How to choose a remote control extender

By Martin Durham

This article is part 2 of my buyers’ guide to remote control extenders. In it I’ll walk you through the main steps to choosing the best remote control extender for your particular circumstances.



Step 1: Decide what you want your remote control extender to do

When choosing a remote control extender the first thing you need to do is to be absolutely clear what you want it do in terms of your specific situation. For example:

  • You may want to control a small audio-visual device (I’m thinking of something like an Apple TV) which is hidden behind a flat-screen television which is mounted on a wall .
  • You may want to control audio-visual equipment which is hidden behind a cupboard door (where it is easy for you to point your remote control at the cupboard).
  • You may want to control audio-visual equipment which is hidden behind a cupboard door (where it isn’t easy for you to point your remote control at the cupboard – possibly because the cupboard is behind you or even in a different room).
  • You may want to control audio-visual equipment which is in a different room from where you watch and/or listen to it.

Some remote control extenders can be used in any of the above situations, whereas others are really only suitable for more specific applications.

If you can easily point your remote control at the cupboard that contains your audio-visual equipment then you have the choice of the widest range of remote control extenders. Other than cost, your primary considerations are likely to be around aesthetics and the number of devices you want to control.

If you can’t easily point your remote control at the cupboard that contains your audio-visual equipment then you should look at products which allow for separation of the infra-red receiver from the other elements. You can achieve this separation either by installing a cable between your cupboard and somewhere where you can easily point your remote control, or by using a ‘wireless’ solution.

If you need to be able to control your audio-visual equipment from a different room then you need to choose a remote control extender which allows for separation of the infra-red receiver from the other elements. You can achieve this separation either by installing a cable between each room and the equipment you want to control, or by using a ‘wireless’ solution.


Step 2: Decide how many (and what type of) infra-red emitters you require

The number, and type, of infra-red emitters that can be accommodated by a particular remote control extender dictates how many audio-visual devices it can control.

A ‘spot’ emitter can control one audio-visual device and a ‘blaster’ emitter can control as many devices as are within its range and line-of-sight. Depending on the number of devices you want to control you need to choose a remote control extender with enough emitters.

Using one or more ‘spot’ emitters means that you have to find the location of the infra-red receiver on each of your audio-visual devices. This is usually straight-forward but some devices (Sky boxes in particular) can require quite a bit of trial and error as the infra-red receiver is not easy to identify.

Using one or more ‘blaster’ emitters means that you do not have to find the location of the infra-red receiver on each of your audio-visual devices, you can simply place the emitter in front of your equipment and it will control everything within its range and line-of-sight.


Step 3: Decide how visible you want your remote control extender setup to be

Some (usually lower cost) remote control extenders build their infra-red receiver into their electronics module. This means that the electronics module has to be situated somewhere you can see it so that you can point a remote control at it.

Some remote control extenders have a separate infra-red receiver which connects to their electronics module via a cable. This means that the electronics module can be located somewhere out of sight and only the infra-red receiver itself has to be visible.


Step 4: Decide whether you need to be able to control your audio-visual equipment from more than one room

If you need to be able to control your audio-visual equipment from more than one room then you need to choose a remote control extender set which allows multiple infra-red receivers to be connected.


Step 5: Decide how you want to power your remote control extender

Many remote control extenders are supplied with mains power adapters, but some can be powered from an available USB port (or a USB power adapter) or via batteries.


Step 6: Decide whether you want a wired or wireless solution

If you choose a wireless remote control extender solution then be aware that the signals can extend beyond the walls and ceilings of your property. This isn’t really a problem if the nearest property to yours is a few metres away but it can be a problem if you live in a flat, a semi-detached house or a terraced house. In these cases, if your neighbour has the same remote control extender set as you and is using it to control the same devices as you then there is a fighting chance you’re going to end up controlling each other’s kit! For that reason, you might prefer to choose a wired solution if you share walls and/or floors/ceilings with a neighbour.


What next?

You’ve reached the end of part 2 of my buyers’ guide to remote control extenders. Here are links to the other parts: