NICE AND EASY: What is a headend?

In old train jargon, a “headend” is where all the trains go to, and where they all come from. When it comes to television, a headend system is very much the same thing. Let’s take a look at the term “headend” and what a headend system is.

A headend is a system that collects the signal from antennas, cable or satellite receivers, and then gets it ready to be sent over a single wire to a bunch of different places. Think about a hotel where you get about 15-20 channels and they are all tuned using the TV. That’s a headend system — somewhere in the hotel is a rack full of equipment, making all that happen.

The key part of a headend system is the modulator. A modulator is a bigger, fancier version of the device that used to be in VCRs or videogames that let the signal show on channel 3 of your TV. A modulator is a little fancier than that because it has to build several channels into what’s called a QAM (pronounced “kwam.”) This system lets you control the quality of the channels as well as how many there are. The better quality you want, the fewer channels you get.

A good HD headend system can be costly, but once installed it is very reliable and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance. If you’re looking for a headend system, call Signal Connect at 866.726.4182.

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 5,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.