It's highly likely that every audio or theater component in your home operates via remote control. Given the high levels of use these remotes are exposed to, it follows that one or more might need replacement. When faced with this, you have the choice of simply replacing that device's controller or going the universal remote route. This decision is based primarily on cost and comfort level.
In most cases, you can get in touch with the manufacturer of your device to order a direct replacement. For more exotic pieces of equipment, you will want to do this to maintain resale value and to maintain a complete package. Additionally, many devices operate using radio frequency or Bluetooth instead of the more common infrared, making it less compatible with adding the remote's codes to a universal model.
Simple Universal Remotes
These remotes are typically inexpensive and have a limited number of functions per device. However, they are useful for a quick and convenient replacement for basic devices such as a CD or DVD player. Remember, however, that any cheaper universal unit operates using a set of pre-programmed codes, which likely do not address every feature for more complex devices such as A/V receivers and televisions. Examine the complexity of your existing remote to see if one of these will suffice in a pinch.
Learning and programmable remotes distinguish themselves from simple "universal" models by offering a blank slate to the programmer. Using a Web-based program, these remotes can add codes from nearly any device. Macro functions execute multiple commands with a single button press, turning on every device in your system and setting each to the correct input. These units are pricier, but this is often mitigated through reduced clutter and true customization, addressing your system and comfort level. More advanced units can pair with a device that converts infrared to radio frequencies, meaning that you can control your devices even if they're in an enclosed cabinet or another room entirely.
The range of universal remotes like so many other products is expansive enough to potentially cause confusion. Since many units look the same, there may not be an immediate cause for a vast price difference. Remotes such as the RCA RCU-300T only control three devices, making it a good solution for a replacement for a single component. Options such as the GE 24966 and Logitech Harmony 650 control multiple devices and feature learning capabilities, with the Logitech offering an LCD readout. Units such as the Logitech Harmony One feature a color touch-screen display and hard buttons, teamed with full universal learning functionality. Universal Remote Control's MX-850 Orion unit controls 20 devices and can be paired with the company's radio frequency extender, allowing you to control any device through walls and cabinet doors.
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