HTPC, MCE, Windows MCE

How to control your amplifier from the MCE IR-blaster

IR Blaster

I just upgraded my home entertainment system with a Pioneer VSX-915 amplifier. Meaning that I now connect my Home Theatre PC to the amp digitally through SPDIF.

To control the volume properly I have to use the volume on the amplifier and not adjust the volume out of my Media Center. The easiest solution is of course to use the remote of the amp, but I don’t want to use two remotes. I only want one remote in my living room and that is the MCE remote.

If you have a relatively new MCE remote you can easily program it to control your amplifier directly. The new MCE remotes has three programable buttons. The TV On / Off and the volume. You program the remote as described here.

But, I have my amplifier inside a cabinet. I could of course buy some kind of IR repeater to catch the remote signal outside the cabinet and beam it out inside to the amplifier.


But hey, the MCE remote reciever can be programmed as well, and it even includes a IR blaster to do exactly what you want: beam out IR signals to control a set top box (…or an amplifier).

This is what you need:

- A relatively new MCE remote with reciever and IR blaster

- The original remote for your amplifier

- Another remote that don’t control any of your equipment
(borrow one from your neighbour…)

- A fantastic little software called Girder
(I use version 3.3, download here)

- An MCE plugin for Girder (download here)

I am only going to give a high level description here. If you run into trouble please use the comments and I’ll try to answer.

This is what is going to happen:
You send a unique signal from your MCE remote when you push “Volume UP” on that one. These signals reach the MCE reciever. That triggers Girder to say “Hey, when I recieve this signal I am going to blast out some nice and clean Pioneer Volume Up signals on IR blaster number 1 inside the cabinet!

This is what you do:
Program your MCE remote with one signal for volume up and one for volume down. It does not matter what control you use to program these commands. The point is that you have to override the default signals on the MCE remote because these will control the volume on your computer. You don’t want that. You want to leave the volume on your computer at max. I actually used the fast forward and rewind signals from an old CD remote that I am not using any more.

Now you have two unique signals coming out of your MCE remote when pushing the volume buttons.

Install Girder and the MCE plugin. Remember to activate the plugin in Girder. Create two controls in Girder. One for volume up and one for volume down. Program these controls with the unique volume up and down signals from your newly programmed MCE remote.

Add one event to each control. For the control that was just programmed to be triggered by a push on the volume up button on your MCE remote you go to the plugin tab in Girder and choose MCE Remote Plugin. There you hit the settings button and teach the event the nice and pure volume up signal from your original amplifier remote (for me, the remote that controls my Pioneer VSX-915)

Do the same for the volume down control. Place the IR blaster on your amplifier where the IR signals are recieved.

Now, when you press volume up on your MCE remote that signal will be reached by the MCE reciever and trigger Girder to send a true amplifier volume up out of the IR blaster inside your cabinet!

I had to experiment to find a unique signal for my MCE remote that repeats correctly. Volume up and down are typical commands that should repeat. You want to be able to hold the volume up button to crank Rammstein to the max when your neighbour just started playing that Celine Dion record again…