A/V Control with future HA ability?


New Member
I am looking for a way to replace my remotes and have A/V control/macro ability for the main room and from other locations. There looks to be dozens of software and hardware choices out there and it is all a bit overwhleming. Here is a quick background and layout.

I am a Comp. Eng. so I can program if needed and build hardware if needed. Budget is moderate right now and I want to see how the wife likes the idea/interface before I blow $1000 on software and hardware. I was planning to get a pronto/marantz RC9500 but liked the idea of multiple access points (computers for now, pocketpc later) rather than a single remote. We have not jumped into the media center idea yet but have a small collection of ITunes on a server. Home is already networked (wired and wireless).

My home theatre room has the following pieces, all but the receiver (RS232 capable) will need to be IR controlled. I am not currently interested in having a remote that controls the HTPC (I don't mind getting up to use the mouse) but need to have the HTPC control the components.

Toshiba 65H81 (older style HD-RPTV without discrete on/off java script:emoticon('<_<')
Denon 3805
Denon 2910
Pioneer LD
Sony CDP-CX355 (300 disc juke)
Soon to add old Denon or other amp for third/fourth room music.

I looked at Girder, Xlobby, NetRemote, CQC, Homeseer, MainLobby, others. What I cannot seem to figure out is that each one seems to have plugins/control of the others and yet they offer similar/competiing features? What gives?

I am guessing I need to have the HTPC near the receiver to handle the RS232 control plus a PC-IR transceiver card or USB-IRT interface for the rest of the IR controls. A second option would be to remote locate the HTPC and use a GC-100 for both of the serial and IR needs.

What I cannot figure out is how all the pieces go togther. I download Xlobby and played with it slightly but many of the notes I saw posted on the forum mentioned needing the addition of Girder for support of certain hardware or interfaces. However it seemed Girder offered an interface similar to Xlobby so why bother with Xlobby and just do girder from the get go? Everything seems to be intertwined even before you add in the multi access remote capability.

Basically I wantto know, which programs are the UI/wrappers and which ones interface with the hardware to transmit and receive commands from both the RS232 (Denon) and an IR module. Is there any product that handles it all reasonably well. $500 or more for commercial software is a bit much if I am unsure whether I will like the HTPC methodology.

All guidance is truly appreciated.


Forgot to mention that sometime down the road I would like to add a wall mounted touchscreen as well as lighting control. But that is a ways off and only if the interface is usable.

To answer your question directly, CQC will handle it all for you as a one-stop shop, plus has more functionality than any of those other options . Very attractive for those of us not interested in attempting to integrate multiple programs.

However, it's a $500 base price (which actually gets most folks 99% of what they'd want) and $900 for the complete license. Both prices are for a whole-house license and all drivers are free, but before I bother explaining any more about it, is that price point even an option for you?

If you really don't mind a little programming and muscle grease in order to save a few bucks, I personally think Girder&NetRemote is a fantastic price point. Reading through your post, that's definitely the direction I'd push you into going. Def don't bother with xLobby if you'll just go to Girder/NR later.

BTW, if you read chapter 1 of my case study document, you'll get a complete parts list for my entire HA setup. It's generally valid for either CQC or Girder.
Thanks for the quick synopsis. Yup, $900 is way out of the ballpark right now especially since I don't know whether the wife will like the interface.

As for Girder/Netremote vs. Xlobby. What's the difference? What does one offer that the other doesn't. Xlobby seems to have everything included but lacks support for most hardware/devices other than USB-IRT. It does suggest having several remote clients for PocketPC, tablet, etc and multi zone audio.

I guess I will have to download Girder and see how it compares since it has better hardware device support. BTW, What would push me to Girder/Netremote from Xlobby assuming the learning curve is not a problem?

I will check out your document. Thanks again.

xLobby is just a front-end. You need Girder to do the back-end control. NetRemote is Girder's sister product that gives you a nice UI over Girder, and is the xLobby equivalent.

Finally, xLobby is free, whereas NetRemote is a commercial product. Your call as to which to use, but the xLobby forums have been very quiet lately, and i'm not sure how much active development is going on. NetRemote may cost $$, but at least there's a live company behind it. As it's also designed to integrate with Girder, you might spend the $50, but save on psychiatrist fees for when you have problems.
Hi Lorin,
MainLobby has a Denon RS232 serial plugin. Also supports IR that should support some of your other hardware.

MainLobby is a complete automation and media control system.
It also can be used integrated with Homeseer, HAL and Girder (and many other 3rd party applications).

The reason to have these integrations is that none of the solutions "do it all". the ones the integrate together do "the most" due to the combining of capability. Of course this also brings in overlap, which is not important as you will typically decide to use one application as the primary, and not use the others duplicated hardware control capability. But, at least you won't be left out in the cold with an expensive piece of hardware that cannot be integrated into the process.

This also can add additional complexity and learning curve as you need to learn multiple applications, and then how to integrate them (usually not a big deal). As you are a Comp engineer, you are well ahead of the pack on experience with this type of stuff. Fear not, but expect to spend some time as you would with any other complex problem.

MainLobby combo is $179.99 and many plugins are free with the purchase of the combo, and others are extra expense that can add up but well worth your time savings if you were to roll your own code or scripting like you have to with many other packages. Depends on how much you value your time.

Touchpanel is what MainLobby excels at. Lighting control is very well supported too. From dedicated high end controllers like the new Vantage Infusion, down to Insteon / UPB and right down to the low price end, but very functional (albight less reliable) X10. Some of the plugins cost a fair amount, X10 can be free (dependent on which hardware interface you are using).

Feel free to ask away and folks here will help you design your system that can expand with your interest and budget availability.