The Good The Bad The CEC

I have made note earlier in these news letters regarding what I think, or thought, was a great feature called ARC (Audio Return Channel) on new TV products, soundbars and home theater systems. After having a few more months to use and contemplate how it works you will never guess what; it also comes up as a mixed bag of good and bad features.

In the simplest illustration of getting better sound from your TV is where it seems to be best suited. If you take your new ARC TV and equip it with a new ARC soundbar and all you ever want to do is listen to improved sound from the Cable related box and/or DVD Blu-ray unit, ARC seems to be quite flawless. However, if you implement the CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) to a complete Home Theater system that also has a whole house music system attached, the CEC will be busy trying to do things against your own intentions. Here are a few examples of the settings which will interact and cause your system not to follow your instructions. Blu-ray players and cable/satellite boxes now have the ability to interface with ARC. Power up your Blu-ray player and the input switches automatically to BD/DVD input; it sounds great but what if you were only trying to retrieve a disk out of the player? Now you must reset the Surround Receiver back to the proper input. Close the tray and it once again will jump the receiver back to BD input. Most units which are CEC equipped have a menu which will ask questions like: Auto power On, Auto power off, Auto input select, ARC On, HDMI control On (CEC)… the list goes on. My experience with these controls (every manufacturer has their own list and fundamental differences in the way the controls will interact with their own equipment). Now take those differences and compile them with mixed manufacturers, i.e. Panasonic TV with Sony receiver with LG blu-ray player and Directv (use any combination you like), and you cannot predict the way the system will react and how best to set all the presets which exist and attempt to predict the way the end user will like how it all operates. It could confuse them to no end.
Don’t get me wrong; this is generally a good feature. But now integrate a fancy do-it-all remote control and the end user will find themselves throwing the remote at the TV in disgust. The secret to CEC control is understanding how the different manufacturers built in control mechanisms will interact with each other and what switches in which units set correctly will make their system work best for them. I have been at this for nearly 30 years and can generally read very well what a customer wants from their system. I am quickly learning that the combination of switch settings, different manufacturers, and the different ways even quite simple systems can be wired leaves a nearly endless combination of end results.