Say No to IR Blasters! The DirecTV RF Remote

I spent the better part of the 2000's trying to banish IR blasters from our living room.

They managed to combine poor form and poor function. Wires running under and around our components, IR emitters affixed to the front of our components, messing up the whole look of our living room.

And they didn't always work! It was an exercise in frustration. 

With our new built-in home theater cabinets, our components are tucked away out of sight. So it looked like we were headed back to IR blasters. 

Until DirecTV stepped in to save the day.

Remote Control Types

First, some background. 

In most cases, your electronics are capable of receiving IR (infrared) commands, which require a direct line of sight. 

Obviously, if you're keeping your components inside a cabinet, that's a nonstarter. If I'm watching TV, I don't want to leave all of my cabinets open so that my remote control can change the channel (DirecTV box) or change the volume (stereo receiver). 

IR blasters were one solution to this problem. An IR receiver sits in your line of sight, and it passes your remote commands into your cabinets over a bunch of wires, "blasting" the command directly into the hidden component. 

I can't stand IR blasters, for the reasons described above. 

So IR is out. What are our options?

In some cases, your electronics can be controlled via wi-fi - like the AppleTV, for instance, which can be controlled with an iPhone or an iPad (or with the included IR remote.)

But there are 2 issues here. First, wi-fi control is not universal - or even all that common. Secondly, it's not standardized. Even if you could find a cabinet full of wi-fi controlled components, you're going to be switching between apps on your tablet to control everything. Not a user-friendly solution. 

(At least, until Apple releases the iRemote platform. I'll keep the dream alive!)

RF remote control is the best of all worlds. You don't need everything to be on the same wireless network, you don't need a line of sight (it's omnidirectional and works through walls and cabinet doors), and it's incredibly user-friendly - it works in exactly the same way that your IR remotes did. 

RF remote controls are common these days, but full integration is typically limited to higher end electronics. 

For full integration, your remote has to be able to send RF commands, and your hidden components need to be able to receive RF commands. 

If your components can't receive RF, then you're right back to square one - your RF remote will send commands to an RF receiver, which will transmit those commands to the components via IR blaster. AARGH!

Sony Bravia Sync

Sony absolutely delivered with Bravia Sync. After years of struggle with getting components to work together. (i.e., change the TV input to "HDMI2", then change the receiver input to "Game", then you should have audio and video!), Sony was a breath of fresh air. 

Put simply, if you have a Sony TV, it will take control of components hooked up to it via HDMI. Put a disc in the Blu-Ray player, push play, and the TV input automatically changes to the Blu-Ray player. Push 'Volume Up', and the Receiver volume changes - not the TV. 

For lack of a better tagline, it "just works". It doesn't present any line-of-sight issues - just point your remote at the TV, and all those components inside the cabinet do everything they're supposed to. It's remarkable, really.

But the DirecTV HR34 isn't a Sony product, so Sync is out. And it's the single component that gets the most use. Problem? No problem. 

DirecTV RF Integration

I am willing to wager that most DirecTV users have no idea this function exists. I was surprised, frankly. 

The HR34 is capable of receiving RF commands, right out of the box. No add-on antennae, no RF dongles. 

You just need an RF remote. And DirecTV is happy to sell them to you. 

We purchased a DirecTV RC66RX remote - which uses the old DirecTV remote format - from Best Buy. (It's more expensive at Best Buy, but I had a bunch of expiring Reward Zone coupons.)

The DirecTV remote was simple to program - the HR34 communicated with the remote for a few seconds while I held the two in direct line-of-sight. 

Go into the "Remote Control" settings, and then "Advanced", and switch IR to RF. Then, enter an unnecessarily complicated series of button-presses (seriously, it was like 30 keys), and you're off!

This may be the most successful and least expensive home theater addition I've ever made. You can find these remotes on eBay for less than $10. If you have an HR34, it's a must. 

The experience of using the RF remote is.... exactly like using the IR remote. There is no lag, there is no change whatsoever. 

And that's exactly what DirecTV was going for. A completely seamless experience. 

Except now, you can leave the receiver tucked away in your cabinets. 

Final Verdict: FOUR STARS

1 comment :

  1. Your information was spot on thank you