Hi All -
Before I begin: I have yet to determine why some of these workarounds work - or rather, why some didn’t work.
TL;DR: Equipment that Worked
- 3.5mm TRRS three-ring cable.
- ENSIGEAR IR Repeater Kit - this one turned out to be incredibly important.
- 3.5mm Male to 2.5mm Female Adapter Cable - if you wish to reuse your Harmony IR pucks, this will be quite helpful
- HDTVHOOKUP Remote Control IR Multi-Device Emitter - if you don’t have harmony pucks, these seem like pretty close substitutes.
I, like many of you, had some difficulty getting Infrared signals to reach all of my equipment. I would like to share what worked for me. Since resolving this issue, I have been enjoying my Unfolded Remote Two much more. I hope that this helps at least one person.
I have an LG TV on my wall above a closed-off media cabinet, not dissimilar from this one - but without doors. On the opposing wall, I have my couch with a little side table.
When I backed the remote, I got two docks, with the intent that one would live on my side table, and one would live in the media cabinet. I assumed that, like the Harmony hub, the Unfolded hub on the bottom shelf + one IR-emitting “puck” would be able to cover all of my equipment. Alas, no such luck.
Upon review of other threads, it became apparent that the total output power of the Unfolded dock pales in comparison to the Harmony hub: the Harmony hub has quite a few large IR LEDs, and the whole top case of the Harmony hub is IR-translucent plastic.
The Unfolded dock, by comparison, appears to have fewer, lower-powered, and narrower-emitting IR LEDs. I thought that hooking up the Harmony IR pucks to the Unfolded dock (with a 3.5mm male ↔ 2.5mm female adapter) would resolve the issue, but alas, it seems the RC2 dock wasn’t giving them enough gas to cover my equipment.
- Something that works for all three levels my equipment are on: top (TV), middle shelf (inputs), bottom shelf (inputs and AVR).
- Increase the power of the IR output.
- Avoid sticking little emitters directly to equipment - I don’t love it from an aesthetic perspective on my open-front cabinet, and the entire front of my Panasonic blu-ray player hinges down when the tray opens - I wanted to ensure consistent IR transmission to that device whether the front was open or closed.
- Maximize reliability by avoiding the use of infrared “eyes” to amplify the signal, which could create a feedback loop. In other words, this necessitated a “hard-wired” connection between the dock → IR booster → IR emitters
I tested two infrared repeaters, but one of them - a BAFX model - did not work with this hookup method. It seems like the unfolded dock puts out voltage on the 3.5mm IR outputs at all times, and the BAFX repeater kept my IR emitters “on” all the time.
The ENSIGEAR IR Repeater Kit did not have this issue.
Unfolded Dock → IR Extender Connection
It seemed like most any 3.5mm cable should work, but this 3.5mm TRRS three-ring cable is one I had on-hand, and it worked.
Connecting my AVR
My AVR has a 3.5mm IR signal input. As previously mentioned, the Unfolded dock seems to put out a signal on the 3.5mm emitter outputs at all times: connecting the 3.5mm Unfolded IR output → AVR 3.5mm IR input did not work. However, using a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable to connect the AVR to the ENSIGEAR IR Repeater has given me, and I cannot emphasize this enough, 100% reliability. Until the Denon/Marantz integration allows us to transmit any command over IP, I will use this for advanced sequences.
Controlling my Blu-Ray player
This one was a little odd. Through my trial-and-error, I found that if I sticky-taped a little IR “eye” to the top of the shelf above and in front of the player, and plugged the IR emitter into the Unfolded dock - I would get 100% reliable control. But, plug that IR emitter into the ENSIGEAR, and the player would not respond. I don’t know why that is but…no matter, the Unfolded dock has two IR outputs, good to go.
Controlling my TV
This one was a little fickle. I found that I could use the IR emitter eye, but I wanted to avoid an eye traveling back to the dock. I was getting pretty good response using the HDTVHOOKUP Remote Control IR Multi-Device Emitter hooked up to the ENSIGEAR, but still occasional dropouts.
To resolve this issue, I route IR commands for the TV to the dock on my side table. Something about the dock being further away from the TV seems to give better signal. And, to keep up reliability when a drink or something is placed in between the dock and the TV, I wired up the IR puck from my old harmony and neatly cable-managed the excess to the under-side of the table. Using some cable channels I’m already using to route power up to the dock, I was able to discretely connect up the harmony IR puck and blast out commands.
With a little Plinko, I now have 100% reliable IR transmission. But, I do feel that there’s a bit more “jank” in this setup than I’d like.
I would like to see Unfolded introduce dedicated IR hardware: to be blunt, it seems like the Dock is built for charging first, aesthetics second, and IR third.
My recommendation is for Unfolded to design a device with the following features:
- Connectivity: Ethernet port (PoE?), WiFi, USB-C Power, 2-6 3.5mm IR emitter outputs with enough current on tap to reduce the likelihood of voltage sag if a lot of IR emitters are connected.
- Construction: IR-translucent plastic top (if injection-molded), cutouts for IR diodes (if UC wants to release .STLs for people to print a case, this seems sensible)
- Built-in IR emitters: let’s take inspiration from the Logitech Harmony Hub and use at least six through-hole IR LEDs pointing at different angles for maximum dispersion.
Unfolded could take the model of the AirGradient Air Quality monitors: start by releasing a BOM [build of materials] component list, .STLs for 3D printing of an enclosure, and KiCad files for people to have PCBs printed at OshPark. Then, some documentation for assembly and firmware for flashing.
As resources allowed, Unfolded could offer varying levels of kits:
- Unassembled PCB, parts, and/or case.
- Pre-soldered PCB, case, user flashes.
- 100%-assembled device.
While unfolded is rapidly improving upon its integrations, it’s clear that looking at the discord and unfolded chat, IR is an important feature for a lot of people who have made substantial investments into equipment that isn’t compatible with these integrations, or companies that are coy about granting access to their IP controls.
Again, I want to emphasize how happy I am with this product thus far. Does it need work? Yes. Is the Unfolded team small and still spooling up? Also yes. This is a hard space to capture. Keep up the good work, and I’m sure success will follow. There are a lot of people who can’t afford to (or are simply unwilling) to invest in Savant, Control4, etc. I strongly believe in the vision of UC.