"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Monday, October 12, 2015

Speaker Of The House

Cruising through one of the big warehouse stores while waiting for the missus to decide on a pair of glasses, I spied a wireless TV soundbar on markdown. "I've got to have that," I convinced myself. I had a $10 gift card burning a hole in my wallet, making it an even more appealing deal, so when we walked out of the store my wife held a receipt for the promise of her new glasses in three weeks while I had a brand new toy to play with that very afternoon. I won.

Until I got home and unpacked my purchase. I'm not sure how "wireless" made it into the product description since the first step in the instructions was to plug the speaker into an outlet. I'm no electrician, but I believe that requirement exposed the "wireless" designation as a bald-faced lie. Step 2 was to establish the "wireless" connection between the soundbar and TV set. O... K... I guess that's what they were referring to on the package description. The soundbar and our TV were from the same manufacturer and the instructions indicated that any set produced by the company since 2012 had this feature built in to facilitate such a set up. I'd purchased our set in late 2013, right after we'd moved into our lake house, so I figured I was good to go. I figured wrong. 

The TV did not have the "Sound Connect" feature as part of its array. Now I had to default to an alternate installation option, which specified the use of an "AUX Cable (not supplied)." Are you freaking KIDDING ME? After briefly flipping out, I noticed there was an optic cable included with the speaker which could be used as an alternate to the alternate. Huzzah.

Now all that was left to do was place the battery in the remote control (another remote control to add to my already impressive collection) and turn this sucker on. I pressed the power button and nothing happened. I continued to press the button, adding the "extend arm toward the device, using the elbow" motion as if I just needed to give the infrared impulse a little push to get it close enough to be recognized by the unit. Still no luck. I thought perhaps the battery was dead. Luckily I happened to have the same kind of pancake-shaped power source in my odds and ends box, so I swapped it out and tried again. Same outcome as Nixon's assessment of the results of the ten-year air campaign during the Vietnam War: "Zilch." I walked over and pressed the manual power switch I found on the front of the console; the display lit up and a few seconds later sound issued from the speaker. Utilizing my acute knowledge of home sound system manufacturing processes I deduced the remote was defective. Crap.

Seeking a replacement, I called the manufacturer's toll-free customer service number and connected with a live representative after a shockingly minimal amount of menu navigation. The agent was very pleasant, empathizing with my issue and assuring me she could help resolve the matter quickly. She told me to remove the battery and then repeatedly press as many buttons on the remote as I could. I responded by assuring her I felt confident I could press all of the buttons -- no technical novice was I. After doing so, she told me to reinsert the battery. Then she asked if I had a camera nearby -- ??? Or did my smartphone have a camera built in -- ??? Confused, I said my phone had a camera, whereupon she told me to point the remote at the phone while in camera mode and then press the power button. Ah, now I understood -- this was a way for me to see if it was working without being blinded by whatever kind of pulse emanated from the device. I confirmed I saw flashing via the camera display, which pleased the rep. "Great!" she exclaimed. "Now we have confirmed that your remote is functioning properly. This means the receptor on your soundbar is defective. You can return it to our service center to have it repaired." I replied since I'd purchased the unit mere hours before I would instead return it to the store for an exchange. Annoying, but quicker and easier than repackaging the unit, mailing it back to the company and waiting weeks for its return.

Carol had been seated at the computer this whole time, close enough to hear the troubleshooting discussion. Once I'd hung up the phone and expressed my dismay at having purchased a bum speaker, she got up without a word and walked over to where I'd set it up in front of the TV. Giving it a quick once-over, she lifted the speaker and rotated it 90 degrees on its horizontal axis before setting it back down. "Try the remote again," she commanded. Shaking my head to imply "Whatever..." I pressed the button and the speaker immediately lit up. Speaking the words I was too dumbstruck to voice myself, Carol clarified I'd placed the speaker with its grill facing down rather than facing out from the TV (the manual controls were now displayed on the top, rather than the front, of the unit). Once the grill was in the correct alignment the sensor was exposed, and everything worked as it should. 

Except, of course, for my brain. That unit remains defective and, sadly, is long out of warranty.


  1. I am rarely helpful about anything involving any tech at all. I have to admit it felt good to be useful!

  2. There are, of course, different tiers of monitoring services. Not sure what they are though. At any rate, our sales rep also attempted to sell us monitored heat/smoke/CO2 detectors (which were quite expensive, but don't remember the exact prices). Also a couple of home automation features that I promptly nixed as well.Penrith CCTV systems