One of the most important and often overlooked aspects of quality in the home theater experience is control. With the plethora of components that make up an AV system, ease-of-use can make or break a system. You can have the best gear but if you can’t control it easily, frustration can quickly result.
Line-of-sight from your seat is often a problem. You might want to put your electronics in a cabinet or closet for instance. Or you’d like to install a projector above and behind your seating. Traditional remotes use IR (infrared) codes to send their commands, which require a sight line between the controller and the component. The only solution for this is to use an RF (radio frequency) remote. These are far less common and usually quite expensive. Now there is a solution from Next Generation Home Products that will convert any IR-based remote into an RF-based one. The only requirement is that the remote accept AA or AAA batteries.
- Operating Range – Up to 100 feet
- Operating Frequencies – 433.92 MHz and 418 MHz
- Battery: One 1.5V 2/3 AAA (Rechargeable)
- MSRP: $54.95
- Accessories – Extra transmitter: $27.95, USB Charger: $10.95, 3-Eye Emitter: $15.95, 6-Eye Emitter: $24.95
- Next Generation Home Products
I can tell you from my own experience that eliminating the need to point your remote is one of the most liberating things ever. I can just set the remote on a table and send multiple commands without a thought as to how I’m holding the controller. I no longer have to execute poses worthy of a yoga master to control my electronics.
The Remote Extender comes as a kit for $54.95. You get the transmitter, two batteries, a AA battery sleeve, a receiver with a wall-wart power supply and a single stick-on IR blaster along with complete instructions. 3-eye and 6-eye IR blasters are available for $15.95 and $24.95 respectively. After charging the batteries in the receiver base for 24 hours, you are ready to go. Simply insert one battery in the transmitter. This combination replaces one AAA battery in your remote. If you need to replace a AA battery use the adapter sleeve. On the component side you have two choices. You can stick the bundled IR blaster over the component’s sensor, or plug a mini-headphone cable into the IR control input in the back if present. Call to manufacturers – I LOVE gear that includes IR control input. It’s so much better than sticking emitters on the front. Emitters are ugly and they can fall off. Most receivers have rear IR inputs. My cable box even has one. For some mysterious reason TVs and projectors do not have them. It just killed me when I installed my Pioneer Elite plasma only to have to stick an IR blaster on the front of my otherwise gorgeous display.
Once you’re set up, you can use the remote normally except – no more pointing! The RF receiver will also blast out IR signals within a 15-foot line-of-sight of your components. If you place it properly, it will relay IR signals to all the gear in your rack. If you have components with rear IR inputs and outputs, you can daisy-chain all of them onto a single cable that plugs in to the RF receiver. Use a standard male-male mini-headphone cable (3.5mm), either stereo or mono will work. These cables can be found online or at Radio Shack for a few bucks. If you have a lot of components you might want to use some Y-adapters since the RF receiver has only one jack. To equip multiple remotes, you can purchase additional transmitters for $27.95 each. They are currently available in two frequencies 418MHz and 433MHz. According to Next Generation, more frequencies will be available soon.
The real possibilities open up when you integrate a universal remote into your system. Controlling everything with a single remote is a real quality-of-life upgrade for your home theater. There are many reasonably-priced products on the market from Logitech, Universal Remote Control and others, but most of them are IR-based. You can use the Remote Extender to upgrade any of these controllers to RF operation. The only challenge is tying in all your electronics to the single output on the RF receiver. With the multi-eye emitters available from Next Generation and readily-available mini-headphone cables you can make it work.
In addition to extra transmitters and emitters you can also add a USB battery charger to your system. This allows you to charge the special batteries without upending the RF receiver.
Since I already have a control system in place, I tested the Remote Extender with several of my OEM remotes. I plugged both IR blasters and mini-headphone cables into the RF receiver. In all cases the Extender worked without issue. I did use the sensitivity switch in the RF receiver to improve reception with my cable box. You can also lower the reception sensitivity if you have interference problems from nearby sources.
If you’re looking for an easy way to solve line-of-sight issues in your home theater control system, the Remote Extender is an excellent fix for an annoying problem. Whether you use a single, or multiple remotes, the Remote Extender allows you to control your gear more easily with no more than a battery replacement. Since the RF receiver supports both IR blasters and direct connection to an IR input, you can integrate the Remote Extender into an existing control system. With many RF-based control systems costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars, Next Generation Home Products has created a simple and elegant solution for the rest of us. Bravo!
Note: By the time you read this, Next Generation Home Products will have become Next Gen. Their new URL will be www.nghp.net. Only the name will change, all their products and services will remain.