AV 101: What is a distribution amp?

Distribution Amp

Or “Why do I need a DA?”

Suppose you’re having a meeting and displaying a powerpoint. What do you do when everyone can’t see the screen? You can try to make it bigger, or you can add a second screen. If you go with the latter option, you’ll need what’s called a distribution amplifier or DA. Maybe you’ve seen a line item like this on your bill and wondered what it is.

The purpose of a DA is built into the name. You start with a signal like a powerpoint presentation, which is amplified; made bigger. Then it’s distributed out identically to multiple points – for example, two projectors.

In meetings the most common type of distribution amp is for video, but they also exist for other signal types, like audio, or cable. Some examples where you might need a DA would be:

  • Taking the signal from a presentation computer and distributing it to multiple projectors and screens.
  • Sending an identical presentation signal to both a primary screen and a confidence monitor.
  • Distributing a video camera signal to a switcher (which ultimately goes to the primary screens) and also sending a clean version to a record deck.

So do you need a distribution amp for your event? If it’s on the order, probably. In some cases its possible to jury rig a solution using multiple identical sources, but in almost every case it will be easier and more cost effective to use a distribution amplifier.

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