Product Review - The Lexicon 500T System Controller - April, 1996

By Daniel Long


Lexicon Controller

Take Control! - The Lexicon 500T System Controller; Infrared control range: 30' (9m) @ 60 angle to components receiving the signal; IR carrier frequency range: 20kHz - 111kHz; Maximum number of programmable buttons: 500; Number of pages available: 23; Macro capability : 100 with 24 steps each; Display size : 5" x 2.7" (127mm x 68mm); Dimensions : 9"W x 5.3"D x 3.5"H (229mm x 135mm x 89mm); Weight : 1.9lbs; $2,000; Lexicon Inc., 100 Beaver Street, Waltham, MA 02154-8425, Phone: 617-736-0300; Fax: 617-891-0340; E-mail [email protected].

My experience with remotes up till now has been quite pleasant. You see, I have a pretty good relationship with the fifteen or so remotes scattered around my living room and bedroom tables, shelves, cabinets, side tables ... (you get the idea!) because I have an aptitude for such things.

About a year ago, a colleague of mine sold me an Onkyo universal remote. It came with about sixty pre-labelled buttons and had two modes, effectively doubling it's button capability. I programmed and used it and quite liked it. Only problem is, I sometimes forget which button does what. So I reliably use only about a third of what it's capable of. And I think that's a lot. The Kenwood THX system I reviewed for Secrets also came with a learning remote that was as simple as the Onkyo wasn't. (It wasn't for me, anyway. Not enough buttons.)

And then one day, Albert Tay of Elpa Singapore (one of the biggest wigs in town; apart from Lexicon, they also sell Mark Levinson, Vidikron, Thiel, etc.) whispered, "hey, Dan... you wanna review the 500T?" Naturally I did, after I found out this wasn't your everyday universal remote, but a full featured programmable system controller that seemed to be the answer to ALL my prayers. So, I took it home.

Why this name? Because it has a 500 button(!) capacity. Means you can program and edit 500 buttons to duplicate every remote in your den. You do this by first creating a page and then editing it (if this sounds like a computer, well, the Lexicon 500T is one, essentially). Editing means drawing buttons (the size is up to you) onto the page and choosing your preferred button shape, adding references to other pages so you can go from, say a living room page, to a main menu, or to a Pioneer LD player page etc.

Teach and Learn
The page up till this point is dumb. You have to teach it to do what you want, like you would any learning remote. One of the things I can't get any learning remote to do is duplicate a hold-down active button. Like the volume controls on my Yamaha DSP-E1000 Dolby Pro Logic surround processor remote control. Pressing it for just an instant moves the volume up or down a step. Keep it pressed, and it continues moving either up or down. The Onkyo remote control doesn't do it, and neither does the Kenwood. However, the Lexicon allows you to edit a button after you've taught it, so it can do this (and other things). More on this in a while.

The well-written manual (mine was a photocopy; they had run out of originals) also goes into detail about how you should set about aligning your source remote for proper transmission during a learn function. If the signal from one of your original remote controls causes an overload in the 500T, it tells you, and you can instantly get it to re-learn. Without leaving the editing menu, you can also test a button to see if it works. If you've done everything right and it still doesn't work, you can edit it by changing the minimum number of repeats (number of times the command is repeated during a press) and set the sustain "ON"; doing this will send the signal as long as the button is down (plus the minimum number of repeats). This way, I got ALL the buttons I wanted to work in exactly the correct manner.

Pages and Pages
Another distinguishing feature is the page. This allowed me to organize my remotes in any way I want. I kept most remotes, e.g., VCR and LD player, on their own pages (properly labeled!), had two remotes share some pages (like my cable and TV remotes; when I watch TV, I usually watch cable), and I put links in them that gave me instant switchability (from one remote page to another). I even got the drawn buttons (that I drew) to look like the real ones on the original remote controls!

Last, but certainly not least, the Macro capability is terrific. The 500T gives you up to 100 of these, each with a string of a maximum 23 buttons (in other words, the macro, when run, will automatically press up to 23 buttons in the sequence you wish). I have one that powers up my Yamaha, powers on the TV and sets an LD playing (my amps aren't remote controllable, so I had to do that on my own! Drats!). Cable subscribers! Good news. You normally switch channels doing this:"5", "9", for HBO, right. Now, you just plant your thumb on: "HBO"! It doesn't seem like much but hey, if you change channels at the rate I do (1 per 15secs), you'll appreciate this. Doesn't work because the 500T is too fast? Add a delay between the button commands by editing the macro.

Other stuff
The 500T looks gorgeous in gray with a rather large LCD touch panel slanted towards you as it sits on the coffee table and glows a faint blue in the dark. It isn't heavy, but you wouldn't want to be carrying it in your shirt pocket. No problems with the touch screen. I hardly ever hit the wrong button (figure of speech) after getting used to it.

The 500T also comes with a Microsoft Windows (tm) software program that allows a dealer/user to upload or download customized programs (You can't program it from scratch via a computer link, however). So, if you want, you can save whatever you've done to the 500T in a library on your computer and put it back into the 500T when needed (like if you completely blow out the program for some reason). A dealer can create generic programs and download to several units in the store as a starting point for further customization.

For a product like the 500T, I can't say Lexicon has done anything wrong. It looks and feels like a million dollars (actually about S$3,500), and works like it. In the brochure, Lexicon says the 500T is not only targeted at elaborate home theaters, but also corporate boardrooms, screening rooms, and teleconferencing centers where many pieces of equipment are at use, each with a remote. It would be impossible for a non-technical person to be able to operate everything in a modern electronic conference room. With the 500T, after proper customization by the dealer (included in the price quoted above), this doesn't pose a problem any more.

Me, I probably need counseling to wean myself off this beauty. I'm sending it back this afternoon, with a tear in my eye.

Daniel Long

Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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