It sometimes happens that you need to operate audio-visual equipment which you can’t actually see. This may be because:
- You have hidden your audio-visual equipment away in a tasteful cabinet.
- You have put all of your audio-visual equipment in a central location.
- You have set up a way of watching and/or listening to one-or-more audio-visual devices from more than one place.
The problem you are going to have is that most audio-visual equipment uses infra-red light to communicate with its remote control. If you think of your remote control as a torch then you need to be able to shine the torch at your audio-visual equipment in order to get it to work. That simply isn’t going to happen in any of the above situations, so we need to find a way of getting the infra-red signal from your remote control to the equipment you want to operate.
For the purpose of this article we’re going to assume that you don’t want to dump your existing remote controls, and use a smart phone or tablet as your controller instead, and that you intend to use your equipment’s existing remote controls (or a universal remote control). If that is the case, then the solution to your problem is a relatively simple device which we generally refer to on the ReallyCleverHomes website as a remote control extender though you may find other sites which refer to them as infra-red extenders.
Remote control extenders – the basics
Remote control extenders are devices which are capable of receiving an infra-red signal from a remote control and re-transmitting that signal somewhere else. They generally consist of three main elements:
- An infra-red receiver – which receives the signal from your remote control.
- One or more infra-red emitters – which re-transmit the signal from your remote control to the device(s) you want to control.
- An electronics module – which processes the signal received by infra-red receiver and transmit it to the infra-red emitter(s).
How these three elements are packaged varies between different products – largely depending on the application for which they were primarily designed.
Advantages and disadvantages of remote control extenders
- Remote control extenders are generally simple to setup. There is no programming to do, so they are pretty much as close to ‘plug-and-play’ as electronic devices get.
- If you have two identical devices (such as two Sky boxes) in a stack of audio-visual equipment where both can ‘see’ the output of a single remote control extender’s IR emitters then there is no way of controlling them independently. If you send a signal via your remote control extender that one of the devices recognises then they will both recognise it and respond accordingly, just as they would if you pointed your remote control directly at your stack of equipment.
- Remote control extenders can be affected by interference from sources of infra-red other than your remote control (such as some television screens and some light bulbs) which can affect the reliability of their operation. More advanced (and therefore generally more expensive) remote control extenders contain technology to filter out this interference.
- How to use your smartphone or tablet (instead of your remote controls) to control your audio-visual equipment