Infrared Distribution Buckhannon WV
South Charleston, WV
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March 11, 2008 By Brent Butterworth
Unless you live on a pirate ship, where one simply cannot communicate without frequent use of “aye” and “arrr,” the term IR is likely unfamiliar to you. But IR is part of what makes elaborate home theaters possible. IR stands for infrared, and it refers to the light-based commands emitted by your remote controls.
In most custom theaters, the gear is hidden away in a cabinet. How does one control the gear when the infrared light from your remotes cannot strike it? By picking up that light with a tiny sensor in the theater, and relaying it through a distribution system to an emitter placed in front of the component, you can control the gear in a closet from the comfort of your recliner.
Useful as IR distribution systems are, they’re awkward: a complicated assemblage of a little box, a separate power supply, and lots of wired emitters and sensors. And while you can pick them up through some Internet outlets, they’re not readily available to consumers—they’re more the sort of thing that custom installers buy in quantity and stock in their storerooms.
Monster Cable has recently come up with an elegant way to add IR distribution to your system—and to get your gear out of sight and into a closet or cabinet. It’s called the Empowered PowerCenter. Fortunately, the product is as elegant as its name is graceless. It builds IR distribution into a power conditioner, which turns out to be a handy place to have it. No extra boxes or power supplies are needed, just the tiny wired IR sensor and some IR emitter cables.
Two models are available: the larger EP 3650 with 10 AC outlets, and the smaller EP 2450 with seven AC outlets. The EP 3650 controls as many as 12 components, while the EP 2450 controls up to five. For a media room, which typically includes only an A/V receiver and a few source components, the EP 2450 is a better choice.
I try the EP 2450 in my friend Al’s media room, which I installed a few years ago. The component rack resides in an under-stairs closet directly adjacent to the media room. I didn’t have an IR distribution system on hand when I put the gear in, so I jury-rigged something with a few wired flashers and an old radio-frequency-based IR relay system I had sitting around. I never got around to changing it because while it didn’t work well, it did at least work. I hoped the EP 2450 could streamline the system and make it more reliable.
I place the IR sensor atop Al’s projection screen, where he barely notices it’s there. Then I run the sensor’s wire through the wall, into the closet, and into the back of the EP 2450. I stick IR emitters on the fronts of Al’s receiver, cable box, and Blu-ray player. (You can tell exactly where to stick the IR emitter head on these components if you shine a flashlight into the tinted plastic on their fronts—the flashlight makes it easy to see the IR window on t...