General questions about how universal remotes work - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 05-14-2009, 10:33 PM - Thread Starter
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Hey guys here is my current set up:
Panasonic Plasma TV
Scientific Atlanta PVR-HD (8300HD)
and a Klipsch CS500 that is used as the dvd player but also the source selector (the cable goes through that.. although this can be changed quite easily by plugging it directly into the television and having the audio go to the klipsch?)

Basically I am trying to get a universal remote that works "as is" so that you can press watch tv and it will make sure that the tv is on, on the right input, PVR is on, and the right audio source on the klipsch is on... then there is an off button that turns everything off..

Then you can press watch DVD and it will make sure everything is set correctly...
I'm basically asking: What would be the best remote for this and 2nd: How do those remotes know if the tv, klipsch, pvr are on... what if someone presses the TV button by accident? I am a pretty tech savy guy.. Could I do the work myself and is it easy to set it up so that the remote doesnt need line of sight to the boxes?

Guys I really appreciate the help if you have any questions please ask (I tried to be as detailed as possible)
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post #2 of 23 Old 05-14-2009, 11:18 PM
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There is no best remote but there is a great remote within everyones budget. Whats your budget?

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post #3 of 23 Old 05-14-2009, 11:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Well... Ideally I would like to go as cheap as possible... $100 maybe? Is that too low for a remote I want?

I would pay what I need to for a remote that can be SIMPLE once set up.. ie for when people come over and want to watch the tv... I still don't get how remotes can consistently know if devices are on or off and also to know "how many times to press input to get to the right input device" or are there really codes that tell it to go to a specific input and codes to turn OFF and a different code for ON?
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post #4 of 23 Old 05-14-2009, 11:54 PM
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Typical Universal Remotes dont know if a device is ON or OFF or what input the device is on.

FYI... There are more elaborate systems that actually communicate with your TV and AV Receiver etc that do know if these things are ON or OFF and what input they are on but these types are in the thousands not hundreds of dollar range.

There are TV's and AV Receivers and DVD players etc that have discrete commands available. That means they have an ON and an OFF. They have an INPUT1 and an INPUT2. This means that you dont need to know if a device is on or off. When you press OFF on the remote all of the OFF commands are sent. If something was already off it will stay off. Anything that was on will turn off.

When you want to watch a DVD you would press a button labeled DVD that would initiate a series of commands......

TV POWER ON
AVRECEIVER POWER ON
DVD PLAYER POWER ON
TV INPUT 1 (wherever DVD is)
AV RECEIVER INPUT DVD
DVD PLAYER PLAY (optional command that would start the DVD playing)

A seperate series of commands would be created for each source so your remote control would have buttons labeled DVD, DIRECTV, CD, XM etc.

Some remotes have onboard programming thats done right on the remote by pressing buttons in a specific order to set the remote up. Other remotes have PC software that allows you create and edit a file then download it to the remote.

The panasonic TV may have discretes, not sure about your cable box or the klipsch unit. All-in-one type boxes like the klipsch are usually trouble makers but you might get lucky. I didnt find anything for it in RTI's Integration Designer but that doesnt neccesarily mean you cant get codes for it.

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post #5 of 23 Old 05-15-2009, 05:06 AM
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it sounds to me like what you want is a harmony remote... it will do what you want it to do, (i.e. press "watch a dvd" and everything comes on and is on the correct inputs, etc.)... since the remote remembers the "state" of your devices (i.e. are they on or off, etc.), it doesn't require 2-way communication...

very simple to program, and a large support group here at avs if you do run into any problems...

all of them "do" the same things... pick one that fits in your budget and fits in your hand... go try out a few at a local big box store, the scour fleabay and the big river to buy it...

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post #6 of 23 Old 05-15-2009, 06:40 AM
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Any decent universal from $10 to $2000 can be programmed to do what you want so long as it can do macros, aka activities. Those are the steps you program in for power and input selections, etc. The cheap ones aren't as user friendly to use or program. The more expensive ones may have programming wizards, LCDs, touchscreens, etc. Depends on what you're willing to spend. I'm not willing to spend more than $20 for a remote and enjoy the programming part of it, so I use JP1 (links in my sig for more info). My $10 JP1 remote does all I need (a dozen devices and a few dozen activities). If your devices lack discrete codes, you really need a JP1 cable to program it from your computer in order to be able to track device states. Harmony can usually manage that sort of thing with much less programming effort. As other's have said, sounds like harmony is more in line with your current budget and requirements.
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post #7 of 23 Old 05-15-2009, 03:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Wow thanks for all the replies, the macros and discrete codes answer so much.
From my research it looks like logitech remotes are extremely easy to program on the computer... Does there program let you set up custom macros? Looking at there website, their cheapest remote is:
Harmony® 510 Advanced Universal Remote
Do any of you have any reasons NOT to get that remote compared to one of there 100-200 dollar remotes?

Harmony® 550 Advanced Universal Remote Looks like it has a color LCD, any other benefits?
The Harmony® 670 Advanced Universal Remote Looks really sleek?

Any input from you guys is great... you guys are really helpful, I really do want to let you know how much you are helping me... I'm from an area that just has had lots of fires recently and when people stay at our house because they are evacuated they end up flipping out because they can't check on the fire because they cant get the TV working
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post #8 of 23 Old 05-15-2009, 05:20 PM
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I think the harmony 880 is pretty great. The harmony one looks good to (never used it) and I picked up a refurb 720 for $50 or so recently... it's got a lot of the upsides of the 880 without being quite as fancy or expensive.

But I think a harmony in your price range is what you are looking for.

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post #9 of 23 Old 05-15-2009, 06:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chasechasechase View Post

Looking at there website, their cheapest remote is:
Harmony® 510 Advanced Universal Remote
Do any of you have any reasons NOT to get that remote compared to one of there 100-200 dollar remotes?

No, unless you just prefer the button layout and/or color screen of their higher priced remotes. All Harmonys have pretty much the same programming capabilities.

Personally, I feel their best value is in the lower price ranges. Once you get into the price range of the Harmony One or their touchscreen remotes, there are other options that are more customizable and are more sturdily constructed.

Enjoy!

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post #10 of 23 Old 05-16-2009, 12:11 AM - Thread Starter
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great I guess I'll be getting a logitech one soon... Does anyone know how to find out if my specific panasonic model supports discrete commands?

Are those discrete commands easy to select in the logitech program?

Also are custom macros easy to make through their program?

I have macs and pcs, do they both work the same?
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post #11 of 23 Old 05-19-2009, 09:37 PM
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Check out the 520. Can handle more devices if you ever need it, and I find the blue backlight easier to read.

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Harmo.../dp/B000BDG3HU

I have yet to find any device not in the Harmony database, but if it's not in there, it's easy to use your current remote and teach it any commands needed.
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post #12 of 23 Old 05-21-2009, 09:52 AM
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Just received my new Harmony 510.. what a great remote. I've tried many different universal types over the years and nothing has worked like this. QUESTION: I can program the way things turn on at the push of one button. For instance if I just want to watch TV using the TV speakers the TV will turn on and the satellite receiver will turn on. Fine. Sometimes I want to turn on the TV and listen through the home theater system like I do with DVDs. Can I program a second way to turn on the TV, satellite receiver and home theater, or can I only set up one way to watch the one TV?

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post #13 of 23 Old 05-21-2009, 02:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnywyoming View Post

Just received my new Harmony 510.. what a great remote. I've tried many different universal types over the years and nothing has worked like this. QUESTION: I can program the way things turn on at the push of one button. For instance if I just want to watch TV using the TV speakers the TV will turn on and the satellite receiver will turn on. Fine. Sometimes I want to turn on the TV and listen through the home theater system like I do with DVDs. Can I program a second way to turn on the TV, satellite receiver and home theater, or can I only set up one way to watch the one TV?

You can set up another activity including the home theater. It may be a little tricky trying to turn the TV sound down though. Of course if the TV is on, you could always turn the sound down before selecting the other activity.
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post #14 of 23 Old 05-21-2009, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillyBeatnik View Post

You can set up another activity including the home theater. It may be a little tricky trying to turn the TV sound down though. Of course if the TV is on, you could always turn the sound down before selecting the other activity.

Another option, and what I did, was to add a volume down button. Either on the extra buttons on the screen, or an unused button for that activity.
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post #15 of 23 Old 05-22-2009, 06:21 AM
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Since the Harmony made it easier to do everything, the first change in habits I had was to stop using the TV speakers for anything. I used to just use the TV sound for cable because I didn't want to be bothered with turning on the receiver and changing inputs. Harmony makes it so that is no longer a consideration.
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post #16 of 23 Old 05-22-2009, 06:28 AM
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I also stopped using my TV speakers altogether. I use my AVR in all activities.
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post #17 of 23 Old 05-22-2009, 07:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnnywyoming View Post

Just received my new Harmony 510.. what a great remote. I've tried many different universal types over the years and nothing has worked like this. QUESTION: I can program the way things turn on at the push of one button. For instance if I just want to watch TV using the TV speakers the TV will turn on and the satellite receiver will turn on. Fine. Sometimes I want to turn on the TV and listen through the home theater system like I do with DVDs. Can I program a second way to turn on the TV, satellite receiver and home theater, or can I only set up one way to watch the one TV?

Does the Harmony programming allow for volume control punch through on a "per device" basis or do you only have the option to punch through from one device "remote-wide"?
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post #18 of 23 Old 05-23-2009, 07:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cshepard View Post

Does the Harmony programming allow for volume control punch through on a "per device" basis or do you only have the option to punch through from one device "remote-wide"?

When you set up each Activity, the software asks which device in that Activity controls the volume and which device is used for changing channels (if there is more than one device that can change channels). So you can have the TV control the volume in one Activity and the receiver in another Activity.
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post #19 of 23 Old 05-26-2009, 01:54 PM
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Recently I was perswaded to buy new receiver, and MX-850 remote by installer and he did all the setup for Dish receiver, CD player, & Denon receiver. We didn't quite click and I now want to update Dish receiver & different CD player but have no clue how to do it! Shouldn't I have gotten the software program/instructions when it was purchased?
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post #20 of 23 Old 05-26-2009, 02:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hoosier70guy View Post

Shouldn't I have gotten the software program/instructions when it was purchased?

No, but you can download the software for more URC remotes from their website by registering your remote. Be warned, programming a URC remote is not nearly as simple as programming a Harmony. It may be powerful, but it's not trivial.
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post #21 of 23 Old 05-26-2009, 02:05 PM
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1) You can download the software from URC's website (for the MX series). If you already have most of the devices programmed, it should be simple enough to modify. You can also ask your reseller for the software.
2) Harmony remotes are very easy to program, but you cannot have a lengthy macro (I think 5 or 7 is the limit. The simplicity can bite you if you want anything even remotely complicated.
3) Most modern devices have discrete on/off so it's not an issue. Most cable boxes however, do not have discretes. Some have work arounds, some do not. For example, most dvd players will turn on if you press play. So doing something like play, play, stop is equivalent to a "discrete on"
4) If you want to utilize a length macro, you almost *have* to have RF capability. Otherwise, those macros are not going to work reliably.

I have both Harmony 890 (RF) and URC MX900. The latter wins by a **LANDSLIDE**. But the former takes zero technical knowledge to program.

Thanks,
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post #22 of 23 Old 05-26-2009, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by hansangb View Post

I have both Harmony 890 (RF) and URC MX900. The latter wins by a **LANDSLIDE**. But the former takes zero technical knowledge to program.

I have a Harmony 550 (IR) and URC MX900. The former wins by a landslide. I haven't run into a use case that required the power of the MX900. It really depends on your needs. If there was an RF Harmony that could control my Lutron dimmer, I'd switch my media room remote in a heartbeat.
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post #23 of 23 Old 05-26-2009, 02:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coopasonic View Post

I have a Harmony 550 (IR) and URC MX900. The former wins by a landslide. I haven't run into a use case that required the power of the MX900. It really depends on your needs. If there was an RF Harmony that could control my Lutron dimmer, I'd switch my media room remote in a heartbeat.


True, it depends on what you want to do. But for me to program a "DELETE a show" for my SA8300 DVR box, it takes like 10 steps (including the pauses). So Harmony would be out of luck. The guy who designed 880/890 remotes should be shot. Talk about bad ergonomics. It looks nice, but is horrible to use (physically speaking). The 550 looks pretty decent though.

Thanks,
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