With the plethora of touchscreen remote controls suddenly available on the consumer market, one might wonder what appeal a regular buttoned universal remote might offer. Well, the answer came to me late one night as I was watching a movie. I wanted to rewind the film to review a certain scene over again, but as I was using a touchscreen model, I had to bring the remote up from under the blanket, turn the backlight on and find the button. Recalling years past, where I simply felt for the proper shaped button without ever looking at the controller, I decided it was time again to see what traditional remotes could offer the avid home theater user.
The aptly titled Home Theater Master SL-9000 goes quite a bit beyond the "traditional" moniker by offering a total of 55 buttons in various shapes plus 10 macros and an informative (if small) LCD screen. The unit will control up to 8 devices and comes preprogrammed with many popular brands of receivers, TVs, VCRs, satellite systems and DVD players. Setting up a preprogrammed device couldn’t be simpler: press the ‘device’ and ‘mute’ buttons simultaneously for 3 seconds then enter a three-digit code from the manual. The SL-9000 then sends out the power signal for that device – if it works press the ‘device’ button to save the setup, or enter in a new three-digit code to try again. It also provides an auto code search utility if you can’t immediately find a functional set, whereby the channel up/down buttons scan through all available power signals.
I found that for the most part pre-programmed signals were assigned to button labels that reflected that function, however my VCR’s secondary functions appeared to be haphazardly placed on completely unrelated buttons. Fortunately you can clean this up with the SL-9000’s full-featured learning capabilities.
Learning & Macros
The learning process is quite straightforward even though it involves a somewhat eccentric double-learn technique. Once you’ve entered learn mode and selected the button to teach you must hold down the original remote’s key for three seconds then release it. The SL-9000 flashes "Retry", and once again you have to hold down that button. This time the SL-9000 flashes "Good" and the code is learned. When you’re finished learning commands for that particular device the setup must be saved by pressing the ‘device’ and ‘play’ buttons. The remote took everything I threw at it save, as usual, those quirky Sony input signals. I’m uncertain of how much space is actually provided for learned signals, but there was more than enough room for everything I required.