Review: Flyover Innovations Blumoo

Blumoo is a three-inch-tall component for your home audio/video setup built around two simple theories. One: It’d be nice if you could stream audio to your home stereo system no matter how old it is. Two: The best universal remote isn’t a universal remote at all, it’s the mobile device in your pocket or on your coffee table. Blumoo wants to replace your remotes with your Android or iOS device, or at least let you use your phone or tablet as a backup clicker.

The $130 hardware and app tandem does this by receiving commands over Bluetooth from your phone or tablet, then beaming them to your remote-controllable A/V components using an IR blaster with a range of 30 feet. But remote-consolidating tricks are only part of the story. Blumoo also acts as a wireless audio receiver, capable of streaming audio via Bluetooth to any component connected with RCA cables. The Blumoo comes with a 3.5mm-to-RCA cable in the box for that particular hookup.

This system performs its remote-control tricks using a database of hundreds of thousands of components. Setup is simple: Plug it into a power source with its included adapter, hook it up to an audio source using its RCA cable, and you’re done. The IR blaster wraps around the edges of the device, and it tilts upward so you have a bit more placement freedom.

If you’re finally looking to part ways with that 25-year-old, taped-together Marantz CD-player remote, Blumoo is right up your alley.

The rest of the configuration is done through the free app for iOS and Android, which first asks for your area code. That seems odd, but it helps narrow the list of supported cable boxes to the providers in your area. It also helps populate the app’s TV listings, which is another helpful feature: You can scan a program guide without having to take up TV screen space.

From there, you start adding components you want to control in the free Blumoo app. You’ll find things that span decades of A/V gear, everything from Roku streaming boxes to Pioneer Elite TVs to Fisher receivers to JVC VCRs. If you’re finally looking to part ways with that 25-year-old, taped-together Marantz CD-player remote, Blumoo is right up your alley.

It can’t replace everything, though. There are gaps in its deep archive of controllable A/V gear, including my Kenwood VR-605 receiver (I could control some but not all of its functions using the remote for another Kenwood receiver. There also are some gaps in functionality for otherwise supported remotes. For example, the input button for my LG TV didn’t work properly. Blumoo’s database of supported devices is expanding, and you can request additions. Blumoo says missing components can be added to the database within a day or two.

In music mode, you simply connect to the Blumoo module as if it were a Bluetooth speaker. That means you can play music from any streaming or drive-based source that supports Bluetooth. You can play music directly from an app like Spotify or Rdio, after which that service will show up in a music sources menu in the Blumoo app.

The app crashed a few times during my tests, and the gray-on-gray color scheme isn’t terribly exciting. The app does offer quite a bit of customization, though: You can rearrange and remove the buttons for each remote, and you can create a single-screen custom remote that controls functions on different devices.

The system has no problem replicating physical buttons like channel and volume controls. But many modern remotes go beyond button-based controls. Many have built-in motion-control sensors, touchpads, and microphones for voice commands. If your set has critical sensor-based controls, you’ll want to keep its clicker within reach. Blumoo provides a good experience when you’re already using a phone or tablet, but when you’re in typical couch-potato mode, a touchscreen device can’t match the no-look operation of a traditional remote.

The device isn’t exactly cheap, either, which makes its shortcomings tougher to overlook. Still, it’s an easy way to add music streaming to an older audio setup. This universal-remote alternative won’t replace all the clickers in your home, but it can replace the oldest ones and consolidate multi-device controls to a single screen. If you have an elaborate A/V setup with decades-old components such as DVD players, amps, and receivers, it’s worth a look.

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