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Choosing the Best TV Signal Booster

Freeview Booster

Freeview signal Booster

Freeview Signal Boosters

SLx 2 Way TV Amplifier

  • Twin Outputs for 2 TV's
  • Works with Sky Remote Eye
  • Includes Power Supply
Best Price £14.51 Buy from Amazon

A Freeview signal booster, also known as an 'aerial amplifier', can help improve digital TV reception in fringe areas, which get a weak Freeview signal from a more distant TV transmitter. Boosters can also help where nearby hills, or local obstructions, like tall buildings, cause poor reception.

This guide helps you to choose the best signal booster for Freeview, if you currently suffer Freeview picture breakup, or the picture momentarily freezes on one or more Freeview channel.

Several different types of booster are available and all have different applications:

  • TV Distribution Amplifier - Typically used to split a TV aerial, or distribute the RF output of a Sky+ box, to feed up to 8 TV's around the home.

    The Distribution Amplifier is usually fitted in the loft, (hence it is sometimes referred to as a 'loft box'. It can be powered via the coaxial cable from an older type Sky+ box, which has an 'RF Out 2' socket. This type of amplifier is used instead of aerial splitter/s and the signal is amplified by a small amount to each TV, to help compensate for coaxial cable loss.

    If you are fitting a loft distribution amplifier, our loftbox installation tips will prove useful.

  • Indoor TV Aerial Booster - Typically fitted at the TV to boost the Freeview TV signal, or better still can be installed close to the aerial for best improvement in reception quality. Available with two outputs to improve reception to two TV's. It will then replace a signal splitter. TV signal boosters of this type are no substitute for a decent roof aerial and will provide little benefit if fitted next to your TV, or to an inadequate indoor aerial.

  • Masthead TV Amplifier - Housed in a small waterproof box, which is mounted very close to the TV aerial, usually at the base of the mast. These are by far the best TV signal booster - providing much better results than an 'set-back amplifier' fitted behind the TV.

    With a masthead amplifier, the aerial signal is boosted before the coaxial cable losses, resulting in big improvements in reception. Masthead amplifiers are fully weatherproofed, making them suitable for indoor or outdoor use. Most masthead amps include a separate Power Supply Unit, which provides 12V DC power up the coaxial cable to the amplifier. A masthead amp should only be used in weak signal areas.

  • Masthead Amplifiers with 4 Outputs are available to feed up to 4 TV's or set top boxes independently. Power to the amplifier is fed up one of the coaxial downleads.

TV Distribution Amplifier

Sky / Freeview distribution amplifier, loft box

For distributing Sky or Freeview in your home

SLx 8 Way Amplifier

  • Feeds up to 8 TV's
  • Works with Sky remote eye
  • Eliminates signal losses
Best Price £20.87 Buy from Amazon

Before You Buy a Booster...

If Freeview reception is poor on your indoor aerial, we recommend that you read our tips on choosing and installing a loft TV aerial before you buy a Freeview signal booster. This advice will help you to improve Freeview reception by accurately aligning and positioning your digital TV aerial. This will always be more beneficial than unnecessarily fitting a booster.

As a general rule, only fit an aerial amplifier if upgrading your existing aerial or re-aligning it fails to improve Freeview reception.

By installing the best TV aerial, aligning it accurately and using low loss Coaxial Cable, you'll often achieve better Freeview reception, than by fitting an aerial amplifier onto an existing poor aerial installation.

Old aerials, in particular, will often have been fitted with lossy, inferior quality coaxial cable. This may have suffered weather damage and water ingression over the years. Fitting an aerial amplifier or signal booster to such installations is quite pointless.

If, after improving your TV aerial installation and realigning your aerial, you still get poor Freeview reception, then a signal booster may help, particularly if you have a long coaxial cable down lead.

Whichever type of TV amplifier you then choose, to get the best results in improving Freeview reception quality, we recommend fitting the TV signal booster as close as possible to your TV aerial, rather than behind your TV, where it will be far less effective.

The best products for this purpose are often referred to as 'masthead amplifiers'. These can give excellent results compared to set-back boosters, as they amplify the signal at the aerial, before the coaxial cable feeder losses take effect.

Our masthead amplifier guide gives detailed advice on choosing and installing the best signal boosters.

Masthead Amplifier

Masthead Amplifier - 13dB Gain

Masthead TV Amplifier

Labgear KIT125V

  • Variable Gain Up to 25dB
  • Ideal for Weak Signal Areas
  • Includes Power Supply Unit
Best Price £18.98 Buy from Amazon

Masthead TV Amplifier

If you have an external aerial on your roof, then fitting a Masthead TV aerial amplifier at the aerial will provide the greatest improvement and benefit for boosting Freeview reception, as it will amplify the UHF digital TV signal before any coaxial cable downlead loss is suffered.

The effectiveness of a TV aerial amplifiers is governed to a large extent by where they are installed and how well they are designed. A professional TV amplifier with a very low noise figure (< 3dB), moderate signal gain (10 to 15dB) and good strong signal handling will always significantly outperform a cheap booster.

If you're using an indoor loft TV aerial, or the coaxial cable from a roof mounted aerial enters your loft before being fed downstairs, consider fitting the masthead amplifier inside your loft. Fit it about 1 to 2 metres from the aerial for best results.

Inappropriate Use of TV Signal Boosters

Contrary to some popular public opinion, a Freeview signal booster should only be used in poor digital TV reception areas of the UK. Signal boosters will not improve TV reception in strong signal areas. When an aerial amplifier is used in a good TV reception area, it will increase the likelihood of experiencing television interference (TVI) and will degrade overall reception quality. As a result, you may then suffer breakup of the digital TV picture, or momentary picture freezing.

Improve TV Reception

PF100 Digital Coaxial Cable 25m

Digital Coaxial Cable

WF100 - Low Loss

  • 25 Metre Roll
  • Double Screened, Foam Core
  • Indoor or Outdoor Use
  • For Sky or Freeview Installation
Best Price £18.40 Buy from Amazon

Bear in mind that a TV aerial amplifier fitted to a poor indoor aerial, is absolutely no substitute for fitting a high gain external aerial. In fact a quality, un-amplified, roof top mounted aerial will nearly always outperform an amplified indoor TV aerial and suffers much less interference!

Cascaded TV Aerial Amplifiers

It is extremely unwise to cascade two or more digital TV signal boosters (I.E. to use more than one Freeview signal booster chained together), as this can cause signal overload at the TV and lead to poor television interference immunity.

Despite our advice on the negative effects of cascading TV amplifiers, it is perfectly acceptable to fit a masthead amplifier at your TV aerial (powering it up the coaxial cable) and then to feed the RF 2 output of your Sky+ box to a separate distribution amplifier (loft box), as these devices have just enough signal amplification to counter the coaxial cable losses of a typical TV aerial installation. In these circumstances, it is advisable to fit a masthead amplifier with no more than 15dB of gain to avoid interference problems.

Fitting a Cheap TV Signal Booster

Cheap signal booster

The least effective type of digital TV signal booster is the cheap "set back" type which is fitted close to your television (pictured right). As the name suggests this type of TV aerial amplifier is connected at your television - between your television and the aerial face plate in your viewing room.

A set back Freeview signal booster will either have a 240V power supply or be powered by batteries. The UHF tuner inside a modern TV, or Freeview recorder, will inevitably be better designed and have a lower noise figure than a cheap signal booster. Hence all set-back TV signal boosters really achieve is to amplify the noise and make Freeview reception worse! They also make your TV significantly more prone to interference from nearby radio masts like 4G, Tetra, Taxi bases and Amateur Radio stations.

In short, don't waste your money by buying a cheap TV aerial amplifier which you just intend to install in your living room behind your TV. You will find it ineffective and problematic. By far the best signal booster or amplifier is a masthead fitted type (described below).

Digital Coaxial Cable

10m WF100 Satellite Coax

WF100 Coaxial Cable

Low Loss

  • Sold in 10m lengths
  • Latest specification digital cable
  • Double screened
  • Low loss foam insulator
Best Price £5.49 Buy from Amazon

Advantages of Masthead Amplifiers

By far the best Freeview signal booster is a fully screened masthead aerial amplifier which should be installed close to the TV aerial, powered up the coaxial cable, by means of a separate power supply unit (included with the Labgear KIT125V amplifier), situated behind your main TV.

If you have an indoor TV aerial then the masthead amplifier should be fitted in the loft, into the coaxial cable line, about 1 metre from the aerial.

Choosing the best TV signal booster depends largely on where you live and the strength of your Freeview aerial signal. In general a medium gain aerial amplifier with a gain of about 10 - 15dB and a maximum noise figure of 3dB is a good choice.

Our advice is to avoid buying a high gain TV signal booster as these increase the risk of suffering television interference problems (TVI) and TV signal overload, which can make reception worse. If you suffer TVI from 4G masts or other sources and have an aerial amplifier fitted, please refer to our TV interference tips page for advice.

More expensive types of Freeview aerial amplifier sometimes incorporate advanced GaAsFet devices. These benefit from high gain and very low noise, as well as having excellent interference rejection. GaAsFet masthead amplifiers can really help boost extreme fringe area Freeview reception and solve reception problems. This type of signal amplifier is ideal where Freeview picture breakup or freezing is experienced.

Masthead TV amplifiers can significantly improve Freeview reception in weak signal areas, giving far more improvement than a set back TV signal booster. The masthead amplifier amplifies the UHF digital TV signal right at your aerial, before any signal is lost by the coaxial cable downlead. This improves the all-important signal-to-noise ratio of your aerial system and boosts digital TV reception in weak signal areas.

Even if your Freeview TV aerial is external - mounted on your roof, the coaxial cable may enter your loft or run down the external wall of your house. Hence it may still be possible to carry out a DIY installation of a masthead aerial amplifier, by connecting it as close as possible to your TV aerial, even if you can't physically get onto your roof to mount it right on your TV aerial mast. The closer the unit is mounted to the aerial (using the shortest length of coaxial cable) the more effective it will be at improving Freeview digital terrestrial TV reception.

Freeview / Sky Distribution Amplifier Installation Guide

Available with 4, 6 or 8 outputs the popular Slx distribution amplifier (pictured left) is suitable for boosting and distributing both Freeview digital TV and Sky around your home.

When used as a Sky TV distribution amplifier it is not fitted into the TV aerial feed, but fed by coaxial cable from the 2nd RF outlet on the rear panel of the Sky box.

The amplifier usually gets its 12V DC power from the Sky Digibox itself and is often mounted in the loft of a house from where it feeds a UHF signal to each TV in the house.

An installer menu option exists in the Sky box in order to turn on the power feed to a distribution amp. The Sky installer menu enables this function, which is essential to make the system work.

The Slx distribution amplifier is compatible with a Sky TV remote extender (Slx TV Link) often referred to as a 'magic eye' or 'remote extender'.

This allows you to change Sky TV channels in any room of your house by using a standard Sky remote control. Previous distribution amplifiers prevented the Sky TV link remote extender from working by blocking the infra red command signal from the Sky box to the Slx TV link remote eye (extender).

The latest generation of SLx distribution amplifiers solve these problems, and feed up to 8 TV's.

The loft box also acts as an aerial amplifier, providing a small amount of UHF signal gain to each TV to help counteract coaxial cable losses. Used in conjunction with the SLx TV link - Magic Eye IR Extender, this provides a cheap Sky TV distribution system with the convenience of being able to change Sky channels from any 'magic eye' equipped room.

Please note that you will need to buy one Slx TV Link for each room and will also need the following accessories when installing the distribution amplifier (unless you buy the kit above):

Installation Accessories

Pre-Packaged Kits

It is also worth noting that Philex offer a 4 Room Digital TV Distribution Kit with Digital by-pass (when available) which contains everything you need to distribute Sky TV and Freeview to 4 rooms. This includes the loft box and all TV link accessories. The kit does not include addition Sky+ remote controls, so if you need these they must be ordered separately.

F-Type Connectors

If your Sky distribution amplifier uses F connectors and you require help fitting an F-type plug to coaxial cable click here. We provide step by step pictures to help you properly fit an F-type plug.

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