Q. Can I Control My Receiver with a Cheap Universal Remote?

A low-end remote is an option, but it may not be the most efficient, says Graig Stephens of Visually Sound.

May. 12, 2008 — by Graig Stephens

Q. Can I control a receiver with a cheap universal remote under $50? What is the best hookup for my TV and surround sound system; connect everything to my receiver then to my TV via HDMI or all thru my TV then out to the receiver via Toslink? -Scott, Kalamazoo, MI

Lower end universal remote controls are pre-programmed with a limited number of the more popular receiver manufacturers IR codes. It should work but you may not be happy with the result. The idea of a universal remote is so you won’t need five remotes to operate a system. The problem with this is not all remotes are the same, meaning one remote’s button may be labeled “Back” while on another it may be labeled “Previous.” On the universal remote it may be labeled “Last.” So you end up searching for buttons instead of enjoying your system. If this remote is for your surround sound system I would recommend purchasing a remote or a control system that is customizable for each device and allows macros. A macro is a series of commands that get stored under one button so the user can turn the system on without needing to press 10 different commands, but macros can be programmed to do almost anything you need.

It’s difficult to answer the second part of your question, without knowing the gear. There are usually two ways to go about this. One is to wire all audio feeds to the receiver and all the video feeds to the display. This is usually done when the receiver does not up-convert. This is common in older receivers. Newer higher-end receivers will do video upconverison and have a quality video processor built in. I have never heard of wiring everything to the TV and then the audio back to the receiver. This seems like a lot of unnecessary cable. It sounds like you have a newer receiver with HDMI, but you will want to confirm that it’s HDMI 1.3a. If it is a lower series number, then you may want to bypass the receiver. Lower versions of HDMI have compatibility issues. 1.3a is backwards compatible.

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