What are switches, and why do I need them?

Echostar Knowledge Base
The Dish Network User's Resource

What are switches for?

There are two reasons to use multiswitches.

  1. To combine the signals from one or more LNBs aimed at different satellites (like on a Dish 500) to feed a receiver. Each satellite operates at the same frequency range, so the signals can't be combined, they must be switched.
  2. To feed more than two receivers. To change channels, the receiver supplies a voltage to the LNB changing its polarization depending on the transponder the channel is on. Additional receivers can't be fed via simple splitters because the LNB's polarization may be switched when another receiver changes channels.

What's the difference in all these switches?

There are six different switches is general use:

connects 2 single LNBs to one receiver.
is exactly equivalent to two SW21s except that it uses different switching codes. See note below on cascading.
connects 2 dual LNBs to (up to) four receivers. The receiver may identify it as an SW42 as mentioned in the manual. Except for the missing third LNB inputs, it is similar in operation to the SW64. See note below for more info.
connects 2 or 3 dual LNBs to (up to) four receivers and is a “powered” switch. The power is supplied via an inserter, which can be placed indoors, near one of the receivers. It is inserted in the RG-6 coax line coming from the SW64 output port #1 (The one labeled “To Power Inserter”). The inserter must be inserted in the correct direction to prevent damage to the receiver. Follow directions and labels carefully, even a “pro” can make a mistake here. See: Stupid Installer Tricks.
Twin LNB
has 2 LNBFs and integrated switches in a wide housing, outputs for only 2 receivers. No external switches are needed for viewing 110 and 119.
Quad LNB
is similar to the Twin but has 4 outputs.

I have a Twin LNB, how can I expand to more than two receivers?

Tough question, you'll have to get rid of your Twin LNB, since it cannot ever feed more than two tuners, and can't be connected to a SW44 or SW64 to provide more outputs. Dish has a Quad LNB which will provide signals to four tuners, or you can replace your Twin with a pair of Duals and get an SW44 or SW64.

If I upgrade to the 500 can't I use the one that comes with it?

Of course you can, but if you're planning to add more receivers, or another dish to see the 61.5W satellite, you might want to upgrade to the SW64 now, and avoid replacing your existing switches later.

Why do you need dual LNBs to use the SW64 and SW44 with only one receiver?

Because the SW64 and SW44 “hardwire” the polarization for half the dual LNB to right hand, and left hand for the other half. The switch then selects between the two LNBs internally to select whichever polarization is required for the desired transponder. Normally, in a single LNB single receiver setup, the receiver supplies a voltage to the LNB which changes the polarization of the LNB depending on the transponder.

With (as few as) two dual LNBs, you can feed (up to) four receivers using an SW64. Without this permanent polarization, this would not be possible.

This also applies to the new SW44 since it is also a powered switch.

I have 2 receivers. If I get the SW64 will the installer put it in for me?

Yes, but he might want some more money to do it.

Are there any cable length issues I need to consider?

Yes, Echostar's document shows the allowable lengths for the SW21, and SW42. See: Recommended maximum cable lengths for use with SW21 and SW42 switches

Where can I find additional documents to help me set up my Echostar system?

How do switches work, and what is the problem with cascading switches?

Current Echostar switches apparently use a pulse train to select different inputs, and this is controlled by the receiver software. While it may not always be possible to cascade switches, in certain cases it may in fact work.

Since Dish network continues to upgrade receiver software, the only way to know for sure if cascaded switches will work in your installation is to try it.

Recent discoveries have now made it possible to cascade certain Dish Network switches for coverage of an additional orbital slot. So far, the only combination that has been proved to work is the SW42 / SW21 combination.
The SW42 is used to combine the LNB signals from a Dish 500, and the SW21s are cascaded from the SW42 outputs to allow the signals from a third dish's LNBs to be combined. See: “http://www.angelfire.com/tv2/switchinfo/” (dead link) for a wiring diagram and more info. This technique will work only on Dish Network receivers which support 34 switch checks. This leaves out the 2000, 1000, 3000, and 4000, sorry. This combo seriously stresses the cable length, and total LNB power cabability of the receiver. It is not recommended, but has been reported to work. A few folks have reported problems using the SW42/SW21 cascade with the 5000, and D-VHS owners may also have problems since the D-VHS is based on the 5000 main board.

Dish has started to update receiver software in some receivers to 38 switch checks. Tests indicate that these receivers now support cascading on the SW44.

One of our contributors writes:
“The manual is cheaply printed, with a lot of ink bleedthrough from adjacent pages....but they should be readable...;)

The SW44 is quite a bit smaller than the SW64, just a little bigger than a SW42. It has large cooling fins cast into the housing, and an arrow to indicate the proper installed position. With the switch mounted, the inputs are on the right and the outputs are on the left. The heat sink fins are in a vertical orientation on the front of the switch.

This past Tuesday I noticed that 2700s are beginning to show 38-step switch checks, and I assume this is to support SW44 cascading.”

Edited by BobaBird. Submissions & corrections welcome!