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What Are IR Blasters?

Alex Newth
Alex Newth

An infrared (IR) blaster is a device that is hooked into DVD players, set-top boxes and other devices to mimic an IR controller and boost IR signals. This allows devices to sit behind cabinets and also allows the device to act autonomously. Many IR blasters are pre-installed into the player or set-top box, but some early devices may require the user to hook the IR blaster into the device. Setting the blaster may be like a universal remote that requires the user to find the correct frequency for the blaster to work with the device; this does not happen with pre-installed devices.

IR blasters are units that connect into a device and serve several purposes. One purpose is to enhance the strength of IR signals from remote controls. This allows users to sit farther away from the device and still use it. Boosting the signal also allows the device to sit behind a cabinet or other surface and still have the signal able to penetrate the surface and make the device work.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Another use of the IR blaster is to make the device function autonomously; this is mostly with recording devices. When someone sets a device to record at a certain time, the device itself cannot change channels to ensure the right show is being recorded. With a blaster unit, the device can change the TV’s channel when the recoding time comes around, because the blaster will mimic a remote control’s signal to change channels.

IR blaster units either come pre-installed or must be installed manually. Pre-installed units are more modern, and no work is needed by the user for it to work; he or she can set the recording device to change channels and can use remote controllers at extended ranges. Manual versions require very little installation; the user just needs to plug the blaster into the back of the unit and the two will integrate.

To get IR blasters and remote controllers to work, if a manual installation is required, the user must set the signal frequency as if with a universal remote control. There are typically several hundred frequencies IR blasters can understand, so going through each one can take some time. To make this easier, most IR blasters come with a manual that will tell users what frequency works with most popular-brand remotes; if the brand is not included in the manual, then the user will have to try each signal until one works.

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Discussion Comments


@NathanG - I've heard about that too. I'd also like to point out that if you’re buying an IR blaster with a universal remote control and setting it up for the first time, it may take a while to get it working properly.

Basically you have to keep working with it until it learns all of the channels so to speak; at least, that has been my experience. I eventually got it working perfectly however.


You can also use IR blaster units with your personal computer from what I understand. I think you hook up the IR blaster to a card that you install in your computer. From then on, you can change channels on your cable top box by using your computer.

Don’t ask me why you would want to do this; I’m sure there is some application for it. Nowadays with the convergence of television and computer technology it was only a matter of time before someone came up with the idea of controlling your TV through your computer.

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