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The Harmony Ultimate series is a fantastic bit of kit Logitech Harmony Ultimate Review and Giveaway Logitech Harmony Ultimate Review and Giveaway Your living room is chaos - admit it. You're forgiven for wondering which remote controls which device. What with the TV, amplifier, TiVO, BluRay player, maybe even the lighting - switching activities becomes a long... Read More which simplifies the mass of remote controls in your living room, and can be reprogrammed to control anything which works off infrared (even these cheap RGB LED strips How To Control Your Custom RGB Lighting From a Harmony Remote How To Control Your Custom RGB Lighting From a Harmony Remote If you own a Harmony Remote, you're probably aware that they can now control the Phillips Hue "connected bulb" - a wifi enabled but extortionately priced $200 LED lightbulb set. But did you know your... Read More ).

It’s a perfect solution, but only if your home entertainment den is located in a single room.

With decent projectors available for less than $400 ATCO Budget HD Projector with Built-In Android Review and Giveaway ATCO Budget HD Projector with Built-In Android Review and Giveaway We've purchased a budget LED projector to see if you can get that same big screen experience from something half the price. It cost just less than $400. Let's see if it's any good. Read More , it’s quite possible you’ll have both a TV and a home cinema. In that case, things get messy; you can’t pair a Harmony Ultimate Remote with two hubs, so you’d need to buy two full $350 remote and hub packages.

For something designed to be the “ultimate” remote, this is far from ideal, and obviously rather pricey. The Harmony smartphone app can work with multiple hubs, but it’s still not a seamless process – you need to switch hubs in the settings every time. Today I’m taking a look at a number of ways we can work around this to get a single system working for two rooms.

Terminology and Limitations

Before we get started it’s important to define a few key terms and run over some hard limits of the Harmony Ultimate system.

IR – Infrared is an ageing but reliable method of device control using light which requires direct line of sight. Unknown IR commands can be learned by the Harmony system, which enables you to control pretty much anything that has a traditional remote – check out the video below where I demo some cheap RGB LEDs integrated into Harmony activities.

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Want to learn more about infrared? Have a go at this TV devil Arduino project Introducing the TV Devil, An Easy Remote Control Arduino Prank Introducing the TV Devil, An Easy Remote Control Arduino Prank Read More , in which you’ll examine the signals sent out by your TV remote.

Harmony Ultimate Hub is the brain center of the Harmony system. It broadcasts IR, Bluetooth (for devices like the Xbox 360), and connects to your network for IP device control (like the Philips Hue and Nest). It includes two IR blaster ports, useful for repeating IR signals into hard to reach areas such as covered AV cabinets.

You cannot “teach” new Bluetooth or IP commands, and it does not currently support ZWave or Zigbee smart home products (though an extension hub is promised to add these). The hub can operate independently of the hardware remote by pairing it with a smartphone app (and can be purchased separately for just $99).

logitech-harmony-ultimate-universal-remote-review-1

Harmony Ultimate Remote is a touchscreen remote control which pairs with a hub. It has a IR emitter, for line of sight device control, though this must be manually activated in the device settings.

Note: The “Ultimate Home” series is a minor upgrade of the Ultimate, able to control some more smart home devices such as door locks, as well as integrating with IFTTT. Logitech has promised a software upgrade path for existing Ultimate users (especially given that you can’t even buy the Home edition outside of the US), but the upgrade has yet to materialize. 

Number of devices. Regardless of how many rooms you’re trying to throw signals out to, there’s a 15 device arbitrary limit. You can overcome this by creating a custom device and teaching the codes for two or more devices in one, but it’ll take time. Use this tactic as a last resort for simple items like lighting or blinds, rather than complex home entertainment components.

30ft. range between hub and remote. The Ultimate remote needs to stay within range of the hub to be functional. 30 feet is the stated range. In practical terms this means the room immediately above, below, or next to your hub should be reachable, but any significant amount of concrete is going to put a stop to this. Parts of my house are quite old, and the walls are over a metre thick of solid stone – unsurprisingly, even the room next door was unreachable. Since it’s a proprietary RF signal, there’s no way to extend or repeat this.

Same wifi network.  If your hub is going to going to be more than 30ft away from your secondary room, all is not lost. Put the remote down – you can still use the Harmony smartphone app along with the techniques listed below to get some degree of multi-room control.

The only limitation in this case is that the same Wi-Fi network name must be used. I ran into issues where I had multiple Wi-Fi networks to cover the whole house, and had previously named them differently so I could tell which was best for upstairs or downstairs. Despite being on the same subnet, the Harmony app refused to connect from the upstairs Wi-Fi network to downstairs, until I gave both networks the same name. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a different access point, as long as it’s the same network name and all connected to one central point somewhere (your main router).

xbiox one harmony compatiblity

Game systems. Here’s where it gets really complicated. Harmony can control Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Wii/Wii U by Bluetooth – so they need to be in range of the hub regardless of where you push the infrared signals to. It controls the Xbox One via infrared, but requires very precise placement of an IR blaster, so while this could be located in another room, it may require more IR repeating.

The Harmony system cannot control the Playstation 4 at all. That said, unless you’re using your game system as a media player, you’re still going to need the controller anyway, so perhaps it doesn’t matter so much that the Harmony remote is limited in that respect. Have the Harmony turn everything else on, while you grab the controller.

If in doubt, use the compatibility checker to determine how your system is controlled.

With those hard limits in mind, let’s look at solutions to extend the infrared signal from the Harmony to elsewhere in your home.

Easiest: Use a Commercial IR Blaster

The X10 Powermid is a straightforward and cost effective way to wirelessly repeat an infrared signal, which claims a theoretical maximum distance of 100 feet. At around $45, it is isn’t going to break the bank.

powermid IR repeater

It’s a plug-and-play solution: just place the receiver within sight of your hub, and it should pick up every IR signal in the room, blindly repeating them to the emitter in your second room. Ensure you don’t have more than one of the same device if you use this approach.

Cheapest: DIY Blaster Extension

The IR blasters supplied with your hub are designed to repeat the main IR signal into enclosed spaces, but often you’ll find you don’t actually need them, as the main IR signal is strong enough to reach everything without problem. If that’s the case, you can use one or more of the blasters in your second room.

For lengths of up to 75 feet, users have reported success in splicing the IR cable directly into Cat5 ethernet cabling. This can either be a dedicated cable run, or part of an existing 100MBit network. For Gigabit network speeds, all of the twisted pairs in Cat5E or Cat6 cabling is used, so this would not be possible.

To go a more non-destructive route, buy some 2.5mm mono to 3.5mm plug adaptors, and use standard stereo cabling to extend them. AVS forum user Sylvain has links to the parts required and a full guide.

mini blaster extension

It’s worth bearing in mind that these “mini-blasters” aren’t as powerful as the hub, so they’ll need to placed closer to the devices you’re controlling.

If Possible: Direct IR Control from the Remote

As well as IR signal being blasted out from the hub, the remote itself has an IR emitter. Normally, this isn’t used – there’s just no need, since the hub does that. However, for problematic devices you can configure the signal to come from the remote as well as or instead of the hub (you can also configure which of the IR blasters if any it’s repeated on, which could prove useful for controlling the same devices in different rooms).

logitech-harmony-ultimate-universal-remote-review-14

You can therefore set everything in the second entertainment room to be controlled directly from the remote, while the main room remains under hub control.

Using this method, you’re limited to using the physical remote control. This won’t work if you’re controlling things from your smartphone, so it might be a good idea to also extend one of the IR blasters. And as mentioned before, the remote still needs to be within range of the hub at all times (about 30ft).

Most Comprehensive: HDMI Extenders

If it’s likely you’ll only be using one of your home entertainment rooms at any time, you might consider broadcasting an HDMI signal to the secondary room. Put all your source components into the main entertainment room, and keep the secondary room as an extension which only contains output devices, like a projector and surround sound system – all the source switching will be done in the main room.

HDMI extenders are around $50-$100 and need a dedicated run of Cat6 cabling; you’ll also need to purchase separate IR emitters, and a suitable adaptor to connect the 2.5mm mono mini-blaster port on the Harmony hub, with the 3.5mm mono input on the extender.

hdmi extender

As you can see, there are some insurmountable limitations to the Harmony Ultimate system, though with a little compromise and careful planning you can extend most of the functionality to another room. Still confused about what you can and can’t do? Do you have another method we haven’t outlined? Ask away or let us know in the comments. 

  1. Shannon
    December 4, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    I have my smart hub at up to work with two rooms in my house with the hub in one room and the mini blaster in another. I have a Samsung cable box in one room and a scientific Atlanta cable box in the other. The I'm having is the WiFi app and amazon echo smart skills control both boxes at the same time. I tried to set them up so one works with hub and the other the blaster. I tried telling the SA box to do nothing when the Samsung activity is called. I even tried to delete the SA box completely yet it still I'd bring controlled when I'm in the other room. I'm considering buying another smart hub but I fear I'll have the same problem. Any help is greatly appreciated!

    • James Bruce
      December 6, 2016 at 10:04 am

      If I recall correctly, you can only target the hub or the remote, not the blasters - those just duplicate anything from the hub.

  2. Mike King
    November 27, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    What is the best way to control multiple devices behind a closet. I wanted to use an HDMI extender with IR in and Out included but can you control multiple devices with the IR out when you have just one IR attached to the front of the TV. I wanted to see if I can stay away from getting this RF remote if I can. Are you able to plug in an IR repeater kit to the IR out in the closet. Then hook to your receiver, cable box, bluray ect?

  3. Moe
    November 21, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    Sorry about the off topic question..

    one meter of solid stone wall in part of your house that seperates roomes?
    Is your house a castle, an ICBM silo or a bunker at one point of time?

    It is just a bit too curious to see this kind of setup. it would be interesting if you can share how it came to be. Again sorry for going off topic.

    • James Bruce
      November 22, 2016 at 8:26 am

      Happy to answer! The oldest part of the house dates back to 1850, and consisted of two semi-detached stone cottages to house local miners, built in the traditional style of the time with solid stone walls. When the mining industry collapsed, a larger family combined the two cottages, and built a room on the back to join them with the pig shed (which is now my office). It was extended in two further stages, each adding onto the side, and a corridor along the back wall. So the upshot is that while the back of the house is a modern exterior, walk along that corridor and you'll see two rooms with the thick stone walls. Very quirky place, which is exactly why I love it ;)

  4. Andrea Simeoni
    June 28, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    very good tips. one quesiton: is it possibile to extend the operation area of the controllers without using mobile app? since we are all more confortable to use controllers instead of mobile apps when watching tv.

  5. Pas
    February 17, 2016 at 12:54 am

    Great tip! Worked perfectly to extend range of my IR blaster dongle. Thanks.

  6. Dekay
    January 28, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    First of all, THANK YOU! I have been pondering the same question and after countless searches found your site!

    I have a living room setup with the ultimate hub and remote and now I have a media room with with a sound system and a blue ray player acting as a source for just the media room. I plan to do a media server in the future and it will go into the media room as well. These two rooms are on different floors but on the same WifI network and I was wondering how I could wirelessly extend the harmony hub signal to the media room devices. I have looked into running an IR cable from the media room closet, where I keep all the equipment but I like your wireless IR repeater idea better. Do you see any problems with my intended setup?

  7. JC
    September 9, 2015 at 4:29 am

    If you were looking to only use one of the rooms at a time and simply needed to feed an HDMI cable to the second room to a tv for video and audio, but needed the sound to remain OFF in the main room, how would you setup the harmony? I have a marantz SR5010... I'm thinking it needs to be ON in order for the the sources to pass through it to the second HDMI port ... but I'm unsure. Of course turning it on will have the sound come through the speaker system in the main room which I don't want. Thanks for any advice.

    • James Bruce
      September 9, 2015 at 7:01 am

      Add a new activity as usual, consisting of your secondary devices. Customize the activity to add the primary amp - the Marantz. Customize the activity steps to turn on the Marantz, and mute it. Then in shutdown procedure, you'll probably want to unmute it first, then turn it off, so the next activity isn't started weird.

      • JC
        September 9, 2015 at 3:50 pm

        ah yes! Thanks much for the tip!

    • Andrea Simeoni
      June 28, 2016 at 5:28 pm

      by a pioneer vsx-923 (quite cheap with huge functions that you need). mainly you need the matrix function that allow you to see 2 different things with 2 hdmi out.
      the main hdmi out will be use for the living room where you have sound system ect.
      the second hdmi will be used with extender everywhere you have a tv. this is what i do in 6 different room floors ect.

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