RF Cables, Splitters, Combiners & Taps
RF cables are designed to carry RF signals from one point to
another, not from one point to many. In other words, you can't run RF signals to multiple locations by wiring all the destinations in parallel. The reason is that the residential RF distribution scheme is based
on 75 ohm terminated transmissions. Meaning that the transmitting side expects to see one, and only one, 75 ohm load on the other end of the cable.
A splitter is a small device that has one input (the 75 ohm load) and 2 or more outputs, each driving a separate 75 ohm load. Essentially they are transformers that split the power in the input signal to multiple outputs, while maintaining the 75 ohm impedance. However, there is no free lunch! Every time you split an RF signal with a splitter, you drastically decrease the signal's strength. An RF signal only has so much power. Logic dictates that splitting this signal in two with a "passive" device will result in two signals that each have--at most--half of the original signal's strength.
A combiner is simply a splitter hooked up backwards. It combines the channels on two or more separate cables onto one cable. The only drawback to this piece of magic, is that the cables being combined cannot have any channels in common with each other. The resulting signal on that channel would be trashed.
Combiners make some neat things possible. Let's say you have cable TV that has channels 2 through 63. And you have a DSS receiver that you would like to be able to see on any TV in the house. You can hook up a modulator to the DSS receiver, set the modulator to channel 65, then combine this new channel back in your wiring closet with the cable TV coming in! Now any TV can watch DSS by simply changing to channel 65. This concept of "in-house" channel generation, together with the new cheaper and more
reliable digital modulators, is opening up many new possibilities in residential video
Taps are similar to splitters, but are "wound crooked" so that the outputs are not equal in signal strength. The "through" output of a tap may only reduce the signal level by a very small amount, while the "tap" output is a small fraction of the signal level. Taps are primarily used in complex commercial distribution installations.
Attenuators are simple "one in, one out" devices that reduce the signal strength. Attenuators come in various sizes and are useful when tuning up the video distribution system.
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