How to Use and Install a Coaxial Cable Splitter

By Greg Martinez / July 5, 2021
how to use and install cable splitter

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A coaxial cable splitter is an affordable device that helps you get TV signals on more than one TV. The installation process is simple enough, and anyone can get it done.

Today, we are going to take a quick look at how to use and install a coaxial cable splitter in your home or business.

What is a Coaxial Cable Splitter?

GE Digital 2-Way Coaxial Cable Splitter

In simple terms, a coaxial cable splitter (like the GE splitter with 2 ports out above) is a device that designed and built for the sole purpose of providing multiple outlets for one signal.

Your typical coaxial splitter has one main input for your coaxial cable and multiple outputs for as many ports as the specific splitter allows.

Typically, coaxial splitters have 2, 3, 4, and 6 output ports (or even more) and the best of them do maintain the proper impedance environment at both ends (input and output ports).

Unfortunately, the greater the number of output ports, the more cumulative signal loss that occurs. Admittedly this isn’t much loss generally, but the higher the number of ports you’re using for a weaker TV signal, the more your signal can be affected.

How Do Coaxial Cable Splitters Work?

Technically, your typical coaxial cable was designed to provide your devices with one signal. Each cable was intended to provide a singular device with this radio frequency signal.

However, as homes grew in size and people used more than one TV per household, a need arose to split an incoming signal among multiple TVs.

That is where a coaxial cable splitter comes in!

Where there’s more than one TV needing to be connected to the main signal provided by your TV antenna, a coaxial splitter is installed at the end of the cable.

Coaxial splitters are small connector devices that are designed to take the single signal from your original coaxial cable through the input port and divide it among your televisions through multiple output ports.

You’ll need, therefore, to get a device with the correct number of output ports.

Tip: Try not to get a splitter with unused ports (or use termination caps), as these nonetheless will cause signal loss.

Do Coaxial Cable Splitters Weaken the Signal?

Remember that any time you split your TV’s distribution signal, you’ll experience some attenuation or weakening of the signal.

However, this doesn’t mean you should forget about splitters and go back to huddling around that one TV in your household.

If you experience significant signal loss after using a coaxial splitter, you can install an antenna preamplifier, or a distribution amplifier.

Tips for Installing a Coaxial Cable Splitter

If you want to connect your antenna to more than one TV, then it’s quite easy to buy and then install one.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to install a coaxial cable splitter in your home:

Step 1: Get the Right Cable Splitter

You have to buy the splitter you need, and to do that, you need to determine how many ways you want the signal to be split.

As already mentioned, there are different types of splitters, and each one is designed to connect to a certain number of TVs. There are 2-way, 3-way, 4-way, 6-way, and even 8-way splitters.

Monoprice Premium 8-Way Coax Cable Splitter

NOTE: Don’t forget to add extra coaxial cable to your order for the other TVs. Good RG6 cable that I recommend is Mediabridge cable.

Step 2: Find the Main Coaxial Cable

Once you’ve bought the appropriate splitter, you need to locate the main coaxial cable—the one that’ll serve as the single signal provider.

Sometimes this is as easy as finding where it goes into the house from your antenna. Other times you may need to trace it through your attic and behind walls.

Once you’ve found it, all you have to do is connect the end of it to your splitter. You’ll see a male connector, which is often colored black or silver, in the splitter’s “in” port and the receiver’s “out” port.

Step 3: Connect All the Appropriate Cables

Now, once you’ve connected the original cable to the splitter, it’s time to measure exactly how much extra cable you’ll need to each TV.

NOTE: Remember that long cables naturally also produce signal loss; in fact, I recommend installing an amplifier if the total length of the cable run from the antenna to your TV exceeds 50 feet. You can use a cable toolkit to shorten and re-cap cables as needed.

Simply connect one end of the antenna coaxial to the input port of the splitter. Then connect the other coaxial cables from the splitter to your TVs.

You should see a coaxial F-connector port on the back panel of the TV set. This is sometimes labeled “ANT-IN” or similar.

antenna in back of television

NOTE: Some TVs won’t have a coaxial input, but instead offer HDMI or USB ports exclusively.

Remember to tighten the cables on both splitter and TVs by gently screwing in the caps to the connectors.

NOTE: Don’t use any tightening tools here because you might damage the connector.

Step 4: Turn on the TV

Once you’ve connected all the required TV sets to the splitter, turn on the TVs and use the menus to start scanning for channels, keeping an eye on the signal strength reading of each channel.

NOTE: If the strength is very low or you’re not getting the number of channels you were expecting, you may consider installing a preamplifier or distribution amplifier to boost the signal.

Common Cable Splitter Problems

As you might have already noted, as convenient as splitting might be, it isn’t without a few issues. Here are some common problems with splitters:

Splitting Too Many Times

This is the most common. When you have more than three TVs connected to the same splitter, you might experience some signal weakness or even total loss in the most extreme of cases.

This can be solved by either reducing the number of splits or buying an amplified coax splitter, like the one shown below.

Splitter with built in amplifier

Improper Cable Splitting

One mistake that many homeowners make is they buy an 8-way splitter right off the bat, when in fact all they need is a 3-way splitter.

The reasoning here is often, “what if I buy other TV? Will I need to go through all this again? Why not make just one purchase and retain the options should the need arise.”

While this thinking may appear sound (and it is to a point) the problem is that splitters are designed to distribute signals evenly throughout the available connection ports.

This means that even if you don’t use all the eight available ports, the signal will still be as weak as though you’re using all of them. That’s why you need to buy the right kind of splitter for your specific needs.

Alexis Lechuga - July 29, 2020

Hello Greg, Will a digital coaxial cable work as a replacement for a broken left surround sound speaker cable from a Vizio soundbar and subwoofer system? just wanted to make sure before I purchase one, Thanks!

    Greg Martinez - September 14, 2020

    Hi Alexis, honestly not sure about that but check if it has an F-connector for coaxial cable on the back.

joe - August 2, 2020

If I buy the 4way or 6way splitter, do I have to use all 4/6 out ports? thanks

    Greg Martinez - August 3, 2020

    Not at all—you don’t need to use all the ports, but don’t forget that all ports on the splitter will cause some signal leakage (but most likely not enough to affect your signal). So I’d try to get a splitter whose number of output ports matches exactly the number of TVs/devices you need to distribute signal to. If you already have a splitter and not all ports are being used, you can also separately purchase caps to put on the unused ports.

Saide Jerson - August 8, 2020

I would really like to hook up my TV to a receiver to play sound through. Can I just use this cable or do I need a digital to analog converter? thanks

    Greg Martinez - August 9, 2020

    If you mean a soundbar then your TV will need to support HDMI out (most don’t), so check with the manufacturer’s instructions. Otherwise look into getting a digital optical cable.

Phil - August 12, 2020

Is it possible to connect two or three antennas to one tv with this splitter? vice versa, can I connect 3 or two tvs to one antenna? Thanks!

    Greg Martinez - August 13, 2020

    Yes you could combine several antennas but I’m not sure a splitter would be the best device for this – you might want to use signal combiners (see my article on “Stacking TV Antennas” for details). Yes vice versa you can connect n TVs with one antenna using a splitter with n output ports.

A. ABONAR - September 3, 2020

Can i use a coaxial splitter for a car radio signal? or even wifi signal?

    Greg Martinez - September 4, 2020

    Car radio: not sure what you’re trying to do. Your WiFi router may have a coaxial F-connector and if so then yes you can divide the signal among other devices depending on the application.

Mindy Fisher - September 9, 2020

I have a lot of different cables here in our house, my question is, how can I identify a digital coax just by their appearance. Or what test should I do to determine the signals? I’m not good at tools so I don’t have any idea how to separate the best one (digital coax) to an ordinary coaxial cable.

    Greg Martinez - September 10, 2020

    Hi Mindy, it’s true this article doesn’t have pictures of coax cable. Check out my other article “The Best Coaxial Cable on the Market Today” for examples. Professionals generally use a multimeter to test TV signal strength on such a cable.

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