Home Theatre fanatics are an exacting bunch. Although the Marantz RC2000 remote control solved a lot of problems it wasn't perfect. Along comes the RC2000 Mk. II, an improved version of the classic remote - will this version satisfy even the most critical of users? buckles down to some serious button-pushing for SMR Home Theatre.
|Marantz RC2000 Mk II Features:|
|Separate channel up/down keys that are located for easy, comfortable access.
LCD display with adjustable contrast.
Illumination feature for LCD display and keypad.
Re-naming feature lets you customize the LCD labels.
Expanded memory capacity.
Non-volatile memory that assures that programmed commands will not be erased from memory, even if the batteries go completely dead.
|Audible confirmation of entered commands.
32 special commands for each component.
Macro keys store up to 20 commands.
Built-in commands for Marantz A/V components, and other components such as TV and VCR models using the Philips RC-5 remote control language.
DSS functions provided for popular DSS equipment.
8 ½" long by 3 1/8" wide and 1½" deep
|Suggested retail price of $249.99|
There is a serious affliction that sooner or later affects all of us in Home Theater Land - I have dubbed it "EPRC" short for "Excessive Proliferation of Remote Controls". Before I was cured I suffered from the 7 unit manifestation of this disorder - 2 for VCRs; 1 for receiver (in my pre-DC-1 days); 1 for cable box; 1 for TV set; 1 for laserdisc player; and a rather nifty standalone Philips voice activated remote I bought in England, which made the move to the US with me. Sufferers of EPRC who are married or living with significant others sometimes also have to deal with a related issue: "WAF" or "Wife Acceptance Factor" (alternatively "SOAF" for the politically correct). Sufferers of EPRC will be familiar with the symptoms - apparent inability to locate correct remote; consequent frustration and bad language; unnecessary operation of front panel controls and consequent muscle strain from the exercise; when present with WAF the symptoms become voices in the head ("Why is all this gear so hard to operate?"; "Do we really need all these remotes?"); banishment to the basement for making a mess on the carpet/coffee table/couch/arm chair; finally delirium and madness causing one to attach all remotes to the arms of the chair and challenge the Enterprise to battle in the Neutral Zone (the voice-activated remote really came in handy for that one).
My cure began when Marantz introduced the first RC2000 in 1996 (originally listed at $250). Supplies were short - I waited 3 months for one. Now I will be the first to admit that the original version, while a great performer, is not a complete cure -- while it deals with some symptoms, it gives rise other frustrations of varying magnitude - first, it has a voracious appetite for batteries -- even with the lighting options turned off I was only getting a maximum of 2 months from a set of EverReady lithiums (I think I read somewhere that this is to do with the light sensor still being active even though backlighting is switched off); second, adding to he frustration of the first, settings and learned codes etc were stored in volatile memory, so were lost if the batteries went really flat (but at least it warned you in advance); third, too little memory -- even after the early increase in the "blue dot" version, I did not have enough space for all the commands for all my gear; fourth, and one of the most bothersome, no dedicated channel up/down buttons. There are other little usability oddities, which didnt really bother me but were seen by some as irritating -- 2 step macro execution (press macro button, then hit Play); no "multitasking" - if you had programmed the source input keys as intended, you could not carry out RC functions on any source other than the current one without changing the input selection on the receiver (I just covered the IR transmitter with my hand to get round this one). The layout of the original was also not very ergonomic -- transport keys to the bottom left, "number" keys in the middle; the keys around the LCD panel were a little small and some users complained that the panel itself was not easy to read.
Well, fellow sufferers, a more complete cure is now available. I am pleased to say that the officially designated Mark II version deals with most of these shortcomings. In the USA it was first introduced by Marantz in the last quarter of 1997, but was supplied only with a couple of their top of the range receivers. Marantz finally made it separately available at the end of January 1998 (listed at $250, available for less). This time I had to wait only a few days for mine to be shipped to my dealer (I dont think I could have taken the stress of another long wait!). At first glance (see picture) it does not look that different from the original (hereafter "Mark I"). The first welcome additions are dedicated channel up/down keys, which are located to the centre left, below the source input keys. They fall nicely under the thumb, well for me at least, and can be separately programmed for each source. To their immediate right are the transport keys, now in middle centre (moved from bottom left), and to their right the volume +/- keys, which are also now separately programmable for each source. This leads to my first minor irritation - if you only have one volume control for your system, such as the DC-1 in my set up, you have to program the IR volume change codes under each source input, at least I had to - from the manual there does not seem to be a way to program master volume control only once for all source inputs.
To the bottom left of the unit are now the "number" keys, and to the right of them, as before, the cursor controls, all of which can be separately programmed for each input (I have the DC-1 effect up and down keys programmed to the up/down cursor keys for each input; the right and left cursor keys are scanning keys for laser disc and VCRs and menu selection keys for the DC-1). At the top of the unit there are changes too. The "source" power button now sits between the separate "master" on and off buttons, rather than below the master on button. Below that is, as before, the LCD panel. There are changes here worthy of note. The LCD panel now has adjustable contrast, accessed from the set up menu. This will please some: personally I have not been able to find the setting I like and find it harder to read than the original. It also make the unit a little heavier. The small-of-hand complained that the mark I was too top-heavy, they will find the mark II even more so - time to work those forearm muscles.
There are changes too in the "input" key section, both in layout and operation. There are still ten of them, but they have been rearranged and re-labelled. We have lost VCR2 and gained DVD, and the DSS key is now also labelled for Minidisc use (depending on the geographic location selected in the setup menu - DSS for the US and minidisc for the rest of the world). In practice these labels make no difference as of course the commands assigned under each input can be reprogrammed for any source component. The fact that the buttons themselves cannot be relabelled does not bother me, after a while you just remember which is which without having to look. As before, the AMP button does not change source but just accesses the commands you have programmed for your preamp/processor/receiver. The operation of the other input keys has been changed. To deal with the "multitasking" grumble about the mark I, mentioned above, it now requires 2 pushes in quick succession for the unit to send out the "change input" command. The first push merely puts the unit into operational mode for the input, so you can "multitask" without changing inputs or covering the IR transmitter. Personally, I think this should have been an option selectable in the set up menu, but now that I am used to it, it is second nature. Another difference is that when you hit a source key, it takes you to the same "page" of direct ("D") key commands in the LCD window (accessed by the window scroll keys) that you were on the last time that that input was active on the remote, rather than defaulting back to page 1.
Moving on to macro programming and use. Macros are programmed in pretty much the same way as in Mark I - engage macro record mode by depressing the recessed button and key in your sequence. With the Mark I, I was never able to find out how to change the individual timing of commands within a sequence, without making that timing the default for the whole sequence. If you want a 3 second gap between 2 commands, then there is a 3 second gap between every command in the sequence. On the Mark II the gaps can be changed individually, which makes for shorter execution times. Each Macro key is still limited to a 20 command maximum, although, if a sequence requires additional commands, they can be allocated to the next numbered macro key during programming, and are executed automatically in the correct sequence when the sequence assigned to the first macro key is completed. I really like the macro feature. I have macros programmed to do system start up and shut down, so that it is easy for anyone to operate (I am not entirely sure that is a good thing, but Kris, my wife likes it). If I had remote controlled dimmers and curtains I would certainly program a macro to start up in a theatre mode - dim lights, close curtains, activate system, start pop-corn machine -well you get the idea. One of the best improvements to macro usage is that they are now activated by a single keystroke - just press the numbered button and it happens, unlike the rather bizarre routine in the Mark 1 of pressing the macro button and then the play button to activate; I always thought this extra step rather defeated the whole idea of a macro. The input/mode keys can also be programmed with macro sequences. However, to avoid conflicts with the normal function of these keys, macros assigned to them are activated by a quick push of the button followed by a push-and-hold-for-more-than-3-seconds, rather than just a single push.
Let me add a word about programming. The programming "rules" for the mark I were fairly simple - once in "learn" mode just hold down the key on the OEM remote until the RC2000 flashed up "OK". I found this worked perfectly nearly every time. I did try to see if just "blipping" the key rather than holding it down made a difference to memory usage - it did: I filled up memory much more quickly with the "blip" method than with the "hold down" method. (Maybe the Mark I allocates memory in a way analogous to the minimum file allocation space on a FAT16 formatted hard disk?). The manual for the Mark II suggests trying both methods. As some SMR Forum users have noted "blipping" does not work for functions like volume control and channel up/down where you require the command to be repeated until the button is released - "hold down" is the way to go here. The Mark II certainly has more memory than the Mark 1, and I think it must be using it more efficiently (analogous to disk space management in FAT32?) because I have nearly every command from all my remotes programmed in now and I seem to have room to spare (come to think of it a memory usage indicator would have been very useful).
Other changes include the following: the facility to rename a direct command key immediately after learning its code - this is really useful. With the Mark I you had to either remember which D key was programmed with which function, keep accurate notes or keep switching between "learn" and "name" mode. However one drawback of the new LCD display is that there is only space for 4 characters for new labels rather than 5 on the Mark I. Battery usage seems much better - I am still on my first set after nearly 4 months of every day use. As in the Mark I, if you have an all Marantz/Philips system then no further key programming should be necessary as the RC2000 is shipped with their "standard" RC5 codes as the default.
In conclusion the Mark II is a distinct improvement on the Mark I (and there was not much really wrong with that), so I would wholeheartedly recommend it to first-time buyers and to upgrade junkies like myself, who simply must have the latest version. In fact I would be so bold as to say it is the best value for money multipurpose remote control this side of an all-singing all-dancing, colour touch-sensitive display system like those supplied by Crestron - it really is that good.
P.S I understand that the Philips DVX8000 "convergence" PC/DVD player/line doubler has pre-loaded software to enable programming of the RC2000 via the PCs ir transmitter. If anyone knows how I can get a legal copy of this software please let me know.
More information about the Marantz RC2000 MkII can be found at the Official Marantz America Web Site.
Text © Nigel Pond; HTML © SMR Home Theatre and Images © SMR Home Theatre & Marantz cannot be reproduced without permission.
Last updated 25 January, 1999
Return to the Reviews Index
Return to the SMR Home Theatre menu