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…

How to control your amplifier from the MCE IR-blaster

32 thoughts on “How to control your amplifier from the MCE IR-blaster

  1. 🙂

    The harmony is cool. but I don’t think I need it.

    This is what I control:
    1. MCE
    2. TV on/off (QPVision LCD TV)
    3. Volume Up/Down (Pioneer Amplifier)

    Everything is now done from the MCE remote. Why would I need the Harmony?

    What I really want is the rumored Phillips remote with an LCD and two way communication to MCE…

  2. Øyvind says:

    What about loudspeakers? I see the Pioneer has a 7.1 system (Dolby labs?) – have you expanded your B&W collection, and, does MCE support this standard?

  3. I am currently not using the 7.1 capability. I run my system with 5 Anthony Gallo Nucleus Micro and one Anthony Gallo active sub.

    MCE simply pipes the digital sound through SPDIF to the amplifier. It’s the amplifier that does all the decoding. That’s why it is nice that this amplifier also decodes Windows Media Audio 5.1

    So, my computer does not have to support any of the standards. It’s all taken care of by the amplifier…

    …and why did I buy the 7.1 capable VSX-915 and not the 5.1 capable VSX-515? Well… the price difference was small and this system is slightly more future proof… 🙂

  4. Bas says:

    Thanx for this nice post. I have the exact same setup, cabinet with a pioneer vsx-515 on my mce.

    However, the vsx-515 has full 7.1 surround output and support. There’s just some mixup in the documentation most shops give. However I just use a 5.1 speaker set since I don’t want my room full of speakers.

    Thanx for this story anyway, I’m deffinately going to do it like this.

  5. Bas says:

    No questions, everything is clear. Had a bit of trouble with how girder actually added comments and assigning IR output signals to it, but I got it finally. So thanx. Really glad I ran into this story.
    Also I’m very glad I can no assign even more comments to my MCE remote. The little red button on the bottom for instance, is now my Receiver On/Off button. So I now am able to switch of more than just my pc and tv with the remote.

  6. It depends on what version of Girder you use. I am most familiar with version 3. I would recommend you to post the question in the Girder forum along with the version number you are using. They are really helpful.

  7. Jan Larsen says:


    Thanks for this great post.
    I want to control my Sony STR-DG500 receiver and I’ve done the things described. The blasters light up and everything looks fine – but the receiver doesn’t react.
    I’ve user the MceIrRec/Play utilities – they make the blasters light up – but still no reaction from my reseiver. Any ideas ?

    / Jan

  8. Do you manage to control anything else with your setup? A CD-player or something… Just to test.

    I know that some Sony recievers use special frequencies that the Microsoft IR Blaster can’t transmit.

    I don’t know for sure about your Amp, but that might be the problem. If so, you could try with an USB-UIRT or another IR-blaster in combination with Girder. Unfortunately I am not very updated on the alternativer right now.

    I know that my old RedRat USB IR-blaster manages more frequencies than the Microsoft one. Still I don’t know if it will control all Sony Amps.

  9. Willem says:


    Works nice, but what about the other keys on the MCE remote? They don’t work anymore, do i have to add them all in Girder? I also have a MCE Remote keyboard, is it possible to add all those keys to Girder too?

    Or is there another way for keep using the MCE remote keyboard?



  10. On my system the rest of the buttons and the keyboard still works fine. I think there are two versions of the Girder plugin. One gives all control to Girder. With that one you’ll have to set up all keys in Girder. With the other one you can only access the programmable buttons and other remotes. With that one your keyboard and MCE remote will keep working.

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  12. marr says:

    I can’t get it to work. The blasters don’t even light up. What am I suppose to do? I even tried changing the blasters. I don’t think they’re broken.

  13. eirikso says:

    I have only used MCE with internal tuners, so I don’t know how this will work if you also want MCE to control an external Set Top Box. As far as I remember, there where two ways of letting Girder take control of the IR reciever and IR blaster in MCE. One that takes completely control, and one that let you keep using some of the native MCE control, so it might work.

  14. Hi,
    Your “How to control your amplifier from the MCE IR-blaster” is useful for me.
    But I would really appreaciate some newbie help.
    I installed a trial version of 3.3 since that the one you use.
    I registered a command “volume up” and “volume down” command.
    I have also learned my MCE control my amplifier volume up and down and power on.

    But how do I go from here to learn events (my mce remote) to blast away IR signals to the blaster?
    Can you ___PLEASE___ give me some screenshots?


  15. Unfortunately I am currently not running Windows on my media center, so it will be difficult for me to provide you with any screen shots. During this last year I have switched all my computers to Macs and are quite happy with that.

    But it makes it difficult for me to run Girder. I am constantly experimenting, so I might install windows again and will let you know. But your best bet would be the Girder forums. Point them to this article and tell them that you need some help. They’re nice people and will probably help you out:

  16. I got the IR blasters to work eventually. Tx. The only remaining problem is that the Girder refuses to learn other IR input than the original MCE remote IR signals. When I program the volume up /down with other IR signals, Girder will not recognize the signal, even if the transceiver blinks. So I have to reset the remote and accept the system volume going up and the amplifier volume going up at the same time. Did you use another plugin to recognize other IR signals than “original” MCE IR signals?

  17. I was able to program the blaster with different remotes. You might want to experiment with completely new batteries and the distance between the remote and the reciever.

  18. Girder gives way more flexibility.

    And for me: I had the amp inside a cabinet. Out of reach of the remote. But with this Girder approach I could have the MCE receiver outside the cabinet and a cable with a blaster inside the cabinet.

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