Harmony 688 Step by Step Setup
We’ll assume you’ve loaded the software, selected a username and password and saved your battery-munching remote control from its endless startup cycle. The following is an abridged, simplified step-by-step summary and explanation of some of the processes you’ll go through setting up the remote.
Step One: Change Harmony Remote Preferences
I recommend starting with this screen so that you can set some of the functions that I hear talked about in the forums, such as:
Turning off the Harmony Assistant (hopefully you’ve done this by now)
Setting backlight time (5/10/15/20 seconds)
Turning on or off (default) automatic backlight when buttons (any or interactive display) are pressed. I recommend leaving this to the “off” position. The glow button is handy and there’s simply no reason you should sacrifice battery power for every key press.
Select menu format to 4-buttons or 6-buttons. Only a truly masochistic person will select 4 buttons instead of 6 (default).
Step Two: Adding Devices
This process is so simple it’s almost criminal. While other remote controls like the Home Theater Master MX-700 make it easy to learn IR commands from any remote, they are embarrassingly lackadaisical at keeping their IR database up-to-date, so nearly every piece of equipment made since 2004 needs to be manually learned into the remote, at least partially. Not so with the Harmony. Their database is up to date and had some of the latest equipment on the market. While I’m certain they don’t have everything, the presence of the brand new Denon AVR-3805 receiver I was reviewing made me sit up and take notice.
Clicking on the “Add a Device” text button brings up a menu of product types. Simply select the product type you would like to add and hit the “Next” button.
Editor's Note: Outdated Terminology or Perhaps Canadian Nomenclature?
I had some minor problems with some of the labeling used for the programming application that I believe may confuse some users, though I believe the labels were chosen for simplicity.
Observation: Why make the main label for receivers “Amplifiers” I don’t know too many amplifiers that use remote controls. This would be better labeled as “AV Receivers” or just “Receivers” with amplifiers listed as an example device.) In addition, on the following screen, the label for receivers is “Stereo Receiver”. This would be much better as “Receiver” since the majority of users (especially those looking to buy a Harmony Remote) will be using an A/V Receiver.
At this point you will be asked to select the manufacturer from the dropdown menu. Everyone I was aware of was on the list. The next screen has you enter the model number. You should try to get this right, but the Harmony system will interpolate if you forget or misplace a hyphen. If the Harmony system does not have your device (for example, if you tried to add the new Anthem Statement D1 processor – at least as of the writing of this review) you will be asked if you have the remote control. If you do, then the Harmony system will allow you to program the functions button by button.
Programming Functions and Commands into the Harmony Remote
This process is actually quite simple. The H688 provides an IR receiver at the bottom of the remote, so when it is plugged in via USB to your computer, simply aim your source remote at the hole in the bottom of the H688 and fire off buttons as requested.
If you do not have the remote control for the device named, the Harmony remote programming interface will allow you to select from some available manufacturer codes/products as a starting point for programming the remote. This is similar to selecting from different preprogrammed remote control codes – you may have to try different models until you find one that meets the majority of your needs.
Step Three: Programming Activities
Through yet another simple process (is a pattern developing here?) the Harmony system allows you to program and add activities. While the Harmony H688 remote hard-codes the following activities into the buttons at the top of the remote: Play Video, Play Music, Watch TV, and Watch DVD – the “More” button allows access to additional activities that you can access through the LCD menu and buttons. This allows for more than just the basic activities and provides a way to program additional functions into the remote.
You can start by programming the standard activities, which will activate macros for your display, receiver and source components. Clicking on an activity brings up a “Basic” and “Custom” option for the activity. Most people can use the “Basic” method, however if you want to activate or additional devices then the “Custom” mode will allow you to do so. Following is a series of straightforward questions such as which device will provide the source, what device is responsible for controlling volume (receiver or television, for example) and what input on the receiver/processor should be activated in order to receive input from the source device. It also checks what input the television or display should be set to (if applicable).
A neat thing I’ve done here is set up “Watch DVD” to handle my CDs and DVD-Video sources, and set up “Watch CD” to handle my multi-channel SACDs and DVD-Audio discs. This way I didn’t have to change the processor’s inputs from digital to multi-channel each time I listen to a different format. As with all functions on the Harmony programming interface, there are multiple ways to accommodate various configuration needs.
Step Four: Update the Remote
That’s pretty much it for the basic setup. Just click on “Update My Remote” from the main Harmony application screen and the update process will begin. I clocked my average updates at around 3 minutes on the nose.