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Sugden Remote Rant (long)

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I've got a Sugden Headmaster with the RC5 remote control. I must say that considering the incredibly high build quality of the Headmaster unit, the remote control is a piece of crap. It looks like Sugden found the cheapest possible off-shore supplier and bought their cheapest possible remote. It's really flimsy black plastic, and it looks quite cheesy next to the ultra-stylish brushed aluminum amp. (By comparison, my Marantz PM-17SA preamp/integrated amp has a beautiful remote: hefty feel, nicely balanced, with a solid metal top plate and gold plated buttons.) Sugden should be ashamed of allowing such fodder into the same box with a Headmaster. But that's just a minor gripe; it's not why I'm posting this thread.

I have a functional problem with the Sugden remote. Its volume control for the Headmaster is set up as an RC5 CD player volume control rather than as a preamp volume control. The Headmaster manual describes this as a desirable feature, because it doesn't require the user to switch the remote control back and forth between CD player mode and Preamp mode every time he or she wants to adjust the volume and/or switch tracks on the CD player.

Presumably, the Sugden Bijou CD player does not have variable output volume, so this remote must work well with that player. But the CD player I have in this system, a Marantz CD-63SE, responds to RC5 commands, and it has variable output volume, such that if I adjust the Headmaster volume with the Sugden remote, it changes the volume output of the CD player at the same time. This results in creeping discrepancies between the two volumes because they adjust at different rates.

When the CD player is turned on, its volume output is at max. If I'm listening at moderate volume on the Headmaster then turn up the volume with the remote, Headmaster volume goes up, but CD player volume stays the same (because it's already at max.) If I turn down the volume with the remote, Headmaster volume goes down, AND CD player volume goes down.

This creates a few problems:
1. Decreasing the volume with the remote gives a double dose of volume reduction, and sacrifices fine increment adjustability.
2. If I then turn off the CD player, the next time I turn it back on, the Headmaster volume will be way too high relative to the CD player output.
3. If I just turn the volume back up, both go up (double dose) until the CD player maxes out, then the Headmaster keeps going. If I then turn the volume down again, both go down, but the Headmaster volume control was higher than where it started originally. Effectively, every time I turn the volume down then up again, the Headmaster volume control creeps higher and higher. Combine this with #2, and I risk the Headmaster volume being dangerously out of control. If I just leave the CD player on all the time rather than turn it off (to prevent #2), when I switch over to the PM-17SA for loudspeaker listening, the CD player volume output is too low and I have to crank it up again.

Furthermore, the upward creeping Headmaster volume control situation would amplify any noise in the system (reduced signal-to-noise ratio), although my system is quiet enough that this particular issue has not been noticeable.

I do not experience similar problems when using the Marantz system remote while listening to my speakers via the PM-17SA, because its remote volume control acts (rightfully) like a preamp volume control and does not affect the CD player's variable output. And the PM-17SA's system remote can control the CD player's other functions. (The CD player also has its own remote control, which I don't use. It has a volume control for the player, and thus suffers the same issues as the Sugden remote because the Headmaster responds to its volume commands as well.)

I think that Sugden really screwed up by choosing to make its remote preamp volume control act like a CD player instead of a preamp. If they wanted to improve convenience by eliminating the need to switch modes back-and-forth on the remote, they should have designed the remote like the Marantz system remote, wherein the volume control always adjusts the preamp volume, regardless of which device is selected for other functions. (Among remote control aficionados, this is known as volume "punch through".) The only thing I want the Sugden remote to do is control the Headmaster volume, but because the problem is with the response of the Headmaster, not just the output of the Sugden remote, I can't get around it by use of programmable or learning remotes. As it is, the Sugden remote is LESS convenient than just getting up and turning the volume control manually.

So, if you're considering the Sugden, be aware that you will encounter these problems if you have a CD player that responds to RC5 infrared commands and has variable output volume.

Anyone else experienced this problem? And if anyone can think of suggestions for how I can avoid the creeping volume situation, please contribute your two cents. (I don't need to hear "Get a new CD player." Sugden broke the rules, not Marantz, and the CD player sounds great.)
post #2 of 12
This is really two cents,
Set the volume control on the Sudgen and the CD so you get a normal listening level, with the CD volume adjustable up and down. Then cover the IR sensor on the Sudgen with something and use the CD for fine tuning of volume.
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Anders
This is really two cents,
Set the volume control on the Sudgen and the CD so you get a normal listening level, with the CD volume adjustable up and down. Then cover the IR sensor on the Sudgen with something and use the CD for fine tuning of volume.
I agree that this is a viable configuration, but I could operate the identical way if I had an older Sugden without the remote. So, it confirms the entire point of my rant: the Sugden remote is useless in my system.
post #4 of 12
I bet the guy who came up with that got a big raise for thinking "out of the box" like he did
post #5 of 12
I'd suggest you to email Sugden about it and see what they say. They were very responsive to emails. Please let us know how it goes.

Good luck!
post #6 of 12
Geez, Bostonears, your rant really put things in perspective for me. In my system, the Headmaster remote's control of my Marantz sacd/cd player is a fantastic (and unexpected) bonus because my Marantz has no variable output. I almost feel guilty for loving my Headmaster remote after reading your post.

My Sony carousel player has variable output, but it can be bypassed on the back of the unit by connecting the interconnects to some fixed outputs rather than the variable outputs. I suppose your Marantz doesn't have that option? If not, you could remove the volume control of your Marantz internally. If you know an audio techie, this is supposed to be an easy and reversible mod. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

Adam
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Gergor
I'd suggest you to email Sugden about it and see what they say. They were very responsive to emails. Please let us know how it goes.
Thanks for the suggestion. I have just emailed Sugden about this. I'll let you know what I hear.
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
Update: I have now had an informative email exchange with a gentleman at Sugden regarding my problem with the Headmaster remote. (Considering the flaming attitude of my original post, he was quite tolerant with me.)

The good news is that the Headmaster can be set up to respond differently to remote control commands, such that its volume can be controlled as a preamp.

The bad news is that changing the set up requires factory modification of the Headmaster unit. (Sigh...)
post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally posted by Bostonears
The bad news is that changing the set up requires factory modification of the Headmaster unit. (Sigh...)
Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. It doesn't say in your profile, but if you're from New York, you could try contact George Stanwick at Stanalog (Sugden US distributor) to see if there's anything he'd do, I know he has a technician who'd do warrenty work. To be honest with you, I have not been completely satisfied with my experiences with Stanalog. Good luck.
post #10 of 12
Bostonears, if you do want to contact Stanalog, here's how:

George Stanwick, Stanalog Audio Import
stanalog@mybizz.net
tel 518 8433070

Best of luck,

Adam
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
I forgot to mention in my last post, but Sugden told me that the Headmaster remote control is made in Germany (!) by the same manufacturer that supplies Linn, Naim, and several other European brands.
post #12 of 12
Still, it's so ugly....
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