What kind of cable do you need for an outdoor preamp?

Even though digital TV signals don’t respond the same to amplifiers as older analog ones, there are still times when an outdoor preamp is still the best choice. A low-noise preamp can help deal with the effects of distance and obstructions and give you a better chance of locking in signal more than 45 miles away. That’s why Solid Signal has a wide selection of preamps for you to choose from.

What you need to know

When wiring for an amplified antenna, there are three words you need to remember: solid copper conductor. There are two kinds of RG6 cables: those where the center wire is solid copper and those where it’s actually copper-clad steel. For antennas, the copper-clad steel cable is going to work just fine because of a property of signals called “the skin effect.” Antenna and satellite signals only actually travel on the outside of the center conductor wire anyway, so it makes sense not to waste expensive copper on the center part of the wire. They essentially copper plate the wire and that’s all that’s needed.

The difference between signal and current

However, while signals travel on the outside of the center conductor, actual electrical current flows very differently through steel than it does through copper, and it flows throughout the entire center wire. Iron doesn’t conduct electricity nearly as well and that means current loss over a long distance. That’s why all the electrical wires in your home are solid copper. (Please do not cut one open to find out.)

Preamplifiers need power to function… that’s sort of the whole point of them actually. They add power to a signal and they have to get that power from somewhere. That’s the key: getting power to the preamplifier effectively. For that you need that solid copper center conductor.

How to get answers to your questions

Choosing the right cable is hard. That’s why we try to make it easy. You can start by reading cables in our Cables 101 series. My advice is to start from the end of the list, which is page 5 as I write this article. The older articles are the more basic ones and have a lot of the most important learning.

If you have specific questions, you can also leave a comment here below this article, or post something in our Facebook group where volunteers and paid staff will help you answer your questions any time of the day or night.

During business hours, you can always call our technicians at 877-312-4547 for one-on-one support. We’re always happy to help!

Why you should shop at Solid Signal

You won’t find solid copper in inexpensive cables and it’s rare that you’ll find it at your local home store. Our tech department takes calls every day from people who bought inexpensive cables locally and their antennas don’t work right. So why would you risk it? The best thing to do is get quality cables from Solid Signal at the exact lengths you need. You can also get the cables you want, bare connectors and installation tools at Solid Signal as well, so that you’ll always have the right stuff on hand!

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 7,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.