Sunday, July 3, 2011

Remote extender to HDMI switch finally fixed

As anyone who has ever actually used the Radio Shack Remote Extenders (or any of a half dozen similar and virtually identical products) knows, they do not work across large distances as advertised in a typical home (maybe in an open field).  You are lucky to get 40 feet, 45 is very difficult if you have metal objects, computers, AV equipment, etc.

Last year I found a solution online but didn't really believe it.  You open up the receiver and you will find that the antenna isn't connected "directly".  Instead, the antenna is connected through one end of zip cord, and another end of zip cord actually connects to small circuit board inside.  The two sides of the zip cord overlap by an inch only.  I figured this was some kind of RFI fix, balun, or the like.  Possibly should be messed with.  However, what I ultimately did to get remote extender (RX) transmitter in bedroom to communicate with receiver in living room to control Sony XDR-F1HD tuner was fivefold.  First I located the receiver near another receiver which works in kitchen.  Second I took unit apart, and connected extension wire to the wire that actually connects to circuit board.  Third I ran the extension wire to removed antenna, and placed antenna very high inside void of kitchen cabinet.  Fourth I ran long zip cord carrying remote LED over doorway, around living room walls and near Sony FM tuner.  Fifth I connected zip wire at that point to LED.  Anything less than all that didn't work or didn't work consistently.  Boy did this turn out to be a big project.  Then as these things go I quit using modified Sony tuner shortly thereafter...

This year it's been important to control HDMI switch underneath kitchen table (my AV production center) from bedroom.  Actually, that's been important for at least two years, since I ran OWLink optical HDMI from kitchen into bedroom and living room so I could watch video on my Sony harddrive/DVD recorder, Dish network box, and Denon 2910).  I have other Denon DVD players in other rooms but primarily use them for SACD, DVD-Audio, and HDCD discs.  The video sources in kitchen are the "central" ones used all over house, distributed through two separate OWLink systems.  Since it's all digital, there is no loss whatever and OWLink has been rock solid (unlike 60 foot custom HDMI cables).

The HDMI switch is under kitchen table because that's where Dish box, DVDO iScan HD, HDMI switch, and Cables-R-Us HDMI 4 way distribution amplifier are.  The DVDO has the wonderful feature that it can convert analog sources to DVI-D (and then DVI can be connected to HDMI switch with adapter cable).

I thought of moving the switch to the main equipment rack where Yamaha HTR-5790, Sony RDR-HX900, Denon 2910, Sony SLV-R1000 VHS, and (yes!) Sony SL-HF900 Super Beta players are and McIntosh MR78, as well as tiny space for PlexiWriter Premium CD player used with Mac.  Problem is, if I moved the switch, I'd really have to move the distribution amp and DVDO as well, and there really isn't enough room in that rack, a Middle Atlantic 3' unit with the two videotape recorders piled on top.  The unit is already so jammed with stuff I worry about the Middle Atlantic rack, made mainly out of particle board, collapsing (most likely not straight down because of the metal rack rails, but to one side, going from rectangle to parallelogram) with more than 100 pounds of weight on it, about half piled on top.  And did I mention the equipment rack and everything sits atop a 2' authentic antique Coats & Clark spool cabinet where I store excess remote controls, manuals, and other stuff.  I think the 150 year old spool cabinet was made plenty strong. but it makes everything seem a bit teetering.  I recently removed 40 pound Kenwood 600T from pile on top, making it seem a bit less dangerous.

Well unfortunately underneath the table it proved nearly impossible to get any kind of remote extender to work down there, no help from the low elevation and piles of equipment down there.

But recently I figured I could put small antenna on top of the equipment rack (I had spare antenna from X10 compatible multihousecode remote receiver that I quite using) and run wires down to the remote extender.  I actually set this up in ad hoc way a few weeks ago.  I had the antenna base wedged below the VHS player and sticking out horizontally (so you might bump into it if going behind rack or to that corner of kitchen).  And I connected to stock remote extender with a sucession of 5 wire test clips, which connected to the black painted antenna of the RX receiver.

That worked sometimes, but other times not.  I was getting very annoyed.

So today, July 3, I finally got around to fixing it mostly right.  I screwed antenna base right into rack as if it were another piece of rack gear (see picture above).  Then I attached RG59 coax cable, in one 6' and one 3' length down below table (now secured with AV staple and wire tie) Then I connect just one test clip lead from antenna conductor to RX receiver.  I took RX apart, and separated the two unconnected sides of the zip cord, stripped one end of each, and twisted them together.  then I put unit back together.  Just putting modified unit under table didn't work at all.  Attaching clip lead from antenna cable worked unreliably.  The best fix was removing the antenna (which has black non-conductive coating).  It took about an hour to find the correct tiny phillips screwdriver to do it.  After an hour of moving everything in my computer room around, I found it right atop the mouse table where it would have been easy to find if not buried below papers.  I had used the screwdriver recently on my glasses.  After removing the antenna, I noticed that the threads where the screw went was the only part not coated with non-conductive material.  So I attached the clip lead right there.  And it works reliably now.

To be sure I didn't catch my arm on the RG59 cable and topple the middle atlantic rack, I got F-to-pushon adapter for the cable, so that it will easily pull off from antenna.

Then after this incredible project which took about 3 hours more than it should have, I spent about 90 minutes blogging about it.


  1. That is very fancy setup there. I hope it worked great for you. BTW thanks for such a nice blog, I got an idea for something similar this weekend.

  2. Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to share your view with us.