There are two main types of connections in TV cabling(by cabling I mean in the wall or ceiling, etc). These are the saddle and clamp connection and the F Connector. However there are several different types of common F connectors as well. In this article I’l explain them.
Saddle and Clamp Connections
Saddle and Clamp is the old way that coaxial cables for connected to sockets and splitters. A saddle and clamp connection consists of a screw clamp that fastens onto the centre of the coax cable and a semicircle saddle that fastens to the shield of the coax cable. A coax cable is stripped back, then inserted through the saddle into the clamp and the screws are then all tightened to secure the cable.
Saddle and clamp connections are unshielded, that is they have not protection against electrical noise. This an other factors make saddle and clamp connectors very lossy. They are also quite susceptible to corrosion in moist environments. Surprisingly however they are still available for purchase and are commonly used by many electricians. I would not recommend using saddle and clamp connectors and where possible would recommend replacing them.
Twist-on F Connectors
F Connectors are the current standard of coaxial cable connections for TV, however there are several types of F Connectors. Af F Connector consists of a circular barrel on the outside, a second barrel on the inside that connects with the coax shield, and an empty space in the middle through which the central conductor pokes out. The coax cable is stripped back as in the saddle and clamp connections, leaving about 10mm of core and 10mm of shield exposed. The first type of F Connector I’ll discuss are “twist-on” F connectors. These as the name implies can be simply twisted onto the end of a coaxial cable so they don’t require special tools.
This also makes them less reliable than other types of F Connectors as the connector can simply work itself loose off the end of the cable. Because the connection to the shield isn’t as good as with other types as well the connection is more lossy than the other types. That said they’re still better than saddle and clamp as far as loss goes.
Crimp F Connectors
Crimp F Connectors differ from the Twist-on variety in that they do require a special tool that crimps the connector onto the cable. The cable is stripped back in the same way as usual, and the connector looks similar, but after insertion you crimp it with a special pair of pliers known as a crimping tool. This flattens the barrel of the connector into a hexagonal shape which grips onto the sheaf of the cable and firms the connection between the barrel and the shield.
The benefit of this is that the connection is far more mechanically sound, they don’t come off easily. Because of the better shield to barrel connection, the connection is far better than a twist-on so there is less loss. Crimp F connectors don’t measure up to compression connectors though because they do distort the structure of the cable which introduces a small amount of loss.
Compression F Connectors
Compression F Connectors are the current best standard of coaxial cable connection for TV. Crimping introduces a small amount of loss because it distorts the cable a bit. Compression gets around this by not affecting the cable shape at all. A special tool internally compresses the connection onto the cable. This achieves a secure connection but with very little loss. For this reason they’re the best to use.
Compression F Connectors are available in a silver and gold version. The gold version does have very slightly better specs but the different is so negligible as to be not really worth it except in the worst signal situations.
RG6 or RG59
F Connectors of all types come in versions for RG59 and RG6 coax cable. So be sure when buying F connectors you get the right type for the cable you’re using. Fortunately the tools are compatible with both.