Custom Installation
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Custom Installation
Home Cinema
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Home Cinema
Multi-room Audio Visual
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Multi-room Audio Visual
round media room
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round media room

Universal Remotes

Nov
4
Tue

Posted Tuesday 4th November 2014 at 03:22pm

RemotesHow many remote controls do you currently have?

Take the confusion out of your home entertainment system. How many remote controls do you have just to sit down and watch TV or a movie? Most people have at least three and some have as many as six or seven. Universal remote controls have the ability to either mimic or learn the functions of all your remote controls and allow you to control your entire home entertainment system from one intelligent remote control. The good quality universal remotes can be programmed to switch your TV on, amp on, DVD player on and even switch your TV and amplifier to the correct input for watching a DVD. All these events are stored as one button push, effectively labeled "Watch a DVD". Sounds simple enough, right?

Using an iPad or iPhone as a remote control

There's now a plethora of apps for iPhone and iPad available for free download that will control your amplifier, dvd player or dvd. If you stick to the same brand, like Samsung for instance, you can even use an app that controls your entire system.
The stark reality is however, there's very little customisation of these apps and they don't control devices from other manufacturers. So if you own an austar box or Panasonic blu-ray player, forget it, your still picking up other remote controls.

CMM customise the RTi app specifically to your needs. It works on all apple iOS and Android devices. We programme these systems in a way that it's fully customised for your system.

Universal Remote as a component

When you move to RF you begin to enter into a place where your home theatre finally becomes a "system". For too long, remote controls have played second fiddle to every other component in the system. Some people actually spend more money on cables then they do on their control system. An RF remote is just as important to a system, in terms of impressiveness and grandeur, as a display or source component upgrade. If you can grasp this concept your entertaining life will be forever changed. Imagine how much easier it will be to engage your spouse in purchasing decisions if they actually have the ability to utilize the system? If you didn't get the overt but cleverly hidden message in the previous sentence please re-read it. For far too long, we have heard complaints about how only one person in a household supports the "AV hobby" while the other simply cannot comprehend the significance of a new projector or bigger subwoofer.

This is your chance to engage. Considering that the cost of admission is just over $200 you really can't ignore the benefits.

Once your theatre system becomes "one-button friendly" it will be far easier to engage your spouse in the decision-making process. Now everyone in the household can show off the system to friends and the theatre room or entertainment system becomes something both homeowners can be proud of. I've lived through this and the difference is amazing.

It is high time the remote control begins to be treated as a true component and not an afterthought.

The pros and cons of Universal Remotes

Universal remote controls are priced from as little as $20 or $30, unfortunately you get what you pay for and most people would get very little satisfaction out from using one these remotes due to the limited way in which these cheaper remotes work. These cheaper units work by typing in a series of complex numbers from the instruction manual based on the manufacturer of each of your devices. If you have a Sony DVD player, then you would look up the code for Sony under the DVD category and enter one of the several numbers listed there. 12033 for example. You repeat this process for as many devices as you want to control. Unfortunately this is a lengthy process and not all manufacturers are supported (or work properly). Quite often after an hour of typing codes you reach the last device and it's not compatible, meaning it won't work with that device. Very frustrating believe me.

Logitech make a series of inexpensive Universal Remote Controls which we have had a lot of success with. These remotes start at around $200 and for the top of the range Harmony 1100i universal remote, you are looking at around $799. These more expensive remotes are worth the extra cash as they have touch screens, which are very easy to read and are very user friendly.

One of the major benefits of the Logitech range is that it can be updated via the internet. This means that when new devices are released by various manufacturers, the codes are updated online. Currently, hundreds of thousands of compatible devices are listed in the Logitech online database. As new devices are released, so too are the new codes. If you change TVs or add Austar set-top-box, then we don't even have to come out to your house to re-programme it. You can plug it into your computer and we can update it from anywhere in the world.

One down side with these remotes is that they are based on Infrared technology and if you don't keep your remote pointed at your system for up to a minute, then all of the IR codes don't get through to your equipment and you can end up with the some or all of you component not switched on, or on the wrong settings entirely. With some home entertainment systems, these remotes can take hours to programme. This can be very complex and beyond most home users. Connect Multimedia often supply and programme remotes for existing or new home theatre setups. For a Harmony One remote we charge 3 hours for programming which is not included in the purchase price. This time frame allows us to re-wire your setup and programme the remote to get the most out of your system. Nevo and Rti remotes can be a lot more time consuming, but they're much more powerful and flexible, so you can do pretty much anything with these remote including home automation for lighting and air-con.

The cost of programming should be considered when purchasing these types of remote controls as it does add a considerable amount to the total price of the unit, however, if the whole reason you want one of these remotes is to make your life easier, then you may be disappointed with a less expensive remote, and I guess that defeats the purpose of buying a universal remote control in the first place. Make sure you buy these units from someone that knows what they are doing. One of our clients was charged $850 from an installer to programme his Logitech remote and it still didn't work!

RF remotes vs Infra Red

RF remotes generally work this way: The originating signal is sent from the remote as RF (radio frequency.) In the case of the MX-950 in my theatre that's 418MHz, a very stable and reliable frequency band. This signal is read by an antenna module, the RFX-150 or RFX-250 which transfers it to a receiver - the MRF-250 or MRF-300 (models are given so that you can look them up later for reference). The receiver will translate the incoming RF signals into standard IR commands which are sent via IR emitters (or perhaps RS-232, more on this later) to your A/V equipment.

An RF remote control system can be very complex to set up, but the results are worth it. Instead of a standard IR remote (or series of remotes) which have to be pointed "line-of-sight" in order to work correctly, an RF remote, correctly configured, can be placed or pointed just about anywhere. You can walk towards your kitchen while initiating "DVD playback mode" on your main theatre system. The distance is only limited by the RF range - and since you can add additional RF repeaters, that's almost limitless.

Because the IR emitters are positioned directly overtop of the IR sensors on the devices you are controlling, dropped commands are almost nonexistent - provided you've done your homework and set up the RF system correctly to reduce interference. With a well-designed RF system you can make an almost infinitely complex theatre system usable by anyone in the family - and make sure that your settings and configurations are also kept safe.

A well designed system is the key

For basic home theatre setups, the most important thing is to plug your system together in a way that gives you the best quality sound and video from your system, but in a way that is easy for one of these remote to control it. With a well designed home entertainment system and a well programmed universal remote control, controlling your home entertainment system couldn't be easier.