• Cody Tretschok

Is Control Remotely Possible?

Overview

I recently bought myself a new fancy Crestron remote control (and the associated automation system that goes with it). As I was setting it up, I noticed that I probably have about 20 other remotes in various places in my living room! I have the current (but very old) Pronto universal remote, an older version of that remote, plus a plethora of individual component remotes for the TV, Blu-ray player, preamplifier, Apple TV, Roku, etc. My goal is obviously to eliminate the need for anything except the single Crestron remote. But it made me think – I need to teach people about the ins and outs of remotes!


Background

In the good old days, everything was manually operated. You actually had to get up off of your chair to change the volume or turn over the record. (Yes, I grew up with records!). Then more and more components started coming with wireless remote controls. This quickly got out of hand until a few companies created what eventually became known as a “universal remote control”. One remote that would control all of your components. In theory, at least.

The early efforts were crude at best, and not very easy to use (I remember a Yamaha remote I bought in those days that must have had 1000 buttons on it!) but they eventually got better and served their purpose: they eliminated the need to have a coffee table full of remotes just to control your system.


Modern Day Remotes

So, fast-forward to today and the remote control situation is better than ever. Yet I still see many people who use multiple remote controls to run their system. It’s not all their fault, however - there can be various reasons for this. For example, some of the companies, like Apple TV and Cox Cable, have switched to “RF” (radio frequency). In other words, instead of the old-fashioned IR (infrared) control, which uses a beam of invisible light to send the control signal, the newer remotes use radio waves. They did this so you don’t need to aim the remote anymore. This is a significant improvement, but if you’re like me and have an old-fashioned IR universal remote, it won’t work with the new equipment. Thus, you have to keep the Apple TV and Cox remotes!


In addition, more and more components have the option for IP (internet protocol) remote control. In other words, “there’s an app for that”. Depending on the component and the app, this can be either very frustrating or extremely useful. (The Denon/Marantz app I have on my phone and iPad, for example, is excellent and I use it all the time.) But, as I’ve said in this blog before, using your phone app for everything can be cumbersome, even if you have a high-end automation system like Control4 or Crestron. (They make apps that control everything. The simple component apps only control one component at a time, which can be very frustrating!) For certain activities like watching TV, a nice universal remote with buttons is still by far the best way to go!


Conclusion

Everyone needs a high-quality universal remote. If you’re like me and haven’t upgraded yours in a while, it’s probably time. New capabilities like RF control and even voice control can be integrated into modern universal remotes, which will declutter your coffee table and make your life easier. It’s expensive, but, trust me, it’s definitely worth it. If you upgrade only one thing in your system, make sure you start with your universal remote!

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