What is The Difference Between A Preamplifier And A Distribution Amplifier

Last Updated on June 11, 2021 by Editor Futurescope

Experiencing weak TV signal and reception? Antenna preamps and amps are the perfect remedies. Both devices strengthen, distribute, and equalize signals for clear resolutions.  

Is an antenna preamp the same as an amp? Preamp and amp have similar names but are not the same. The two function differently.

The antenna preamp picks the weak signals and strengthens them for distribution to your TV sets. Consequently, the antenna amp captures the already strong signals from the preamp and distributes them equally in your TV set or sets

Before you set up a preamp or an amp unit, let’s learn more about each one of them, their differences, and the separate functions they perform.

What is a Preamp?

A preamp, also called a preamplifier, is an electronic device whose primary purpose is to boost low TV signals to the most substantial level directly from the antenna. We use a preamplifier outside by mounting it on a high mast. A preamp’s output signal is not only noise-tolerant but also strong enough for processing on other devices like amps and loudspeakers. With the device, the sound output is clear and undistorted. 

To understand the device better, it is a unit made up of two parts. The central part of the unit is what you mount on the antenna. This is the part that picks the signals for you. It then relays them via a cable to your TV set. 

For the preamp unit to function, it requires you to plug it into a power source. The unit remains indoors but has a long cable that transmits the power to the central preamp unit you mounted high on the mast. Whenever the preamp makes the signals strong enough, it relays them to the amp for distribution to the output device. The idea behind a preamp is to control the signal loss.

Amp (amplifier)

An amp is a piece of electronic equipment for increasing the power of a signal. In other words, they help to solve weak signals. Unlike a preamp, you will mount your amp indoors. You can also use a single amp to supply signals to several TVs. 

The gadget works in all wireless broadcasting and communications equipment. It can function alone as a single piece of equipment or fixed inside another device.  

Difference between a preamplifier and a distribution amplifier

Most often, people confuse a preamplifier and a distribution amplifier. Though the terms amplifier and preamplifier sound similar, these two gadgets are different as they have varied functionalities. Let’s get this ironed out here for you; 

  • Functions

A preamplifier’s function is to stabilize a shaky signal to more robust levels, free from noise and distortion. A distribution amplifier takes in the line-level signals from the preamp and boosts them for the speakers to have a perfect output.

Generally, preamps act like a switch to collect many signals at a go but route or distribute it to the amp for a single output. They also help you to overcome the signal loss while the amps overcome splitter loss. 

  • Noise Tolerance

A preamp is noise-tolerant while the amp is not. The preamp does not pick irrelevant noise, but the amp picks everything, both valuable and irrelevant.

  • Location

These two gadgets work at different locations. Distribution amplifiers are indoor gadgets, while for the preamplifiers, you station them outdoors by mounting on high masts to pick the signals efficiently.

When should I use an antenna preamp?

 If your signals are strong, you do not require the device; however, you can mount an antenna preamp in the following cases;

  1. Long coaxial cable longer than 50 feet (from the antenna to your TV)

In this case, a preamp helps to overcome the loss of signals. If the coaxial cable is short, installing the preamplifier will lead to digital signal overload. Higher signal levels than the required levels are as problematic as weak or no signals at all. You can avoid signal-level guesswork by using a field strength meter. The meter will reveal if you require a preamp or not.

  1. Combined splitter and antenna system

If you have a signal splitter installed inside the antenna system, a preamplifier will improve the situation. It does so by strengthening the signals for distribution by the amplifier.

  1. Multiple monitors

In restaurants and other public places, you will require several monitors to relay similar channels. It can be pretty pricey to install preamps on all the TV outlets. Economically you can feed these outlets with a single antenna. When connecting the monitors, you use an HDMI splitter to take the signals to each one. The splitting process can cause signal loss. A preamplifier will come in handy to overcome signal failures and facilitate a good reception. The device works by sealing off the signal leakages for you and also replacing the lost ones. 

What is an antenna amplifier?

An antenna amplifier is an indoor electronic or electromagnetic device used for increasing sound signals for ease of audibility. If you want crystal clear resolutions, an amplifier is a suitable device to fix that. That is, if you have a splitter system in place for your multiple devices. It increases the signals for use in different monitors without distorting or clipping. Other than the TV, your radio system uses an antenna amplifier to improve far-away signals before feeding them to the speakers.

Other significant uses of antenna amplifiers are hearing aids and loudspeaker equipment. In hearing aids, the small components increase sound for the users. The devices allow the amplification of the voice when addressing large crowds of people. 

A significant setback with an amplifier is that it picks both the required sound and the noise. An example of that is the deafening whistle you hear when people use microphones on stage. The horrible whistle is because the amplifier picks both the person’s voice and a nearby instrument’s sound. It then re amplifies the sound through the speaker. 

The remedy to this problem is to place the microphone away from the loudspeaker. Though this is a significant setback, some musicians take advantage of the problem to create sound effects while recording their music.


You now understand the differences between preamps and amps. As the preamp picks poor signals outdoors on high masts, it makes them strong and relays them into your TV system. Consequently, the amp remains indoors, makes the sound louder, and amplifies it for you and your audience indoors. With a single amp, you connect multiple monitors without signal loss. Both devices are incomparable and cannot substitute each other. Each has its role to play in combined or independent setups.

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Founding writer of Futurescope. Nascent futures, foresight, future emerging technology, high-tech and amazing visions of the future change our world. The Future is closer than you think!

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