IR & RF Home Theater

IR & RF Home Theater: a reader asks…

In this part of the universe, the trend is to have a closet built where the a/v and all encompassing electronic equipment resides. My stack is over 70′ away from my main entertainment center and is powered by a Yamaha advantage 840 and includes an array of ceiling mount speakers, 12″ power subwoofers etc. etc ad nauseam/or you get the point. How do I connect my firestick, fire tv blaster and echo to the closet stack. Im currently running mx890’s with an rf to ir converter in closet. I also have wireless ir blasters hooked up. I cant figure out the sequence. To make matters worse I have two complete different systems but both are the same as the aforementioned with the second one being for Master ensuite. Please help

I know that connecting home theater equipment can be a daunting task, but it sounds like you’ve conquered the majority of the issues, and have a sweet system (or two!). Connecting new pieces of equipment to your existing setup can be frustrating.

logitech-harmony-elite-remote-control-system-image-from-logiechdotcom

I am familiar with the Universal Remote MX890, but switched to a Logitech Harmony Elite system when I added new equipment to my system and discovered that there was no easy way to program the MX890 myself. Not saying you should do this, but you may need help getting the MX890 remote programmed for new equipment.

Or not, with the Firestick/Echo products, you can voice-control most of your equipment. The Echo and the Firestick remote can convert your voice commands to RF commands recognized by the Firestick. The MX890 remote and the Firestick Blaster can convert RF commands to IR commands recognized by your other equipment.

As a primer, there are two ways to communicate control signals from a remote to another device: RF (radio frequency) and IR (infrared). The latter is line-of-sight only, that’s why you needed the IR blasters – so the IR remotes that came with the Yamaha receiver and any other gear in your closet could receive IR signals from the home theater room. RF controls don’t need line-of-sight, so they will work as long as the RF signal is strong enough (usually fine for your 70’ needs).

The IR blasters repeat the IR signal from the theater room to the closet. Your MX890 remote uses RF to communicate with its IR-control system, so it doesn’t need the IR blasters to work. The MX890 also has IR emitter on it so you can turn the TV/projector on and off (which is in the theater room with the remote and not visible to the MX890’s IR-control system in the closet).

For the main system you describe, I’m assuming that the Yamaha Adventage RX-A840 (online manual here) already has an HDMI cable running from one of the HDMI OUT ports on the receiver in the closet to the TV or projector, as well as wires running from the receiver to each of the speakers.

So any source device (such as the Firestick) can be plugged into an available HDMI IN port on the Yamaha receiver which sends the video to the TV/projector and sound to the speakers – no special wiring needed. Just plug the Firestick into one of the HDMI IN ports (#7 on page 10 of the manual) and connect the microUSB cable from the Firestick to the included wall wart power supply (hint, use the wall wart, not a USB port on your receiver or any other gear).

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The included Firestick remote uses RF, so you should be able to use it in the theater room without any problem. You might need to use the small HDMI cable extension (that came with the FireTV) so you can place the Firestick above the back of the receiver (RF signals are blocked by metal) and ensure good wireless reception.

The Fire TV Blaster (I think you mean this device) is needed only to convert Echo/Firestick RF commands into IR signals to control other devices that use IR. So you’d mount the Fire TV blaster in the closet so it can send IR signals to your receiver (for volume control, source switching, etc.). If you also wanted it to control the TV/projector, you’d need a 2nd Fire TV blaster in the theater room (but you have your MX890 for that, so likely not needed unless you want total voice control).

If you do want total voice control, then by all means, enable the URC skill in your Amazon Echo device. That way you can use the existing MX-890 control system with your Amazon Echo. I haven’t tried this, but it should let you issue general voice commands that correspond to at least some of the button pushes you’d use on your MX-890 remote.

Your last issue sounds like the real problem – you want to use one Firestick with two video/audio systems. My low-tech answer is that: since the Firestick is so cheap, why not just buy a 2nd one for the Master ensuite? It will come with its own remote (and the remotes are pre-programmed to work with the Firestick they came with). When setting up each Firestick, you can name them so you can know which one you’re controlling (in the smartphone app).

I should mention that your Yamaha Adventage RX-A840 has two separate HDMI OUT ports, so you could’ve used the same system to provide video/audio to both the theater room and the Master ensuite (provided you could run an HDMI cable from the closet to the Master ensuite’s TV).

One potential issue you might run into is HD Copyright Protection (HDCP). All your devices (Firestick, receiver, TV) have HDCP circuitry built-in, and that circuitry is designed to prevent piracy of protected content. This circuitry usually involves a ‘hand-shaking’ process where each piece of connected equipment validates itself with all the other pieces of connected equipment. Where the problem can occur is that the validation process usually only happens at the initial point in time where the equipment is connected. If you connect the Firestick to the receiver but don’t have the TV connected at that time and later connect it, the Firestick won’t see the TV and won’t run the hand-shaking process a 2nd time. The simplest way to avoid this problem is to first power on your receiver and TV, set the receiver to use the HDMI port you’ll use for the Firestick, and only then plug in the Firestick to the receiver. That way the Firestick ‘sees’ all your connected equipment and validates with them as it’s powered on.

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