|Marantz RC9500 Universal Learning Remote|
|Home Theater Remotes & System Control Remotes & System Control|
|Written by Matthew Evert|
|Tuesday, 01 March 2005|
Page 2 of 3
Ah, here is the dicey part: programming this puppy. Fortunately, Marantz has made this easy by including the Wizz.it 9 configuration software for your PC. The software installed easily on my Windows XP PC. Once installed, this allows you to add your own devices, macros and graphics to the RC9500. First, I suggest you gather up all your remotes and place them in a box. Carry the box to your PC. Now you can add all the buttons present on each remote into the appropriate device list on the software. It is easier to edit an existing sample component (like a DVD player) than creating one from scratch. I basically took the default DVD player and edited the text and layout of all the buttons, so I could emulate the old DVD player remote. Once this is done for each device in your collection, you can then put the RC9500 into learn mode and program all of your newly-created buttons on the remote with your old remote codes.
Prior to starting the IR learning phase, you will need to save the configuration file (with the new buttons created) to your PC and download the file to your RC9500. I would suggest doing the IR learning in a room distant from your stereo. The learning part goes quickly and then you can place the old remotes back in that box and put it in the garage. Naturally, many Marantz components are already programmed into the RC9500. You will need to upload and save the configuration file (with the learned IR codes in it) from your RC9500 to your PC.
Next, you will need to create your macros. This is where this remote starts to pay for itself. Everything is adjustable on this remote. Using the Wizz.it 9 software, I made a macro for when I select “watch” on the top menu and then select “DVD.” It launches a macro instead of just jumping to the main device tab on the DVD section of the remote. This remote first turns on the projector, waits five seconds, turns on my preamp, waits three seconds, switches the inputs on the preamp to the DVD setting, switches the projector to DVI input, turns on the lava lamp and dims the other lights, turns the DVD player on by giving it the play command and then finally signals the end of the macro with a loud beep. You can program up to 250 individual commands in a single macro. Despite what the specifications on the Marantz website may lead you to believe, it will not memorize RF remotes (like my x10 lighting system), just IR. I had to get a $40 special IR remote for my x10 system just so I could promptly toss the remote out after learning the x10 IR codes into the RC9500. This was a bit frustrating.
At this point, you are done with the basic functions. However, why stop there? With 16MB of memory, why not download an entire Washington Redskins football theme to your remote and make all the buttons little footballs, with a background that looks like a football field? Better yet, you could make a “Sex in the City” theme for your significant other and have totally different graphics for the DVD player buttons and not have to change the macros or the IR codes. You basically can create two or more user profiles for each potential user of the remote. When the remote is first picked up, it can display a top-level menu to ask the user which person is using it and it will launch the corresponding theme. This is incredibly cool and, although it takes a little patience to set up, it’s well worth it and makes your remote a special gadget worthy of your beloved AV system.
The power of this remote grows with the much-awaited 48MB upgrade, which will allow for more intricate customization like animation and even more goodies to rock this remote out. There is an entire website devoted to themes, usable graphics and macros for this remote. Visit www.remotecentral.com to get more details, then look in the file archive for the Pronto NG (these will work on the RC9500) for sample themes. The themes are basically html and jpg files, so creating your own themes is not difficult. (Note: The RC9500 and Wizz.it 9 are also compatible with bmp and png files.) I particularly like using the logo graphics for the Discovery Channel, ESPN, etc. to replace having to memorize which channel number corresponds to each. This is a must-have.
So what are my other options? There are many. You can get learning remotes from a few dozen companies, ranging in price from $100 all the way up to an entry-level $6,000 AMX system (not including the hours of programming it needs from a technician at a cost that is comparable to the remote hardware cost). The cheap remotes offer little improvement in the ease of use department and will frequently not learn all the codes for every function on the remotes. Also, who wants to look at bundle of non-descriptive rubber buttons? If 8MB is enough for your themes and you don’t mind a monochrome screen, the Marantz RC5400 could be a good alternative for $649. With a little creativity and some effort, you can create a remote that will attempt to emulate the big boys like AMX and Crestron. There are even aftermarket converters that will translate some IR codes to serial RS-232 ports on the back of your components, the way an AMX unit will do. One thing to keep in mind is that Marantz offers a three-year warranty and a killer amount of customer service to aid you along the way with customizing this baby. I spent a few hours on the phone with a helpful tech free of charge. Crestron and AMX owners more often than not have to call their technician at $125 per hour every time they add a component or want to change a preset on their TiVo page.
It is important to note that an AMX or Crestron remote system can do things that this Marantz simply can’t dream of, including successfully controlling sophisticated multi-zone HVAC, circuitry and far beyond. The big boys also connect your gear mostly via RS-232, which allows for a more reliable, secure system. Make no mistake, you get what you pay for with the big gun remotes, but boy, do you ever pay.