I've been meaning to write about a device I recently purchased for some time. Readers of this blog know that I have a three-zone, 'Net-enabled stereo that permits listening to Radio Paradise, or MP3s from my media server, all over the house. And on the patio.
It was a bother, however, to have to dash inside all the time to either adjust the volume on the patio speakers, change a music source, mute the audio, or any other function. Installing an outdoor volume control would have helped some (and was my original plan), but doing so wouldn't answer the other requirements. Plus, such a control would mean having to get up, or run over from wherever, to manually adjust the volume up or down.
Thinking ahead, I set up the patio speakers on their own separate "slave" amplifier—designated zone 2—with the slave getting its audio feed via a stereo RCA cable to its CD input from the master Yamaha RX-V2700 home theater receiver. And Yamaha was thoughtful enough to include a second remote control that is easily switchable between zones 2 and 3. So far so good, but the zone 2 remote wouldn't work very well from out on the patio due to its native infrared (think line-of-sight) signal.
Looking for a viable solution to extend the distance at which at the controller would function, and simultaneously eliminate the inherent limitations of infrared (IR), a quick Google search led me to Smarthome.com. There I found an adapter (SKU 80451) that, for under $50 (online price), turns any IR controller into a radio frequency (RF) transmitter, sends that signal to a supplied RF base unit (pictured above), then converts the RF back to IR for the short jump to the audio receiver. Smarthome's kit includes everything you need, whether your IR controller accepts AA or AAA batteries.
Now I can control audio outdoors, including instant mute should the phone ring or a service person need to ask a question—at any angle, through the walls, from about 100' away from the base!
The only drawback is that the adapter could benefit from a better set of instructions (a subject close to home, as I write instructions for a living). Though I'm very intuitive around gadgets and can eventually interpret instructions written in Engrish, even I fumbled around for awhile before figuring out how to set it up. So here's the scoop: The cylindrical transmitter, in conjunction with a small rechargeable battery, takes the place of a single battery in your IR controller. The supplementary battery is to be placed within the adapter's base so as to be fully recharged when the first one poops out. Plugged into an AC socket, the base is to be positioned in such a way that its window (from which the IR signal emanates) faces the audio receiver's own IR sensor.
You do not need to buy this particular adapter—there are others on the market. My purpose is to cause you to be aware that a solution does indeed exist to IR line of sight and distance issues. That said, I can attest that this adapter functions well and it was a pleasure doing Internet commerce with SmartHome. Since receiving their catalog along with my order, I've since found several other gadgets that look like they'll solve problems we face, such as knowing for certain whether we've left the garage door open during the course of a day.
Note: Additional adapter base units are available separately for multiple zone use.