April 11, 2013 by Grant Clauser
Get rid of remotes? Now you’re thinking I’m in crazy territory, but hear me out. Look at these receiver remotes below. All terrible, right? Too many small, confusing, poorly-organized buttons. None with usable backlighting. All have face designs that defy logic. Now look at the apps below. The buttons are larger, most allow you quicker access to features and are easier to use. Finally, look at 3rd-party controllers. Those interfaces were designed for simplicity and functionality. They allow you to watch a movie, listen to a Pandora station or play a video game without needing the wisdom of The Force to guide you through the process.
Typical receiver remotes
Three apps for receivers
Control interfaces from custom programmed systems: Crestron and Control4
Every home theater installer in the country tucks away the receiver remote almost immediately after installing a system. Instead of the supplied remote, they integrate a control system or a universal remote. I say let the receiver companies ditch the complex fields of buttons and instead bundle basic set-up remotes akin to the ones projector makers usually offer. Then you can add a universal remote and make your life a whole lot easier.
4. Headphone Jack (well maybe, but)
My guess is that headphone use in the home is pretty much like headphone use outside of the home—the headphones are being connected to a portable device, not a big receiver. Aren’t most receiver placed far away (or even in other rooms) form the seating position anyway? I know they come in handy for late-night movies when you don’t want to wake the kids. For that I like the new Roku 3 player that puts a headphone jack on the remote—that’s genius.
5. Multiple listening modes
When you sit down in your comfy chair to listen to music are you thinking, gee, why can’t this sound like an open amphitheater in the rain or the sweaty nightclub in DC where I lost my wallet? Nope, I want to listen to music the way it was recorded. Packing 57 listening modes into a system just clutters up the experience. I may want to switch between standard stereo and a fake multichannel mode, but that’s really about it.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.
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