and three clients for a five room system. That’s usually enough for most people.

If you need more, consider the Reverse Band 3 LNB. You’ll need all HD equipment, but you can run a Genie DVR, three clients, two older DVRs and two receivers for 8 rooms. Sure you can go bigger than 8 rooms with DIRECTV but most people don’t need to.

Swapping is easy.

Swapping in an LNB is really just a matter of unscrewing and disconnecting the old one, and reconnecting the new one. If you are going from “legacy” to SWM, you’ll only connect one line, or you can put a splitter outside and use all the lines that were previously connected. I generally recommend using a pencil to mark the dish’s position and all the adjustment screws in case you accidentally move the dish.

Need to know more?

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About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.