|Harmony SST-659 Universal Remote Control|
|Home Theater Remotes & System Control Remotes & System Control|
|Written by Ben Shyman|
|Thursday, 01 April 2004|
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The biggest downside is clearly the lengthy and tedious nature of programming and set-up process. This was disappointing in that it failed in the very area it was designed to excel – ease of set-up.
I still keep my pile of original remotes at my side for certain applications, which kind of defeats the purpose of having the Harmony in the first place. Component switching was easy, but getting all my components to perform as they do with their original remotes is still a problem for many basic functions. Additionally, I found many instances where, for my lifestyle, the remote was clearly not up to the task. For example, as an avid hockey fan with NHL Center Ice, I like to channel surf from game to game. Quite often, I listen to music in lieu of game commentary. The problem is that the Harmony utilizes the same buttons for changing channels for television and changing tracks on my disc player. This seems counter-intuitive to me. Although I am sure one can program another set of buttons to switch tracks or channels, I would rather just have kept my Lexicon, Proceed and Time Warner digital cable remotes at my side. I do not think that with a product that claims to be universal and widely programmable, my expectations for such functionality are unreasonable. I encountered many such instances where I found the effort necessary to make the remote do what I wanted simply not worth the effort I had to put in.
After spending several weeks with the SST-659, I have mixed feelings about enthusiastically endorsing this Harmony remote. Upon learning of the Harmony assignment, I had every intention of purchasing the remote at the end of the review. I cannot say I am going to go through with the purchase now. The Philips Pronto is a competitive remote that I will consider before making a purchase. I am going to explore that option before I plunk down $5,000 or more for an AMX or Crestron system, although that might be what I ultimately need. Studio tuner, audio guru and AudioRevolution.com staff writer Bob Hodas recently purchased a Harmony remote after owning a Pronto. After over 10 hours of set-up by a highly skilled, professional audio engineer, he is more enthused about Harmony than the Pronto, which he exiled from his system. If a Pronto takes more than 10 hours of my time to program, as Hodas suggested to me, I might as well wait until I can justify the expense of a more robust and professionally programmed remote system.
While my experience was not what I had hoped for, I do believe that in a system with more mainstream components, setting up and getting the Harmony to work seamlessly is doable. If you are really struggling to get control of your home theater system and you are a very patient person who is willing to put in the time and effort to get it right, then you could give the Harmony remote a try. It is increasingly possible that someone has already done the leg-work for you to make your system really sing. If you aren’t the techie kind of person who wants to learn a new skill in programming remote controls, you might just hire a dealer to program it for you.