Product Review - Marantz RC-2000 Learning Remote Control - June, 1997

By Ralph Calabria


Marantz RC-2000

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Marantz RC-2000 Remote Control; weight approximately 1/2 lb; requires four AA batteries; $250; Marantz America Inc., 440 Medinah Rd. Roselle, IL 60172 Phone (708)-307-3100.

The age of home theater is upon us, and with it comes a vast array of highly technological, skinny black boxes to perform all the great things that home theater has to offer. And with all the black boxes, comes all the remote controls to operate those boxes. After all, this is what we expect from our lives (and our home theater) as we approach the 21st century: convenience, ease of use, and simplicity through technology, right?

In a typical home theater setup today, it's essential to own the necessities such as a big screen TV, receiver (preamp/amp), a laserdisc player, and/or a VCR or two. Most homes also have the standard audio gear comprised of a CD player, dueling tape decks, and an AM/FM tuner. Let's not leave out the newer components making their way into our homes such as DSS and DVD. So, it's reasonable to say that you may have several remotes hanging around your listening room. I know that if I want to watch a laserdisc, I need a minimum of 3 remotes at my beck and call. As macho as this may seem (come on guys, you know how difficult it is for you to relinquish control of your remote, let alone three!), it's a real pain in the butt.

There is a cure to multi-remote disorder syndrome: it's the Marantz RC-2000 Learning Remote. If you think RC is an acronym for Really Cool, you get partial credit. The RC (remote control) 2000 (our 21st century buddy and pal) is really cool. It has the capability to learn just about any infrared command that spews out from a remote. This little package isn't just your run-of-the-mill learning remote; rather, it mimics more a computer processor with its added functions such as MACRO programming (discussed later in this report), and a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD).

The RC-2000 has 56 buttons. Each "class" of buttons (e.g., transport, numeric keypad, direct function) are strategically located and lumped together, making them easy to find and operate. The top buttons operate power on/off. The next set of buttons are the 4 MACRO and 8 direct-functions buttons. The commands for each direct-function button (i.e., all special commands for each component) are read on the LCD screen. You may scroll through four "pages" of direct commands to access up to 32 commands for each component in your system. The 10 buttons that are used to access each of the components in your system are labeled: LD, TV, VCR1, DSS/VCR2, TUNER, CD, TAPE1, TAPE2, AMP, and AUX. There are the usual numeric keypad and transport buttons typically found on standard remote controls. All the buttons are automatically back-lit (green and yellow) when the remote senses low ambient light. This is a nice feature. Some of my remotes only have certain key buttons that are back-lit. I like to watch movies in a very dark room, so a totally illuminated remote is a blessing for me. To save battery power, the illumination is on a timer that shuts off the light after 5 seconds if no buttons are pushed. This timer setting is adjustable through one of the many menus on the RC-2000. There is also a lighting button on the side of the remote that lets you activate the lighting at will in low ambient light. Too many buttons? Too confusing? Not really. The 42 page user guide (not including the 48 pages translated in French) is very comprehensive, and it takes you through all the RC-2000's capabilities step by step.

The RC-2000 has three modes in which it operates: MODE, CLONE, and MACRO. I'll briefly describe each of their functions.

MODE: This function is broken down into four subfunctions: LEARN, NAME, RC-5, and USE. The RC-5 function is used when you have equipment that responds to RC-5 commands, such as Marantz and Philips. No additional programming is necessary if the RC-2000 is used with such equipment. These commands are part of the RC-2000's permanent memory and do not consume any memory dedicated for learning commands. The USE function is the mode the remote must be in to send out the infrared commands. The last two functions are where the fun begins. The LEARN function is used when programming the RC-2000 to learn commands from different remotes. As intimidating as the RC-2000 may be with its 56 button multi-function capability, learning commands is really quite simple and logical. Here's a typical example of how the RC-2000 would learn the PLAY function from a laserdisc player remote:

Put the RC-2000 in LEARN mode, place the RC-2000 in alignment with the laserdisc player remote (back end to front end), press the LD button on the RC-2000, press the play button on the RC-2000 and while holding down that button, press the play button on the laserdisc remote. The word OK appears in the LCD window, indicating the operation was a success.

Each learning function takes about 5 seconds. It's that easy. There's no need to go back to school for your computer science degree. In fact, the RC-2000 learns commands pretty much like most other learning remotes, only it has the capability to learn LOTS more. The last subfunction under MODE is the NAME mode. This mode allows you to customize your RC-2000 by rewriting a function name, status name, or direct function command name. This mode is not only Really Cool, but it also makes it easier to locate and execute direct function commands.

The CLONE mode on the RC-2000 is a specialty item that not all of us can afford to use. If you're fortunate enough to own two RC-2000s, you can use the CLONE mode to copy (download) all the commands from one RC-2000 to another. There are advantages to this. Considering how many commands that can be stored in this remote, and the amount of time it takes to put all those commands into its database, having a backup enables one to sleep better at night. If you have multiple audio/video systems in your home (in two different rooms), you only need to program one remote, then copy all of the functions to the second one, and then you can use both remotes in both systems.

I've saved the best mode for last: the MACRO. Once you've programmed your RC-2000 to learn all your other remotes' commands, you're ready for MACRO. This mode is by far the "Really Coolest." The MACRO mode is very much like running macros on a computer program, that is, executing a series of specific functions carried out in a given sequence after pushing only one button. You can program 4 macros, each having up to 20 commands in the sequence. In your A/V setup, how many times have you turned on your TV, set the video select to video 1, turned on your receiver (preamp/amp), selected the video source (LD, for example) on your receiver, selected a surround mode, and started the LD player. Well, with the touch of one button (two actually), all these commands can be executed. Sounds pretty wild, doesn't it? Programming a MACRO is as easy as using the LEARN mode. Just think how impressed your friends will be when you hit that macro button, followed by the PLAY button, and all of a sudden, your home theater comes to life, turning things on, switching things, starting this and that, and playing your favorite movie or CD track, all AFTER you've put the remote down on the coffee table! With the MACRO mode, you can be as creative as you want to be. All you need to do is use the proper sequence when programming the macro. For example, turning the receiver on in the macro should be done before selecting the Dolby Pro Logic mode.

As I previously mentioned, the RC-2000 comes pre-programmed with several commands for Marantz equipment and other gear that utilizes the RC-5 infrared signal. For those of you who own a Marantz DP-870 Dolby Digital Processor, and you're using it in a separates (preamp/amp) setup, you'll be happy to know that the RC-2000 is pre-programmed with all the necessary commands (volume, input select, mute) to operate the DP-870 without having to get up out of your seat. One additional command that I would like to have seen on the RC-2000 for the DP-870 is the test mode and channel balancing. This is still a two-person job (or one very fast person).

The only thing I found bothersome with the RC-2000 is its size. It's fairly bulky, as remotes go. I had difficulty wrapping my fingers around the remote, so I needed two hands to operate the remote comfortably. Those of you with long fingers may not have this problem. In all fairness, however, the ergonomics of the remote are good, considering the massive number of buttons it has.

I've grown to know and love the RC-2000 over the past weeks. However, I must warn all of you remote-hogs out there. Spouses that were once not at all interested in using your remotes, may come to blows with you once the RC-2000 enters your home, so be prepared. The RC-2000 has changed the way I use my home theater. Life is simple again, and I'm happy.

Ralph Calabria

Copyright 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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