Wednesday, 28 March, 2001
Hooking Up the New DVD Player
Debra and I finally went out and bought a DVD player this past weekend. It's a Panasonic 5-disc carousel changer. Since the DVD also plays CDs, we were able to get rid of the CD changer boom box we'd been using. That's now in my office. We also picked up a new VCR (the old one died after 10 years), and a "universal" remote (more on that below) to control all this stuff. Getting everything hooked up turned out to be something of an ordeal.
You see, our stereo receiver is the Bang & Olufsen 5000 receiver that I bought in 1984 when I had more money than brains, and our TV is a 24" Magnavox that Debra bought in 1989. The TV has one input: a coaxial RF jack. And the B&O stereo only has RCA jacks for one input device. The other inputs accept a 5-pin DIN plug. I got the new VCR connected with no trouble. But of course I couldn't hook up the DVD because it doesn't have an RF output.
I got lucky yesterday and found a B&O store, and surprisingly enough they had an RCA-to-DIN converter plug in stock. Then I stopped by Best Buy to pick up an RF modulator and an A/B switch so I can select between the DVD and VCR, and an extra coaxial cable to patch from the RF modulator to the A/B switch. Hooked it all up and, voila, it works. I'm disappointed that we have to get up and manually operate the A/B switch, but I'll live.
So here comes the fun part: programming the universal remote. At $180, I could hardly believe that I bought the thing, but if I could control all five components with a single remote, it'd be well worth it. The aggravation factor, you know. Programming the remote is reasonably easy: just select the device type (VCR, CD, DVD, TV, etc.) and then enter the code number from the tables in the supplied documentation. It didn't take long to select the cable box, TV, VCR, and DVD and confirm that I could turn them on and off. The thing doesn't support my B&O receiver (nor does any other universal remote that I've seen). Even with that, I was reasonably happy. Except I couldn't access all of the functions on the DVD or on the cable box. So we took the thing back: no reason to have six remotes for five pieces of equipment. It turns out that the VCR remote has some "universal" capabilities of its own, and I was able to program it to turn on the TV and cable box, and switch channels on the cable box.
A friend mentioned that Phillips has a universal remote (the one we tried was a Sony) that can "learn," but having dipped in that pond before, I'm reluctant to try it again. And on reflection, $180 is way too much for the convenience of having just one remote, especially when you consider that no universal remote is going to operate my B&O receiver. It's too bad that manufacturers have never agreed on some kind of standard for remote signals. I've given up trying to find a universal remote. One of these days we'll just buy a full system with an integrated remote from one manufacturer. Until then, we'll live with the three (TV/VCR, DVD, and stereo).