Guide To Coax Cable Plugs & Connectors
Whether you want to a coax cable connection for a TV aerial, satellite dish, CCTV camera or something similar. It’s important that you purchase and install the correct coax plugs for the task. There are many different types of tv/ sat plugs and in this blog I describe the most common together with their uses.
The F plug came from the USA and is most commonly used for satellite dish connections at both the satellite LNB and the satellite receiver itself. The F plug has a threaded connection that allows the plug to be screwed in securely and not fall out of position which can be common with over types of coax plugs. F plugs are also now very common for TV aerial and communal TV systems for connections at aerials, splitters, amplifiers and for joining coax cable.
There are many types for F plugs for different size coaxial cables and plugs that terminate differently like screw on F plugs, crimp on and compression plugs but in essence they are very similar.
Screw On F Connectors
A screw on F connector is the most common and easiest to terminate of all the F plug types and can be prepared with a Stanley blade and scissors or a specialist cable termination tool. The F plug simply screws on top of the coaxial cable braid and PVC jacket. It’s important to pick the right F plug for the cable you’re using as to pick the wrong one could cause a loose connection and an F plug that falls loose easily. If terminated correctly the F plug should remain in position with a relatively firm pull.
Screw on F connections are suitable for domestic TV aerial/satellite systems but should not be used on communal TV systems where you should use crimp on F connectors or compression plugs instead. When using screw on F plugs outside it is recommend that you weatherproof your connections with amalgamating tape or silicone grease is perfect for connections to satellite LNB’s. One big advantage to using screw type F plugs is that they are relatively inexpensive and can be re-used.
Crimp on F Plugs
Crimp on F connectors are the next step up from screw on plugs. A crimp on F plug has an internal ring inside on it which is pushed in position in between the PVC jacket and cable ground shield/ braid. This offers superior screening performance over a screw on F plug which only terminates outside the cable sheath. Once in position the plug is crimped in position with a specialist crimping tool. Although these are technically better than screw on plugs I do not often use them for domestic installations as the crimp on F connections can not be re-used, once they have been crimped they cannot be used again so it’s important to cut the coax cable to the correct length to begin with as you could end up wasting a load of plugs.
I always use crimp on plugs for commercial and communal MATV, SMATV and IRS installations as they comply with regulations and offer superior performance. It all adds up in communal systems due typically the very large number or plugs and connections that the signals have to pass through before they reach the TV points. Crimp on plugs can be tricky to install, there are special tools that are available to help you insert the plug into the coax cable and as already said you will need a crimping tool to actually crimp the plug. Sometimes this can be quite a squeeze but over time it really helps build those hand muscles up.
Compression F Plugs
Compression F plugs are the best of all the F plug types. There are many makes and models of the market, some better than others. A compression plug requires a specialist tool to terminate the F plug which can be quite expensive to purchase, this is especially true with the tools that allow you to terminate onto the thicker diameter coax cables, like 1.25mm or 1.65mm centre conductor coaxial cable.
The plugs are the most expensive to buy out of all three of the F plug types and like crimp on F plugs cannot be used again. Once installed however what makes them so good is that no matter how hard you try there is a good chance that you will never be able to pull that plug away from the cable,which even the best terminated screw on or crimp on F plug will. In fact you’re more likely to cause damage to the coax cable itself by pulling so hard.
The most common reason that I use compression plugs is for the larger type coax cables that are only commonly used on communal TV systems to help reduce signal losses over long distances. You don’t want to be installing a screw on F plug on anything more than a conventional 1mm coax cable and crimp on F plugs can be really difficult to insert on the 165 coax cable and above so I just compression plugs of these as they are actually the easiest to install, providing that you have the correct equipment that is. You will want to be very careful as the plugs can be very expensive for the larger cables so you won’t want to mess many connections up.
Weatherproof F Connectors
There are a range of weatherproof F compression connectors that are perfect for outside terminations like at the satellite dish LNB. These have an internal rubber O ring that acts as seal. The plugs I recommend for this purpose are the Cablecon Compression F connectors which are rated to IPX8, which means that the plug can be submerged in water deeper than 1 metre. Personally when I used this, which I only typically do on communal satellite dish installations I would also smear some silicone grease on the outside of the plug to keep this part of the plug free from corrosion and/or use self-amalgamating tape on any outside F joins.
As with all F plugs, but especially the weatherproof types.It’s important that the connections are done up tight. This should be finger tightened as much as possible and then an extra quarter turn or so that the plug can not be untwisted with your hand. This is to maintain the integrity of the screen, prevent and RF leakage and water ingress. A 11mm spanner is perfect for this task but long nose pliers are also suitable.
Quick F Connector – Push On
The push on F connector is actually usually an adapter plug that a normal F connector would attach to. The Quick F connector doesn’t have an internal thread that allows it to screw into position, instead it slots in position and slightly grips around the thread. These are perfect for quick installations, for connections that need to be undone regularly and for difficult to insert F connectors. The big downside of these plugs is that they can fall out of position with a relative small amount of force so you need to be extra careful when installing.
0.65mm F Plugs
Traditional coaxial cable that people are most familiar with is 1mm centre conductor coaxial cable, but another common cable size used especially for Sky installations that often connect with a “shotgun” cable has a 0.65mm centre conductor and you need to make sure that you have the correct sized plug for this cable type which is slimmer. Like normal coaxial cable sizes F plugs for this cable size can be obtained in screw on, crimp on and compression types. The 0.65mm screw on plugs usually but not always also have a few rings on the body so these can be easily found when in a mixture of coax plugs.
1mm F Plugs
This is the most common F plug size that people are familiar with and the most readily available. 1mm coax is still the most used cable,especially in domestic & residential installations. For very short cable runs shotgun cable with of a smaller cable and plug size is often preferred for Sky installations.
1.25mm F Plugs
For communal TV installations where there are very long cable runs, cable utilising a 1.25mm centre conductor is often used to help over come signal losses. This is a thicker diameter cable that requires a larger F plug to be able to fit. I would advise only using crimp on or compression plugs for this cable type but screw on plugs do exist.
1.65mm F Plugs
The next cable size up from ‘125’ cable is ‘165’ coax cable that utilises a 1.65mm centre conductor. This again is a thicker diameter cable that will have even less signal resistance/ loss than 125mm cable. This cable is only typically ever used for communal satellite systems and very long cable runs which can be very common on large buildings. I recommend using 165 compression F plugs for this cable as even crimp-on plugs can be very difficult to insert and terminate. As the centre conductor is so large on this cable the plug itself will have a reducing pin so that it can connect into the required equipment. Be extra careful when installing compression plugs onto the 1.65mm cable as they are about £10 each. You don’t want to mess many of them up!
An F coupler is a plug that will join two cables together using F type terminations. The most common type of F coupler by far is the F barrel connector which is a female to female plug that will allow two F plugs on two pieces of coax to create an F join. There is another type of F coupler which is far less common that has male-male connections either side which can be used with two female F connections.
Connections direct to TV’s a TV aerial compatible STB’s and PVR’s are utilise plugs common just referred to the in trade as “coax plugs”. Although most TV aerial splitters/ amplifiers now utilise F connectors the connection on your TV and most wall plates/ sockets is the ‘coax plug’ or it’s more accurate name is the Coax IEC plug. This video shows you how to install a coax plug.
Male IEC Plug
The male IEC plug is the coax plug that most people in the UK are familiar with. It is a male connection that inserts into a female connection like the aerial input of your TV.
Female IEC Plug
A female IEC plug is the opposite of the male plug. The female IEC connection is most commonly used on signal/ RF outputs of AV equipment and return feeds from Sky boxes etc. Most STB’s or PVR’s that have an aerial input will also have an aerial output or loop that allows the signal to go onto feed another piece of equipment, usually the TV itself. The splitting of the signal is incorporated into the AV equipment so there is no need for any additional signal splitting equipment. By providing both male and female connections on the equipment you can easily see which one is the output and which one is the input. This is why many TV flylead/ RF Leads that are purchased have a male connector one end and a female connector the other. A female coax connection can also be achieved with a male plug with a coax coupler attached.
A coax coupler is a female to female connection that allows two IEC coax male terminations to connect together perfect for joining coaxial cable. A coax coupler can also be added to a male IEC plug to create a female coax connection.
Crimp on Coax Plugs
There is another type of coax plug that is terminated very similar to a F crimp on plug. I do not use these type of plugs are they are single use only. Once the plug has been crimped in position, the plug can never be used again.
Right Angle Plugs
Right angle coax plugs are very handy to for making connections in tight spaces where the bend radius on the cable will not fit or the cable will become squashed. This is very common for wall mounted TV's where some models have the aerial connection leaving the back of the TV at right angle to the wall. A right angled connection will allow to plug to fit inside a much tighter space and allow a TV to be installed as close to the wall as possible. The most common of the two is the IEC right angled connection but a F right angled connector is also relatively common.
The BNC plug is a plug that inserts in position and then twists to remain in place. BNC stands for Bayonette Neil Consellman after the man who designed the plug and is commonly used for analogue CCTV systems. They come in many types but the most common type is a crimp on connection.
Coax Adpater Plugs
From time to time you will need to or it will be advantageous to adapt a F connection to a IEC connection or vice versa. In which case you will need an adapter plug. There so many types of adapter plugs out there that adapt one connection to another. The most common types I use are:
-Female F to male IEC coax
-Female IEC to male F
-F to phono
-F to BNC
There are loads of others, too many to name in this blog. It’s important to note and it may sound obvious but when you convert one plug to another you will not automatically receive the service associated with the other plug. For example I had a customer who had changed the plug on the end of their satellite cable and didn’t know why the Freeview signal would not work when plugged into the TV.
Coax Cable Questions - In Blog Comments Please
If you have any comments or question arising from this blog, please do post them in the blog comments section directly below this blog and I will answer as soon as possible. Please be aware that we do not offer over the phone technical advise or support so please DO NOT CALL OUR TELEPHONE LINES as these are intended for CUSTOMERS ONLY. We only serve Sussex and Kent so if you're outside this area please be aware that we can not help with with an installation. Please also DO NOT FILL IN THE WEBSITE CONTACT FORMS OR SEND A PRIVATE E-MAIL as you will most likely not receive a response. I do not have time to answer in private all the questions that I get asked and by posting your comment/ question in the blog comment section it gives me a central location to reply to all of these. Also everyone reading the blog at a later date will get the benefit of the question asked and the answer given. It really helps our blog so I thank you in advance for using the blog comments section only.
Until next time,
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