At some level, an amplifier is an amplifier. If you use a preamplifier or a launch amplifier where you should be using a distribution amplifier, it’s not like the amplifier police are going to come down and take away your television. But, if you’re really looking for the right tool for the job, you’ll need to know if you need a distribution amplifier.
The purpose of a distribution amplifier is to make up for losses due to splitting a signal. Some of them, like the one you see above, actually have splitters built in. This is a way to make sure they’re perfectly balanced for the job.
Unlike a preamplifier, which is often rated for outdoor use and is used primarily to make up for long cable runs from the antenna, distribution amplifiers are mostly used indoors and are not used unless you need to split a signal. They tend to be a little more noisy than preamplifiers, and while noise isn’t a good thing, it’s a little less worrisome when you’re talking about overcoming loss from splitters than it is when worrying about longer cable runs.
In some cases, like Winegard’s HDA-200 shown above, perform a dual purpose. This amplifier has gain of 24dB and a noise figure of 4.5dB (which is low for a distribution amplifier.) This gives you enough power to split a signal 8 times and still run about 100 feet of cable from each port on the splitter. Obviously this would be good for a large home or medium-sized building.
You can have more than one amplifier in your setup, but be careful — overamplifying can damage your TV’s tuner and even if it doesn’t, it’s going to cause more problems than it solves. A distribution amplifier is never going to make your signal better than it was at the antenna, it’s just going to deal with the splitting and cable runs that you’re putting in after the antenna. In general amplifiers have very little effect on digital signals, only really having an effect on marginal signals. They won’t take a signal that’s good and make it better.
If you’re confused about amplifiers and you’re looking for some advice, give the helpful people at Solid Signal a call at 877.312.4547. They’ll help you choose the right one for your needs!