NICE AND EASY: When you shouldn’t use “home store” cables

I know, it sounds like we’re trying to put one over on you. I get that. After all, this blog is about the products and services we offer at Solid Signal. So you could be forgiven for thinking that we’re going to promote our stuff even if you can get the same thing somewhere else. In the case of cables, there is a real difference and I need to give you a warning.

Please, please don’t go to the local “big box” home store for your antenna or satellite cable. Please don’t go there especially if you aren’t familiar with the different types of cables. Why? Because sometimes it will work and sometimes it won’t. Just that simple.

Cables may all look the same but they aren’t.

The cable you get at the home store may look ok, but there are two problems. First of all, the molded ends. Molded ends, in other words ends made out of plastic, usually hide bad workmanship. Solid Signal’s cables are hand crafted and built-to-order, then every single one is tested. A molded plastic end isn’t necessarily the sign of a bad cable, but it’s usually a sign of one made in a factory and not tested. Real professionals always use cables with compression fittings on each end. These fittings ensure that the cable will stay in good shape for years.

People have said something to me over the years and it’s worth explaining here. A cable with molded ends would seem to be the better bet, since it’s going to be naturally waterproof and more durable. I’ll say, in a perfect world, that would be true. However, no one is making molded ends up to the standards of even the cheapest compression fitting. Without that attention to detail, there’s no guarantee the cable will last long at all.

The big problem: copper-coated steel

Here’s the big problem with most home-store cables. The center wire in most home-store cables is steel, with a thin copper plating. (You’ll even see the words “copper-coated steel” or “CCS” somewhere on the box. That’s actually ok in some cases, but anytime the cable has to carry power, that center wire needs to be solid copper. All of our made-to-order cables are solid copper in the center. That’s important, because amplified antennas and preamps won’t work without that solid copper center. Satellite companies mandate solid copper centers, because they can’t always control how the dish is being powered.

Home store cables aren’t all bad, and if I were putting up an antenna for temporary use I’d probably be ok with them. The same for a cell booster installation — cellular boosters tend to work just fine with less expensive cables usually because of the short distances. Of course cell boosters usually come with their own cables.

Our cables are genuine dual-shielded RG6, made to the same specifications as the ones used by DISH, DIRECTV, and cable companies. This is professional quality cable and it’s worth the few extra pennies to make sure you have the right stuff.

If you’re looking for cables or anything else to help you live your best digital life, shop for everything you need from SolidSignal.com.

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.