Simple Math: Use a Splitter, and You’re Cutting the Signal Level

Why shouldn’t you use a splitter? Because there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Or, if you’re into physics, remember that Leibniz proved that the amount of energy in a system remains constant.

What does that mean for you?

It means that if you split your antenna signal using a 1×2 splitter, each TV gets a signal half as strong. If you use a 1×8 splitter, each TV gets a signal only 12.5% as strong as the original. Because you can’t split a signal without losing something.

Oh yes you can use an amplifier to make up for losses, and that can help to an extent. And it helps too that it’s not all as bad as it sounds to lose half the signal, which is why we measure signal in things like “dB” which give you a better idea of what you’re losing. It sounds a lot better to say that you’ve lost 12dB of signal than to say that 87.5% of the signal you had before the signal is now gone.

And that’s the whole point when I say that you shouldn’t use big splitter if you don’t have to. Even though amplifiers help, they also hurt (which is a topic for another day.) The best thing to do is to keep as much signal as possible without needlessly splitting it. That’s how you get the best result.

There’s no escape

There’s no getting away from this simple fact either. If you think that you’re better off with a 1×8 splitter than with two 1x4s and a 1×2, you’re mostly mistaken. You’re probably a little better off because each one of those components have what’s called “insertion loss” meaning that you lose some signal just by connecting them, but it’s not a whole lot.

The bottom line

The bottom line here folks is that a little bit of planning can make a big difference. Rather than simply tacking another splitter on, replace small splitters with large ones, or even better try to figure out if you really need that large splitter. Plan accordingly and you’ll always find that you’ll get the best possible quality from your antenna, dish, or cell repeater.

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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.