NICE AND EASY: Can you use a splitter in a non-SWM system?

We were recently contacted by a customer with a very old DIRECTV system. They had eight receivers coming from a 6×8 multiswitch and they wanted to add a ninth receiver. They were hoping there would be a simple splitter to let them do this.

Unfortunately this didn’t work out for this customer. One defining feature of the non-SWM multiswitches is that you can’t simply split the signal to add more receivers. This is also the biggest benefit of having a SWM system.

Why this doesn’t work

In a traditional, non-SWM DIRECTV system, each cable can carry one of four signals. Each signal type carries roughly 1/4 of the total signals that the receivers get. (Side note, in more modern systems, there are six signals, six cables, so it’s not any better.)

If you split a signal, then you would need both receivers coming off the splitter to be watching the same signal. Other than keeping both receivers on the same channel, there really isn’t a way to know which of the four types of signal your receiver will need.

As soon as one receiver changed the channel, the other receiver would lose signal. And then, at an unpredictable moment, the first receiver would start working and the second one would stop working.

How to expand things… the right way

If you are still interested in using an old-style DIRECTV system, the correct thing to do would be to split off all four lines before the multiswitch. Then you could add a second multiswitch to give you access to another eight outputs.

You would also need to add an amplifier and polarity locker. If you don’t, the dish won’t pick up the right signals all the time and you will have real problems.

Or, you could decide that it’s finally time to upgrade to SWM technology. SWM technology has been the standard for DIRECTV since 2009. Trust me, it’s safe enough for everyday use.

In an environment like this, you would be able to feed 26 receivers off one multiswitch. If you needed more, you could use a SWM expander to allow up to 104 receivers with four multiswitches in the same physical space.  An amplifier and polarity locker is still recommended if you are using more than one multiswitch.

I understand the desire

Yes, I understand the desire to keep what’s working, and to use the technology that makes sense to you. But of all the products currently offered by DIRECTV to new customers, only the legacy H24 receiver (made in 2010) will work with a non-SWM system. Realistically, that receiver isn’t going to be around forever.

If you haven’t gotten into SWM technology, it’s time. Really. Call the experts at Solid Signal and we can help you plan your installation, get you the parts you need, and provide tutorials that will make it all easy. It starts with a call to us at 888-233-7563 or by filling out the form below.

Trust me, it’s time to make the change. You’ll be glad you did.

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.