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If you don't know the number for your device you can search the database with the [UP] or [DOWN] buttons - each time you press one the 'power' function is transmitted and the displayed code number increments on-screen. Or, hold them down to search quickly. Once you've found one that works, save the number and move on to the next device. All the while, the little status text at the bottom of the screen is flashing informative messages such as "select button" "enter number" and "saved". Things couldn't be simpler!
To read back the code numbers entered for all ten devices, the Setup Menu option [RECAL] will flash the LCD between device names and three-digit codes for 10 seconds, enabling you to write them down if you so desire.
The MX-500's elegant ease-of-programming strategy continues through to the learning process. Back on the Setup Menu, select the [LEARN] option, then the device to learn to. LCD Pages can be scrolled via the [PAGE] button, otherwise press the button to learn on. The label at the top of the screen will read "Ready", meaning the remote is 'listening' for an infrared command. The small label at the bottom indicates the name of the button currently being learned - even hard buttons are shown here.
The one unusual nuance exhibited by former Home Theater Master models was their 'double learning' technique. The remote would ask the user to hold the source button down once, then ask for it a second time. I'm pleased that the MX-500 has bettered the procedure to a single step: hold once and the remote's got it - quickly at that. Otherwise, the MX-500's learning technology is similar to other remote controls. It took everything I threw at it, except for those troublesome "Sony macro inputs" from which it successfully captured only the first command (some remotes got nothing). Learnable buttons include everything except for the bottom three macro buttons, the middle three system control buttons and, of course, the backlight button. In addition, it's possible to learn a single command to each of the 10 device buttons which will be transmitted each time the device is selected.
Let your "play" mean "play"!
Unfortunately, the MX-500 was unable to shake a common ailment shared by hard buttoned remotes: labels sometimes don't match the command actually on the button. I generally found the hard buttons to function as advertised, but many commands seemed randomly placed upon LCD positions. As LCD buttons share the same labels no matter what brand code is entered, this is the inevitable consequence. In addition, labels are not changed when a device is reassigned, so although a "CD" device changed to "VCR" will properly control a VCR, it will still maintain all labels originally from "CD".
So, we come now to one of the features that makes the MX-500 stand out among countless hard buttoned remotes: custom labels. If the preset labels don't match or you've learned something new to one of the 20 LCD positions, you can choose to change that button to any 5-character name. Accessed from the Setup Menu's [EDIT] function, the label editing feature is simple enough to carry out, but one of the few places where you'll need to have the manual handy. After the device and button to edit has been selected, the status text flashes "edit name" and a blinking cursor appears on the label being edited. Characters are selected with the numerical keypad; cursor position is changed with the thumbpad; pressing down on the thumbpad will erase a character. Available characters include letters "a" through "z", numbers "0" through "9", plus several symbols including arrows, brackets, plus and minus signs and some transport functions - in total, 56 options. To save changes, press the button again.