You can take one of two approaches with the gear in your home-theater system: Put everything on display, or you hide your components in a cabinet or closet. If you prefer discretion over exhibitionism, Niles Audio’s Remote Control Anywhere kit lets you to control all your infrared-controlled components no matter where you’ve stashed them.
The $270 kit—which consists of a master connection hub, one master sensor, five infrared emitters, and 50 feet of Cat5 cable (to extend the master sensor’s 10-foot cable)—is extremely easy to deploy: Simply glue the emitters in front of the IR receivers on your components, plug their cables into the control module, glue the surface-mount master sensor somewhere discrete, and plug in the power adapter. Pre-drilled holes in the flanges of the control module’s metal housing renders the device easy to mount on most any surface.
The master sensor can be hidden in an inconspicuous spot. Niles also offers other types of sensors that can be placed on a tabletop or in the ceiling.
The master sensor has a receiving angle of 60 degrees off axis (horizontal and vertical) at 20 feet, which enabled us to tuck the receiver in a very inconspicuous spot between two cabinet doors. We attached the emitters to our A/V receiver, satellite set-top box, DVD player, and VCR and had the system up and running in the media room at Maximum PC Lab North inside of 15 minutes. We spent most of that time finding the sweet spots on our components’ IR receivers.
The master IR sensor has a green LED (to the right of the sensor lens) that informs you when your system is powered on; unfortunately, actually making use of it requires the purchase of a $15 accessory.
If your A/V receiver has provisions for a second zone (meaning it can play audio and/or video—either from the same source or from an independent one—in a second room), the connection hub can accommodate a second master sensor. This would enable you to manage all your gear from a second room. Unfortunately, the second master sensor is not included in the kit. We’re guessing this is because Niles offers a variety of sensors (wall mount, tabletop, ceiling mount, flush mount, wall mount with volume-control knob, and so on), but none of them are cheap. The identical surface-mount model, for example, carries a street price of $117.
The surface-mount master sensors are equipped with a green LED that glows to inform you that your A/V receiver is powered on. Here again, however, enabling this feature requires optional equipment. In this case, a $15 power adapter that you plug into the switched A/C outlet on your receiver.
The kit includes five IR blasters that you'll need to glue to the components you wish to control.
We don’t usually discuss a product’s user manual, but we’re making an exception in this case. Although Niles does a great deal of business with custom installers, this seemingly simple product comes with an extremely thorough 24-page user manual that covers installation in both new and existing construction.
If you don’t need the second-zone feature this kit has to offer, Niles’ model RCA-SM is about $50 cheaper. Heck, you could avoid buying the kit entirely by putting a glass door on your entertainment center, but where’s the fun in that?
Out of reach
Accomodates two master sensors for multi-zone home-theater systems.
Out of touch
Expensive; doesn't include the second master sensor needed to take advantage of its multi-zone feature.