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Cambridge Audio's M1 remote control

 Why can't they all be like this?

By Les Enser

Home Theatre has been a fixture in my home for many years. I could not imagine being without it for extended periods of time, since it adds so much to the home theatre experience. Just think: with 1982's introduction of the Hi-Fi VCR, which connected to a plain two speaker stereo system, we thought we had the ultimate experience we could get in our homes.

Now look at 1999, where the Dolby Pro-Logic/AC-3/DTS receiver, coupled with a five or six speaker system, a Laserdisc player or a DVD machine, now lets us have a true movie theatre right in our livingroom. Awesome! Turn down the lights and bring on the popcorn and "on with the show."

Wait a minute! The center channel is a little low on volume, so you reach for the remote - only to find yourself fumbling about in the dark to find the little button to turn it up. Damn, you have to turn on the light to find that little elusive button - and you’ve just interrupted the flow of the movie.

Frustrating? You bet.

Thanks to the folks at Cambridge Audio (made in England) for introducing their M-1 remote control, a slickly-designed, backlit unit that will learn most of your audio/video remote functions. The unit fits comfortably in one’s hands and uses a GUI (graphical user interface) to make things easier.

The M1 remote uses a LCD display (liquid crystal) and is easy to see during the day or night. Cambridge uses a built in sensor that will turn on the backlighting when home lighting is insufficient - an ingenious idea that should save battery life, since the unit does require 4 AA batteries. Cambridge claims with normal use battery life should be between 4-6 months.

Total weight is about 250 grams or just a little more than half a pound.

Programming is a breeze and one simply has to lay the original remote behind the Cambridge (as opposed to head to head, which makes keying in somewhat easier since the keys of both remotes are at your vantage point) and punch up the buttons. If an error is made the Cambridge will indicate this by a warning at the top of the screen. Once the remote is programmed it will retain its memory for up to three years.

The beauty of this remote is that it has individual screens for different functions, i.e. T.V. , VCR, CD, LD, AMP, TAPE, TUNER, and SEL 1 &2 (for extra options) controls. So if one wishes to operate the VCR just press the VCR button and its controls pop up! All the controls are laid out in a logical and legible manner. This remote will also make a friendly "beep" to confirm each button pressed, but this can also be defeated.

Once a command is chosen and the remote is laid to rest the back light will gradually fade to off, a classy gesture for such a handsome remote.

Cambridge also added a macro function that will operate up to 10 different commands in terms of power management. To put in simpler terms the remote will turn on the power of whatever device you’ve chosen (for example, if one chooses VCR, the remote will turn on the T.V. the receiver and of course the VCR itself, in with a single command). It's a nifty feature for those afraid of pressing the wrong buttons.

In summary, this is a fine remote and we recommend it highly. However, nothing is truly perfect and one item that Cambridge has missed is that some VCRs and Receivers use a cursor control (arrow up/down, left/right) for their settings and these were omitted. Perhaps we may see this in the M-2 remote. As of this writing no M-2 is in the works but time will tell.

In the meantime, this is one fine remote and would a great gift for the true home theatre buff.

I hope my wife is listening.

Technofile Specs:

Cambridge M-1 remote
Price as tested $349.00 Cdn.
Weight 250g
Dimensions 180mm x 82mm x 28mm
Uses 4 AAA batteries
Interface: LCD, touch screen, back lit, GUI with 10 Macro settings

(Editor's note: the M1 was loaned to TechnoFILE by Smart Home Systems of Calgary, Canada)

 

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Updated May 13, 2006