Though little glitches have popped up, and required ironing out,* my made-over home theater setup has received its final component, for a while anyway. We replaced our HDTV and the sound system (receiver, sub woofer, speakers), while retaining the 10-year old CD Jukebox, the Logitech wireless music system for the computer, and the Blu-ray player we got for Christmas.
These components are working together in relative harmony,** but there was a still a bit of a problem. Five remote controls. Even the two Sony components had two similar remotes, neither of which could be dumped. Amazingly enough, The Other Half was managing without throwing them at me. But I was unsatisfied. I mean, I got these new HDMI-connected components not only for their zazz factor, but for simplification.
So, what to do? Run down to Big Lots and get a $20 All4One "universal" remote? In my experience, those devices can be useful, but they are certain disappointments. They'll do the basics, but if you have special features you need to access, you'll need to haul out the old remotes. This is particularly true now, when many of my components have very minimalist control panels on their physical selves. So, I needed something better.
Have you seen the commercial with the dweebie guy who wishes he was Kevin Bacon? You may have missed it while figuring out that he was played by Kevin Bacon, that the commercial is for a fancy universal remote. It's a Logitech Harmony, and they come in quite a variety of classes: cheap, pricey, pricier, expensive, very expensive and ridiculously expensive. The higher up you go, the more features you get, the more devices you can control, and the flashier buttons and gizmos it has. I wanted the Harmony 650 after some study. It controls 5 devices, has a little color display screen, and seems like what I need.
But the 650 is pricey at about $100. So, I've been scoping out "deals" on it. After sussing out that there were no real deals to be had (even at Ultimate Electronics' going out of business sale), I went to the usual suspects: TigerDirect, Amazon and eBay. Ultimately, I got one for about $50, and it arrived two days later!
So, how does it work? So far, it's fantastic. The Harmony 650 comes with a USB cable to plug in to your computer. It doesn't work with my Mac PowerBook, but I think Apple's pretty much abandoned me too. Fortunately, it works just fine with a Windows PC. You go to Logitech's website, go through a quick registration, download a little software, and then set up your remote. The process is pretty slick. You just need to know the manufacturer and model of each piece of equipment (which is usually pretty easy to figure out). It walks you through that, and it walks you through how you watch TV, listen to music, watch movies, etc. I'm sort of a techie, and I found it simple. If you're not into gadgets as much, you might find it a little more challenging. But not much. (Apparently, if you have a device that your Harmony doesn't know, you can use your existing remote to program it, button by button.)
The remote has an "all off" button which is very cool. When I select "watch TV," the TV, stereo and cable box all turn on, and the controls are set for that. If I then press "watch movie," the cable box turns off, the Blu-ray player turns on, and the controls are set for that. It's really very, very cool. I didn't realize that audio/video equipment understand "on," "off" and "toggle power." It's a distinction I never thought of before, but it keeps the devices from turning back on when you don't want them to. Anyway, I've found just a couple of things that the remote doesn't do intuitively, but supposedly, I can go back online and make adjustments.***
I still have all of the old remotes in a drawer nearby, should I need them, but I think I'm going to be able to eliminate them for about 95% of the things I need to do! Mission accomplished.
* Glitches do remain, like a left channel speaker that sounds weak, and my Sony HT-SS370 receiver's troublesome tendency to turn itself off. Still working on that.
**Two puns on the word "harmony" is probably one too many.
***I have already gone back to Logitech's site to fiddle with the settings. I added some favorite channels (with some station icons), added a command that lets me go through the different Dolby/Pro-Logic/Music/Movie settings on the stereo. I added a "random" button for the CD player. Basically, any function that you think you'll need can be added, and put into the control screen or assigned to any button. In short: it's awesome.