Read this before cascading DIRECTV multiswitches

Are you considering a big upgrade to your boat or commercial TV system? You might be looking at what you have and seeing how you can upgrade it. I’m here to help you make the right choices. Usually, cascading is the wrong choice. Let’s take a minute and understand why.

What is cascading?

Cascading is a term used when you plug one thing into the exact same thing. You can do it with anything, and while it’s not going to hurt you most of the time, it can be a big problem if you overdo it.

Think about plugging one power strip into another power strip. Now think of plugging a third power strip into that. At some point the amount of current running through the first power strip is going to be so great that it will heat up and fail.

While you won’t have to worry about a risk of fire most of the time with satellite TV equipment, you will have other problems. Most DIRECTV equipment is not designed to cascade. If you do cascade, you’ll have problems.

What’s the problem if you cascade?

There are generally two problems when you cascade multiswitches. The first is that the output power from the multiswitches legacy ports is lower than the recommended level for the input of the next multiswitch. This will cause additional noise as the level is normalized. This means more picture and sound problems, especially when the weather’s bad.

Which multiswitches can cascade?

Really, none of the current crop of multiswitches are designed for cascading. However, in some cases it can be done if you’re willing to deal with some consequences.

Spaun Multiswitches

There are still a few folks out there clutching to their Spaun multiswitches. Spaun stopped selling products in the US years ago and the company is out of business now. There are some multiswitches in their line which are referred to as “cascadable” meaning they are designed to output a good power level to the next multiswitch. However, this is still designed to be a 1-level cascade, meaning if you connect another multiswitch to a Spaun, you’re done. You can’t cascade anything off that next multiswitch.

WB68

The WB68 is another obsolete multiswitch. You can cascade with it but it’s not recommended as you’ll see problems with the signal level immediately. Unlike other multiswitches it’s not powered which means it won’t be able to compensate for low levels at all.

SWM32

This is another multiswitch from the old days. It was specifically designed to allow one cascade, meaning two multiswitches could share the same line. But it was not designed to do more than that.

SWM-8 and SWM-16

The old SWM-8 doesn’t really cascade unless you are using a standard definition dish. It only has three legacy ports. An HD dish needs 4, and a reverse band dish needs 6.

Officially, DIRECTV does not support cascading off a SWM-16 although it does work. The signal quality isn’t as good when you cascade but you can do it if you plan it so the receivers with the shortest run are on the cascaded multiswitch.

SWM30

There’s no way to cascade a SWM-30 multiswitch because it has no legacy ports. However, you can connect four SWM-30s with a SWM Expander. This gives support for up to 104 receivers in a single package. If you need more than that you can use taps to have multiple SWM expanders. This is really the right way to do this.

Bottom line…

Cascading, like diplexing, is a technology from the older days of satellite. It should be left in the past. It’s one of those things that might work on the day you install it but then 6 months down the road when you start having weird problems, you won’t know why.

Call the experts at Solid Signal at 888-233-7563. We can help you plan your DIRECTV system so that it’s reliable in the long term, not just on the day you install it. We’ll give you good advice and get you on your way to the perfect, super-reliable install.

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.