What is a launch amplifier?

Ah, the world of commercial television distribution. There’s no better place, I’d say, to find obscure terminology. But hey, that’s what I do. I explain it all to my friends all over the internet. Maybe one of you gets inspired to actually take up a career in commercial audiovisual installation. That would be a payoff for me, to be sure.

How is commercial TV distribution different from home TV distribution?

At home, if you want TV in every room, you probably call the cable or satellite company. If you’re a DIYer, you run coaxial cable and a few splitters and you’re all set. Commercial TV distribution is a different animal.

Getting a TV signal from place to place in a large office building is a bit harder. It’s even harder if you’re serving 50, 100, or even 500 TVs. It takes not only planning but a whole lot of equipment to do it right.

Every TV you add creates a need for more signal on the line. Every foot of cable does as well. So, you need to create a high-powered signal to compensate. This is especially true if you are using lower-quality cable. That’s definitely the case in older buildings with existing wiring.

Where a launch amplifier comes in

A launch amplifier is a very powerful signal amplifier. Most distribution amplifiers for some or small commercial systems give you about 16dB of gain. That’s enough to compensate for splitting the line eight times or running about 300 feet of cable.

A launch amplifier can give you up to 50dB of gain, This easily compensates for about 20 splits or 800 feet of cable. You can add additional distribution amplifiers along the way as needed. The launch amplifier just gives it a good start.

How powerful is a launch amplifier?

50dB of gain combined with a strong signal from a headend system can mean that the signal over the wire is roughly 30,000 times stronger than it needs to be. That gives professional installers a lot of room to lay cable and put extra splitters and taps in as needed.

Of course, the big question is “couldn’t you make it even stronger?” There is actually a limit to how much signal you can put over an RG6 cable without a problem. Just like the sound coming out of a speaker can get garbled if you turn it up too high, signal over a line can get degraded if it’s too strong.

Your source for launch amplifiers and…

If all this has spurred your curiosity and you think you’d like to upgrade the television systems where you work, you’ll want to give a call to Signal Connect, the industrial arm of Solid Signal. The experts there can plan a commercial television distribution system for you and arrange for expert installation. They can even help you with long-term maintenance. There’s nothing to lose from a quick call, and the only information you’ll need is this number: 888-233-7563.

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.