If you're tired of looking at that collection of remotes cluttering up your coffee table, it's time to trade them all in for a universal remote solution such as the Blumoo ($129.99) from Flyover Innovations. As with products like the Gear4 UnityRemote and the Logitech Harmony Link, the Blumoo uses Bluetooth and infrared wireless technology to control your home entertainment components using your iOS or Android mobile device. What sets it apart from the others is its ability to stream audio from service like iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora directly to your home stereo. The Blumoo is easy to set up and had no trouble controlling my older receiver and DVD player, but audio streaming was a little erratic and the remote overlays used in the app could use some sprucing up.
Design and Installation
The Blumoo pod is an attractive little gadget with a translucent black cover and a silver metallic stand. It measures 2.8 by 1.9 by 2.2 inches (HWD) and contains six different infrared LEDs that allow you to control numerous devices. It also contains a Bluetooth 4.0 receiver that communicates with your Bluetooth-enabled mobile device. Sticking out of the back of the pod is a 9-inch-long, hard-wired cord with a 3-port dongle for power, analog audio, and IR extender connections. The kit comes with a power supply and an audio cable that plugs into your receiver's auxiliary audio ports, but you'll have to supply your own IR extender if needed.
An LED indicator hidden behind the black plastic lens glows red when the unit is powered up and turns blue when a Bluetooth connection is made. A green light indicates a firmware update is in progress.
Installing the Blumoo couldn't be easier. Since it uses line-of-sight infrared wireless technology to send remote codes to your various devices, you'll want to place it where it can "see" each device's infrared sensor. And if you want to control devices in more than one room, you'll need a separate pod for each one.
For this review, I placed the pod in the same room with my 10-year old Onkyo TX-series receiver, an even older Onkyo CD player, a Vizio HDTV, a Philips DVD player, and a Motorola cable box. I connected the audio cable to the receiver, plugged in the Blumoo's power supply, and was ready to download the app to my iPod Touch.
App and Performance
The Blumoo app is available for iOS and Android devices, but does not offer Web browser support. Aesthetically, it isn't much to look at; the remote templates are a dull gray and would benefit from a touch of color. That said, the app is very easy to set up and offers IR codes for over 200,000 different devices, including HDTVs, Blu-ray/DVD players, stereo receivers, and wireless speakers. To add or delete a device remote, simply tap the icon in the upper left corner of the Home screen and select Add Device, Add Custom Remote, Remove Device, or Reorder Remotes.
The Reorder Remotes function lets you change the order in which each device remote appears on the Home screen, while the Custom Remote function lets you create a remote that contains only the buttons you want. When you choose Add Device, you're presented with a screen with submenus for adding a TV, DVR, DVD/Blu-ray player, CD player, Speakers, Receiver, or Streaming Player. Within each submenu are hundreds of model choices for each device category, but if you can't find your exact model you can probably use another from the same manufacturer. If you still can't find a remote that works, send an email to Blumoo with a request to add your specific model. To find out if a remote code works, the app will ask you to use the code to power up the device. If it does, you're good to go; if not, it places a check mark next to each code so you know not to try it again.
At the bottom of the app are Home, Guide, Music, and Settings buttons. The Home button takes you to the Home screen, Guide launches your TV programming guide, Music opens your smartphone's music app so you can stream audio to your A/V receiver via Bluetooth, and Settings lets you change your TV provider (for the TV guide) and enable clicking sounds for remote buttons.
The Blumoo was able to control every device in my entertainment center, but I had to do a little remapping to make it happen. For example, the remote template for my FIOS box did not have a Mute button, so I had to create one and map it to my Vizio TV remote in order to mute the TV audio. The exact model numbers for my Onkyo receiver and Philips DVD player were not listed in the database, but I chose similar models and the remotes worked perfectly.
My biggest gripe with the Blumoo has to do with the way it handles streaming audio. In my tests, every so often I'd notice a very slight skip when streaming songs from iTunes Radio and when playing songs from my playlists. This happened at least once during each song at random intervals, and occurred even when my iPod was in the same room as the Blumoo. Results were similar with my iPad. The folks at Blumoo hope to resolve this with a firmware update in the near future.
I also noticed a 2-3 second lag between the time I'd press a button on any remote and the time the device carried out the command. It's a minor annoyance that's easy to overlook when you have the ability to switch between remotes with a flip of your finger. I also loved the custom remote feature that lets you add buttons from all of your devices to a single remote template to create a true universal remote. I had no trouble controlling devices from my outdoor patio deck at up to 100 feet from the pod. However, once I moved beyond the 100-foot mark, some commands dropped and streaming audio would cut out frequently.
The Blumoo may be a bit more expensive than the Gear4 UnityRemote and the Logitech Harmony Link, but its ability to stream audio from your mobile device makes it worth the extra 30 bucks or so, despite the occasional playback hiccup. It successfully paired with all of my home entertainment devices, even the older components, and provided relatively good range. Button response could be quicker, but it's not slow enough to be considered a deal breaker.
If you're married to the idea of using a traditional wand, check out our Editors' Choice, the Logitech Harmony Ultimate . Granted, it's almost three times more expensive than the Blumoo, but in addition to controlling your entertainment devices it can control things like the Philips Hue lighting system, and it supports media playback on the PS3 and Nintendo Wii U gaming consoles. It has a smartphone app, too.