Q: Our TV was over 20 years old, and I wanted to start using the streaming services that are now available. So I purchased a new Sony TV based on good past experience. I hoped it would be completely compatible with my other devices, but that has not been the case. My biggest gripe is that only about half of the TV remote's functions work. We've ended up with two remotes, one for the TV and one for the cable box.
Please don't suggest that we get a universal remote. We tried that already, and it was not much better. Perhaps the extensive programming it required was part of the problem, but my repeated efforts to get help from the retailer have gone nowhere. Now my inquiries are limited to a single question: Am I forever stuck juggling remotes?
A: I wish I had a reassuring answer for you. Manufacturers try to design their remotes to talk to devices from other brands, but except for the most basic functions, they usually do not play well with each other.
As you've discovered with your universal remote, programming a single remote to work all your devices can be problematic and unreliable. Further complicating matters is the increasing number of remotes that work via a wireless radio connection like Bluetooth, instead of the traditional optical infrared (IR) that has been the default for remote controls for decades.
This might not be much consolation, but ending up with only two remotes is actually doing well. Consider, for instance, a TV room that includes a smart TV, cable or satellite box, Blu-ray player and a soundbar. That could require as many as four remotes, and it isn't even an especially elaborate system. Add an A/V preamp and a separate DVD player that feeds a video processor, and you just picked up a couple more remotes for your stash on the end table.
One way to ensure compatibility is to buy products from the same manufacturer whenever possible. For example, a Sony Blu-ray player remote will also control a Sony TV, and TCL soundbars pair with TCL TVs wirelessly so the TV remote also controls the soundbar, complete with on-screen volume display.
With your setup, you should be able to limit your use of the Sony remote to specialized functions like picture settings or smart TV functions.
Call your cable company and ask for help programing their remote to turn the TV off and on and to change the volume. Unlike your experience with the universal remote, that should be relatively easy. Once you've done that, you can use just the cable remote for most TV watching and will need the Sony remote only for streaming services.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.