How Many Remote Controls Does It Take?

Mar 15 19:24 2007 Don West Print This Article

If you already have a pile of remote controls for your home entertainment center, here are some options on how to reduce it down to one.

If you have purchased a number of electronic A/V components for your home entertainment system you already know that each one usually comes with its own remote control,Guest Posting and you probably already have a growing collection. You can imagine what it can become if you outfit your A/V system with lots of new equipment with even more remotes. You can easily end up with a pile of 10 remote controls or even more. This can become a real nuisance.

For example, just imagine that all you want to do is watch a DVD movie. Typically you would have to pick up the TV remote, turn it on and switch the source to DVD input. Then you need to pick up the Receiver remote, turn it on and switch the input to DVD audio. Then you need to pick up the DVD remote, turn it on and press play. Then if you want to adjust the volume, it’s back to the Receiver remote, etc....

To solve this problem there are lots of special remote controls on the market that can combine all remotes into one.

Universal remotes

These multi-brand (or "universal") remotes are pre-programmed to operate several different brands and types of equipment. They are designed to allow you to control a lot of your equipment from just one remote. At first, this may seem like the solution, but the problem is that it may not have all of the infrared codes needed for your particular equipment. So, it may help, but won’t completely solve the problem.

Learning remotes

These remotes can actually learn the infrared codes of your other remotes. So, for example, you can enter a number for your TV brand and it will "learn" the infrared codes of your TV remote. This sounds pretty neat but sometimes there isn’t a code for each piece of your equipment.

A better type of "learning remote" can actually receive the infrared codes from your other remotes by just aiming each remote at it and pressing each button that you want it to learn. It can take a while to send the codes of all of your remote buttons, but once it is set up, this one remote should be able to control all of your equipment. If you are going to get this type of remote, you should have it demonstrated to see how easy it is to use since the quality and complexity varies quite a bit.

Learning remotes are sometimes included with A/V Receivers since receivers are often used as the main switching device for all of your A/V inputs and outputs in a home entertainment system.

The best learning remotes also allow you to program single button "macros". These single buttons actually contain a string of automated commands such as: "Turn on TV, Turn on DVD, Turn on Receiver, Set Receiver input to DVD, Set TV input to DVD, and finally Play DVD". A good example of a learning remote with macros is the "Pronto" made by Phillips.

2 Way remotes

Two way remotes are remote controls that (in addition to all of the other things mentioned above) can upload and display information on the remote’s LCD screen from your equipment. This lets you see information like what radio station you are tuned to or what input is active on your receiver, etc...

HAVi control systems

HAVi (Home Audio Video interoperability) is a standardized technical specification that allows for bi-directional communication between audio, video and other components linked together by "firewire". This allows command and control of all of the components that are linked together including routing of power signals between devices. This is a relatively new standard and not all manufacturers have components that are compatible.

Mitsubishi has developed an HDTV with this HAVi system where the TV is the primary control device and any firewire enabled component that is plugged into the network of equipment can be controlled from the TV. Since not all components are available with this firewire technology, Mitsubishi has added a "NetCommand" system that allows the TV remote to control everything. Once everything is set up, the TV displays onscreen menus for all of your components and lets you choose and control them.

Once the "Netcommand" system is set up, control becomes somewhat automated. So, for example if you select the DVD player from the onscreen display, the TV and Receiver will automatically switch to the correct DVD inputs and the TV remote will now operate the DVD player.

Crestron control systems

Crestron is a company that makes high end control system components that are designed for sophisticated control and automation of A/V systems. The primary control unit is usually a LCD touch screen which can be wireless and sit on a table or be wall mounted in several locations throughout the home. This is useful if you want audio and video distributed to several rooms with multiple remote control stations. Crestron systems will not only control your home theater components, but can also control your lighting, curtains, electric screens, video security systems, and even environmental temperature and humidity controls.

Crestron makes a number of different Color and B&W LCD touch panels ranging in size from 6" up to 15" that can have a customized screen layout that can even have the floor plan of your home appear on it. They can be wired or wireless and can have 1 way or 2 way control. These installations usually require a professional and often require a lot of custom wiring in the walls. If you are creating a home theater from the ground up, you should consider their offerings. See the Crestron web site at

So in summary, you can get rid of all of those remotes and replace them with one. A warning: The new remote may be a little difficult to get used to at first. It will simplify many tasks but you will need to learn new functions that are not familiar, especially since this new remote is going to control many more functions than any single remote.

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Don West
Don West

Don West is the author of several eBooks including "Home Theater Design - a complete guide" which is featured on his web site at

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