IR or RF which way to go


Active Member

I have had quiet a few threads, and id like to thank everyone for thier help. Im currently making a spreadsheet, with all my wiring requirements to each room (and sub area within room), and thier lengths, so I know how much of each wire to buy. (thanks to the guide)

Im at the point where id like to look at IR/RF. And im a little confused. From what I gather, IR uses 2 wires. Signal and Ground from the IR Eye, to the emitter. (sorry if terms are off, google is not always the best). Then it takes an additional 2 wires per emitter, which would stick to the devices. Also a blaster is also an option.

Im doing centralized/local video distribution. In my AV rack id like to have, 2 ATV, 2 Sat Recievers. The ATV will handle the movies etc from Itunes, and the Recievers will do live TV, and PVR. There will be local AV equiptment in the theater. This would run withough a 4x4 Matrix for now (hopefully HDbaseT)

So what is a better option, RF or IR? Or should I just wire for IR. If so, what are the wiring needs. Id think I could code the remote with the local equiptment in the room, and use a single IR eye, to transmit to a base in my AV rack. So only 1 cat 5e/cat6 would be needed (wont need anything back as local IR should work just fine, and would have 6 spares). Now can I have one emitter downstairs, and several eyes wired into it? Or will this cause issues. I only plan to have 4 TVs in the house, but im pre-wiring for 8. So would I require a seperate emitter for each room, or can I just have each eye, go to the emitter, and the single emitter work with the 4 devices?

I will use a pair back to each TV, as this would allow me to possible switch TVs off through automation.

Or should I just go all RF?


Ranger Digital

Active Member
IR sucks, its that simple. Company policy now for at least three years, we dont do IR. Its a pain, its a hassle for customers and its just not robust enought. ESPECIALLY if you have macros that require any amount of time to execute as you have to CONSTANTLY hold remote to eye until ALL macros execute. It takes way to long for TV and projectors to warm up before they can receive commands agian so IR is out 100%. Of course, a alot of equipment needs IR but for central control, RF is it ONLY way to go.

Run a spare cat5 to each location that needs IR. We twist orange and blue for + and brown and green for ground then use channelvision 3.5mm keystone jacks that the emitter plugs directly into. Works like a champ. Blasters are ghetto as well, IMO. Do it right.


Senior Member
I'd pull category cables for distributed IR to all locations, as a fallback. You never know what may interfere with RF, back to the closet. As you're aware, category cable can also be used for RS232 control of connected equipment.

Ranger Digital

Active Member
Why do you need 4 rg6 to each tv? We run on with four cats and rarely ever use the on rg6. Of course this is with distributed audio/video to each TV with baluns.

There are VERY few pieces of equipment that opereate RF. Allmost ALL use IR. The question is not to use RF vs IR for equipment but RF or IR for the remote control of the equipment. You must use IR to each piece of equipment. Use RF to send the signals back to a main distribution unit that then converts the RF signal to IR then it travels to each piece of equipment via a wire/emitter.

Rething all those RJ6 to each tv or educated me on the need. Overkill to me. Use a cat5 five to each tv to carry the IR from the RF unit. Another for IP to the TV, another for HD distribution via a balun and a spare for future use. If distance is not an issue, ran an hdmi cable as well. ONE rg6 incase you want to put sat/cable box at TV location or it could be used for OTA antenna.

2% of the time the coax gets used on our jobs. That means 98% of the time the coax is worthless but there just in case.


Active Member
Well I wanted 2 at each location, Incase a standalone DVR is wanted. My DVRs are bell 9421s. So 2 coax. I suppose 4 isn't needed. But I figured if I had RF interference I could put an RF receiver behind the TV. The runs to most TVs are going to be 2 stories. I don't have my spreadsheet handy (on iPhone in the field) but some are in the 90' range.
I was going to use 6 cat6 just so the guys helping me don't pull 5 for HD. But I wanted 2 for HDMI (Incase I don't get a HDbaseT) 1 for phone/IR (if a receiver is used to order PPV) 1 for LAN for TV, and 2 spare (LAN for ps3/xbox etc)

So would 3 coax make more sense?


Active Member
IR vs. RF, as being discussed here is really missing some pieces. Most equipment is going to rely on IR for control - even today only high-end units have serial/IP control and RF is proprietary to that piece of equipment. The argument for using RF for macros if fine if you plan on using RF remotes in EVERY location. But, here is another thing... can an RF remote, such as the Harmony, be programmed to use a single RF receiver base? If not, what do you plan to do in getting the IR signal to the device? I'm sure the more elegant/reliable solutions for addressable RF are going to be expensive. Another solution would be a device, such as a global cache, that can receive IR and TCP commands and act upon them to relay the IR/serial code or run a macro. Personally, I have a server running EventGhost (used to use Girder) which intercepts both IR and TCP commands and then relays the signals. Heck... this server even receives IR signals for bedroom HTPCs then relays the keyboard commands and macros out to that particular HTPC this way I only needed a single IR receiver on the server.

As for RG6... run it. So many things can run across coax without the added expense of a balun. One day you may want to have the spare coax run digital audio back to a receiver or... who knows what.


Senior Member
I'll say that the media distribution stuff has gotten a bit over my head - I'd love to do matrixed video distribution, but I don't feel there's a single product available that's really up to snuff.

That said - here's a couple things to think about:
  • Older DirecTV receivers needed up to 4 coax per DVR - but that's changed with the advent of their new SWiM multiswitches - they allow multiple tuners and network connectivity over a single Coax cable (note - that coax can no longer be multiplexed and used for multiple sources or channel modulation because DTV uses the available frequency spectrum)
  • Coax can be handy thanks to very simple Coax to RCA adapters - with 5 you can run Component video and stereo; with 3 you can at least get component video. With one you can get composite; and with 2 you can get stereo audio. I've done lots of tricks for audio and video distribution using these methods. Component video doesn't have the hassles with HDCP/EDID authentication and is sometimes easier than full HDMI.
  • I've dealt with a lot of HDMI/DVI/VGA over Cat5 baluns - and the reality is, most of them are sub-par. Some are active, some passive - I've seen one ruin a brand new 50" LCD, and the only ones that have worked well for me are the ~$500 ones. At that price, I'd rather run the right cable or figure out a better way.
  • This new HDBaseT seems like an interesting way to go - I can't wait to see the line mature - a matrix switcher combined with HDBaseT might really be the way to go - with a simple receiver at each end and a transmitter at each source, I like the potential - but we need to see the technology mature a bit.
I think we're in a lull where the technology for HDTV/3D/Audio has advanced faster than the distribution methods can keep up with - but they'll balance out in the next 2 years (IMHO).


Senior Member
I know this is OT, but definitely wait until trim out to buy a matrix switch. Tech is changing rapidly, and there is a decent chance you'll have issues. Buy the matrix from a company with outstanding customer service that will help troubleshoot and take it back if it doesn't work.