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I recently 'inherited' a ten-year old mini-hifi system that was so well built that it actually still worked.
I'll just hang on a moment or two to allow you to collect your composure after swooning in disbelief.........
All OK now? Good, I'll continue.
The system in question was a Sony CMT-SD1, which first came to the UK market 11 or 12 years ago, back when, according to certain pundits, "Sony used to build good stuff", which I know will annoy all of their existing TV owners, but we're talking hi-fi here, not video.
The one thing it lacked, or rather my daughter couldn't find, was the remote control, which was a pity since many of the systems functions like presetting radio stations or setting timers needed the remote.
Having found the precise part number of the remote (RM-SSD1), I was dismayed to find that UK sites wanted anything up to £90 for one although importing one from Japan for half that price was a possibility, bearing in mind that good ol' HMRC might also want their cut before Postman Pat releases the goods to me!
Armed with that knowledge, I set about finding cheaper alternatives - after all, working the system might be, but it's a tad past its warranty expiry so expansive, nay expensive gestures were not on the agenda!
It was somewhere during an evening of trying this site and that, that I tripped upon www.remote-control.info, advertising a replacement version for 29.90Euro posted to anywhere in Europe including Switzerland for that exact net price including postage, with delivery in 48/72 hours or so they reckoned.
OK, it didn't LOOK like the original, but a quick perusal of my operating instructions showed me that it had 'all the right buttons' even if they were in different positions. This is the advantage of this site - they actually show you a picture of what to expect, tailored to your needs, so you'd be well advised to check against your instructions just to make sure that their replacement is going to do the job.
I tried it with a few other bits of home audio/video, and waddya know, they could replace the remotes for them too, all except my Panasonic Blu-Ray player which curiously had a remote control part number not a million miles from that of my Panasonic plasma TV, so I knew the format of what I was typing in was right as it only differed by the last three digits.
If you use their search facility, only to draw an initial blank, all is not lost.
Remote-Control.Info have a second line of defence, offering you the facility to send in a facial scan (Of the remote, not you silly! Save that for the office party), from which they will create the same range of buttons, combined with what they already know about the signal codes used by different makers.
Alternatively, you can actually send them your existing remote, which of course is only any good if you've actually got one! I don't suppose it has to be a functioning version though, after all, why would you need a second one? I'm guessing that this is just for those with no scanner.
If these latter alternatives sound a bit 'iffy' to use the vernacular, you've got little to worry about since they offer a full money-back warranty if it doesn't work.
USING THE SITE
The initial front page gets straight down to business, allowing you to key in the manufacturer and component number. In my case, this could have been the hi-fi itself (CMT-SD1) or the part number for the remote (RM-SSD1).
I was in luck straight away. In seconds I knew that I would be charged 29.90Euro and that delivery would be via 'La Poste' - a hint at where it was coming from. This was my all-in price including carriage and it didn't matter where I was in Europe.
It's a this point that, if your initial 'trawl' of their database was unsuccessful, you'd be given other options like 'send us a picture' etc.
Secure payment is offered via Credit Card with that second-line double-checking like MasterCard SecureCode, or you can use Paypal, which is fast becoming my favoured option if available as it doesn't involve telling yet another web-site my card details.
As I said before, what turns up looks nothing like the maker's original, but then you knew that from the picture shown on the web-site. What is encouraging is the fact that button legends are laser-etched into the plastic of the facia, so there'll be no worrying about the 'paint wearing off'. You can, at no extra charge have a laser-etched message put onto the remote control - something like 'if found on bathroom window sill, return to lounge' being particularly pertinent in our case!
To keep down the weight of international postage, it came as no surprise that I'd be the one supplying and putting its first set of batteries in, these being a pair of AAAs.
Delivery was not quite as satisfactory as I had at first thought, with the web-site claiming anything from a 24 hours turn-round and up to 72 delivery time. However, when I read the tracking information more in detail, I realised that this was for France. Other European destinations were classed as 'between 4 and 8 business days', which is a trifle more than 72 hours. I've feeling that the English page was just a direct translation of the French version, with no 'snagging' done to check that what was being said was actually true!
I suspect that this is how they keep the price the same for all over Europe - send it express post within France and then tailor the 'urgency' of the postage to, say, Britain to keep within the 29.90Euro price. It would have been nice if they'd been more up-front as I only ordered when I did thinking that it should arrive well before I went on holiday, which it only just managed to do.
The goods arrived well-packed and undamaged. Judging by the packaging, it was clearly something they kept in stock, rather than made from scratch. Postage had cost 4.00Euro. To my relief, it worked first time.
As I said before, the new remote looks NOTHING like the old one, as the 'official' version is a kind of clam-shell affair, with only the most common functions on the outer cover. You only get to do the complex stuff like tuning the radio pre-sets by lifting the lid. The Wallis effort has ALL its buttons on the front, which makes it a little 'crowded' although it's a pleasant enough curved fit in the hand.
At £27 approx. this is not a 'cheap' option, but it was certainly a darned sight cheaper than an 'official' new Sony remote. Blow me down though if a second-hand 'real' one for £24.95 didn't appear on e-bay within hours of my ordering this one!
So there's option number one - don't be impatient and keep looking on e-Bay!
Many other replacement remote controls are to be had from around £9.95 upwards from Amazon, so it's always worth trying there first.
You can also buy what is known as 'a learning-remote' but these are mainly for those that want to reduce lounge clutter by combining the functions of several remotes. This is done by getting the new remote to 'learn' the output from existing WORKING remotes, and so has little place in the process of replacing broken or missing ones.
Or more to the point the web-site contains a link to 'Who Is Wallis', I'm assuming the company that makes the remote controls.
Well according to them:-
"The company is located here (there's a satellite map on the actual page), at the foot of the medieval village of Pérouges, with its offices surrounded by a 3 hectares enclosed property. This is "SOS Remotes" uniquely integrated facility for the on-demand reproduction and express distribution of virtually all the remote controls that are in existence (...errr....except Chris' Blu-Ray player)"
So..... no need for false modesty then. No wonder it's a secure facility - think of the fun you could have turning off the mobile phones of everyone in your train carriage by remote control if you knew how to do it.
I have to admit that I came away from this page not knowing whether I was dealing with Remote-Controls.info, Wallis or SOS Remotes, or was it all three?