MX-950 Aurora Setup Overview
Universal Remote Control recommends the Aurora be programmed by a professional audio/video installer - and for good reason. First of all, many local dealers will be able to give you advice and recommendations on the optimal configuration of your home theater system in addition to simply selling you the remote control. Secondly, the MX-950 is not the easiest remote control to configure - especially if you are using it in conjunction with an RF receiver like the MRF-300 we utilized in conjunction with this review. The reason it is not easily configured and programmed is because it is infinitely customizable. Over the years I have found a device's simplicity is almost always inversely proportional to its customizability. The easier a system is to use, the less you can do with it.
Here's the basic process for setting up the Universal Remote MX-950 remote to control a typical home theater system:
- Install the software and load batteries into the remote control. Charge if needed on the included charging cradle.
- Open the MX-950 Editor software and start a new file to use for your home theater system
- Follow the program menu steps (1-8):
- Assign IR data to created devices using the included IR database
- Edit device buttons (rearrange, add, and subtract)
- Learn remote commands not included in the database
- Program Macros (typically to power on/off various components and set correct inputs for the
- Select Punch Through buttons for various activities
- Configure the Backlight On time
- Assign IR/RF control and channels over various devices
I know, it sounds simple - right? Well, in theory it isn't too difficult to grasp if you've dealt with remote control programming before. And, if you've programmed Universal Remote's products before you should be in good shape as the Editor software isn't much different from prior versions. For the rest of you, here is some additional detail to guide you and keep you out of trouble. The basic idea is to follow the steps under the Program Menu in order to achieve success.
The most basic step involves setting up your remote to include the devices and items you will want it to control. Remember that, in addition to A/V products, your RF remote can also be used to control lighting and home automation products for a truly all-in-one control solution. On my system I began by populating the "Watch" and "Listen" activity menus and then proceeded to the next step. Keep in mind that you can setup different "virtual" products that will have their own behaviors. For example, in addition to the Watch DVD activity (which is for playing DVD-Videos), I configured both SACD and DVD-Audio devices. Even though they are all the same device (the Denon DVD-3910 DVD player) they will be controlled differently in order to optimize each format (different outputs utilized, etc).
This is both a critical and time-saving step. It is also the place where you will begin to see some of Universal Remote Control's weaknesses. Their database is up-to-date in some areas, and terribly lacking in others. After dealing with Harmony's database which is almost uncannily maintained, I was surprised to see the MX-950 Editor lacking some newer (and even older) products, including the following components:
- Yamaha RX-V2600
- Yamaha DPX-1200
- Sony VPL-HS51 (or the new VPL-HS51A)
- Optoma H31
- Optoma PD50 or PD50A
- Sony STR-DA7100ES
- PureLink HDMI/DVI Switcher
- DVIGear HDMI/DVI Switcher
- Panasonic TH-50PHD8UK
- Pioneer PDP-42A3HD
For some of these devices, similar or older devices or sufficed to get the buttons and codes needed, however many did not exist at all and needed to be learned. Universal Remote Control mentions in their manuals that you can also try the generic manufacturer codes provided in the database as well. However, that is a time consuming process and should not be inflicted on the consumer unnecessarily (it also almost never results in a satisfactory button layout). I was rather surprised that there was not more attention to detail in the database in keeping it up to speed with new and old products. From a customer service standpoint it seems like a major drawback, especially as the competition in remote controls continues to heat up.
3 Edit Buttons
A continuation of the first step, this involves rearranging the new-found buttons which will now show up in the Button Editor screen. You can click and drag buttons around, set the left/right justification, re-label and rename, and even structure the screen buttons to take up one or two spaces on the screen. This last function is new to the MX-950 and results in the ability for users to create LCD-based soft controls that can be activated by using either the left or right side buttons on the remote. This is excellent for setting up a series of basic commands under the "Watch" and "Listen" activity menus or for making easy "family-friendly" controls that hide more complex macros underneath.
4 Learn Commands
Given the current state of the Universal Remote Control database I am guessing you will end up learning at last some remote control codes into your MX-950, especially if you have newer products or some obscure models. The "Learn" programming menu simply activates the learning function for the currently-selected device. It is the same process used with prior remotes that utilize the Editor software and is a straightforward and uncomplicated process. You can select the "Continue to Next Button" control to facilitate easy automation of the learning process for an entire remote. I would love to see a 'Skip' button added here somewhere as there are invariably some buttons (like empty ones) that you will not wish to learn. As it stands now, when you come to a button you want to skip you need to take the system out of the automated learning mode, select the next button, and then re-engage. It's a small inconvenience that has been around for a while and worth noting.
5 Set up Macros
By now you should be seeing the intelligence of the programming order. Once your remote codes are correctly learned you can proceed to setting up some convenient macros. Through some careful thinking you can likely use macro workarounds to find discreet power up/down methods for products that do not contain discrete on/off codes (incidentally, we feel these products should be avoided in order to wake up manufacturers to how important these features are). One example is your typical digital cable box. In the case of the Scientific Atlantic HD series, you can set the unit to wake on a number key. As a result, you can create a macro to press a number key, followed by the 'Exit' key to assure that the unit is powered on. You can follow this by a 'Power' command to subsequently assure you that you have turned the unit off. These types of tips and tricks are somewhat complicated on the programming end in that they take some thought, but your clients (or family) will appreciate them as they allow for flawless operation at the push of a button.
When you are controlling the digital cable box, you probably want to have the volume buttons activate the receiver/processor, not the cable box volume. To avoid having to learn volume commands for each subsequent device, you can instead utilize the Punch Through function which allows you to configure Punch Through commands for:
- Power On/Off
- Navigation (the central arrow keys and Enter button)
- Play, Stop, etc
- Numbers (0-9, +10, Enter)
I make ample use of the Punch Through commands for Volume/Mute as I am almost always controlling the receiver's volume when I am in various modes. It is also handy for setting the basic functions for your "Watch" and "Listen" activity pages.
7 Backlight On Time
This menu is a bit out of place, as it would seem more appropriate in a general 'Settings' menu. Its solitary purpose is to allow you to configure the Color Backlight time to engage for 1-99 seconds. I set mine to 20 seconds to avoid any premature shut-off, but also to conserve a reasonable amount of battery power.
Congratulations! If you made it to step 8, you're ready to really get into the nitty gritty of programming your Universal Remote Control product as a true RF device.
The key to this page is understanding what each item means. The Device menu is self-explanatory and represents each device you setup in Step 1. These may be real or virtual devices as mentioned in Step 1. The Signal menu allows you to determine whether the MX-950 will output IR for that device, RF, or a combination of both. In this way, you can eliminate stray IR commands from being thrown around the room when you are utilizing the RF features of the remote for a particular device. The Receiver menu allows you to select which RF receiver you are assigning the device to. In our case there is just one, however you can daisy chain up to 15 MRF-300 units (each can be set to its own ID, from 1-F in a hex sequence - you set it via a small rotary switch on the bottom of each unit). That's likely enough to wire up the White House. The Flashers menu takes configurability one step further by allowing you to set which of the 6 IR flashers should be utilized by that particular device (including an option for 'All'.) In this way, you are able to control 90 (15 RF receivers x 6 IR blasters) different devices or zones with a single remote. That's a little more than I need in my home theater.
At this point I want to note something that caught me off guard. With the MX-700's RS-232 interface, remote control updates took seemingly forever and it was a rather cumbersome process to test and tweak different configuration options. When I first downloaded an update to the MX-950 I almost fell out of my chair... Gone were the long waits for downloading and updating the device. The MX-950 takes mere seconds to update - even the remote reboot sequence takes longer to complete.