Infrared Remote Extenders Allow Your Remotes to Work Anywhere

Over the last couple of weeks reviewing ATSC 3.0 TV tuners, I encountered a challenge. While creating content, I prefer to have the products on the table with me for a hands-on demonstration while I record or livestream. However, my TV antenna’s location upstairs and my recording setup in the basement made it impossible to control these TV tuners directly during a shoot. I had to narrate and run b-roll which is not my usual workflow.

In my latest video, I checked out an IR extender from BAFX that takes any remote control’s commands and transmits them through a wireless RF signal to another location in the home. I purchased it with my own funds from Amazon.

This device, while not groundbreaking in its concept, offers a simple yet effective solution to my problem.

The BAFX extender kit includes a transmitter and a receiver along with infrared transmitters and receivers that plug into the unit. The setup is straightforward, with no programming needed. Once powered up, the infrared receiver module captures signals from a remote control, which are then transmitted wirelessly to the receiver unit. This unit, in turn, emits the signal through one of its four emitter modules to the intended device.

The extender works with devices controlled by infrared signals, which is perfect for my TV tuners. However, it is not compatible with devices that use Bluetooth for their remote controls.

In practice, the BAFX extender performed exactly as I hoped. I set up the receiving unit upstairs with one of the emitters attached to a TV tuner. Despite the physical barriers of my home, the remote control functioned as if the tuner was right beside me in the basement. Every button worked seamlessly, demonstrating the extender’s capability to transmit any remote signal effectively.

The range varies between 50 to 300 feet, depending on the construction materials of the building. In my case, with mostly sheetrock walls and wooden floors, the distance of approximately 50 to 75 feet was bridged without any issues.

However, it’s worth noting that these extenders all operate on the same frequency and they don’t discriminate about what signals the transmitters repeat to the receiving units. So if you had multiple kits throughout the home with the same brand of electronics in separate rooms, a single button push would operate all of the same brand devices. For those scenarios a more robust solution would be necessary.

The BAFX Wireless Infrared Extender has been a practical solution to my specific need, allowing me to conduct reviews and demonstrations with the original remotes of the products in real-time as I produce my content. Its simplicity, ease of setup, and effectiveness in solving my problem without the need for complex programming or additional equipment make it a valuable tool in my workflow for these products.

Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar Mini Review

Sennheiser has carved out a notable niche in the premium soundbar market with their amazing (and expensive) AMBEO products. Their latest offering, the AMBEO Soundbar Mini, brings that premium sound to a more “entry level” – by Sennheiser’s pricing standards – product. You can learn more in my latest review.

The AMBEO Soundbar Mini sells for $799 (affiliate link), and is designed for those who may not have the luxury of a spacious living room but still desire an immersive audio experience. Sennheiser also offers a bundle that includes the AMBEO subwoofer for an additional $399. In my testing I found it works best in smaller spaces like apartment living rooms or a small bedroom.

The AMBEO Soundbar Mini relies on your television’s audio return channel (ARC) HDMI port for its audio input. For those with newer TVs supporting eARC, the soundbar can also handle lossless audio formats like Dolby TrueHD ATMOS and DTS:X. However, for TVs without eARC, it supports compressed audio formats including the ATMOS audio delivered over most major streaming services. Unfortunately there are no other physical inputs.

The soundbar does offer wireless audio options, including Chromecast, Bluetooth, and AirPlay 2. However, it’s worth noting that audio quality over Bluetooth or Airplay will not be as crisp as it will be over a wired connection.

Internally, the soundbar boasts six speakers with a total output of 250 Watts RMS, covering a frequency range of 43Hz to 20kHz. The optional subwoofer, which I found enhances the audio experience significantly, operates wirelessly and adds depth to the lower frequencies that the soundbar can’t handle on its own.

The setup process is straightforward, requiring a connection to Wi-Fi and some initial automatic calibration to optimize the sound for your room’s acoustics.

In terms of performance, the AMBEO Soundbar Mini impressed me with its immersive audio quality. I tested it in different room settings with various compressed Dolby Atmos content from Disney+, and the soundbar consistently delivered an enveloping sound experience. It’s not quite on par with a full home theater system with discrete speakers, but it’s remarkably close and certainly a step up from other compact soundbars I’ve reviewed.

For music lovers, the soundbar might fall short due to its lack of direct audio inputs and reliance on compressed audio sources. It does attempt to upmix stereo sound to create a more immersive experience, but dedicated audiophiles might want to seek more robust options.

The soundbar’s operation is intuitive, with a remote control for basic adjustments and an app for more fine-tuned settings. You can control volume through your TV remote and switch audio sources or adjust sound modes via the soundbar’s remote or app. The app provides deeper insights into the audio being decoded and allows for more precise adjustments to the soundbar’s settings.

The Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar Mini is an excellent choice for those with smaller living spaces looking for a significant upgrade from standard TV speakers. While it may lack extensive input options and requires a commitment to the Sennheiser ecosystem for the full experience, its performance in delivering immersive audio in compact environments is the best I’ve experienced to date.

Disclosure: Sennheiser provided the sound bar free of charge for this review, however they did not review or approve the content before it was uploaded.

iBirdie’s 50 Foot Fiber Optic HDMI Cable Goes the Distance with No Lag

HDMI is not friendly towards long cable runs so when going beyond 15 feet you often need some kind of active amplification of the signal to get it reliably delivered. I’ve found fiber optic HDMI cables to be the best and simplest way to do it – especially for gamers who do not want input lag introduced into their games.

The other day I received a new 50 foot fiber optic HDMI cable from iBirdie that is performing exceptionally well. It’s the subject of my latest review.

This iBirdie cable feels very nicely constructed with solid metal connectors at each end. The cabling also feels decent but you should be careful not to significantly bend fiber optic cables like you would a more traditional copper-based one.

Also in the box is a small power injector that plugs into a USB port to power the fiber optic transmitter and receiver. The injector can be attached to either end of the cable. I did run into some difficulty with this as the cable for the injector’s USB connector sticks out of the side. If you have neighboring cables on your television or output device this could make it difficult to fit.

Once everything is connected the cable feels just as good as a regular HDMI connection. For video formats I successfully drove 4k 60fps video streams including streams with HDR10 or Dolby Vision. Lossless audio formats like TrueHD/ATMOS and DTS-X also passed through to my home theater receiver without issue.

Additionally the cable supports sending remote control commands back up the cable via HDMI CEC. I successfully controlled my Nvidia Shield using my television remote control. HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) also works.

I was surprised that I could not measure any significant gaming input lag on the cable. To test lag I use a specialty retro game console called the Analogue NT Mini that is by far the lowest latency video game console I own. I shoot my tv screen at 240fps and see how long it takes for a button push to register on screen. The results were close to what I get with a traditional HDMI cable with maybe 4-5ms of added lag. I was able to play some Super Mario Bros without any noticeable lag in the game play.

So in short this long fiber optic cable works just as well as a shorter regular one. If I have any long term issues with it I’ll come back and update but so far so good.

What’s Plugged Into My TV?

We review a lot of TV boxes on the channel.. In fact TV boxes are about the only thing that performs well on my YouTube channel these days. So I thought it might be fun to show you what I have plugged into my TV! See it all here.

The TLDR is that I’ve really embraced the Apple TV 4k over the last couple of months primarily because it does a few things that I’m looking for quite well. On my bedroom TV it works pretty seamlessly with my Airpods for private listening, and on my home theater TV it can switch into 24p mode better than anything else out there.

For a long time I was relying on the TV’s built in apps, but my aging LG C7 is running rather slowly and doesn’t have all of the apps we’re using these days. The television from a viewing perspective is still perfectly fine (it’s the best TV I’ve ever owned) but it definitely needs to be supplemented by a device these days.

The Nvidia Shield is still my go to for Plex Pro home media serving but the Apple TV is doing everything else. See more in the video!