What Is an Infrared or Radio Frequency Trigger?

A hand holding a remote directed at a home stereo system

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One of the best aspects of putting together a custom stereo system is having full control over the choice of components as well as the joy of wiring it all together. But a typical, minor drawback to owning several pieces of connected equipment is the small collection of remote controls. Not only can an array of wireless remotes seem intimidating to anyone unfamiliar with your particular set up, but thumbing through each to power everything on can kind of kill the magic of a majestic audio system. If you've ever wished to have your music play with just a touch or two, a trigger might do the trick.


A trigger is a device that facilitates the simultaneous powering on/off of multiple components within a larger stereo or home theater system. For example, a trigger can be used to automatically turn on a projector, receiver/amplifier, AV processor, TV speakers, or more when a single device has been activated. Trigger connections between components can be hard-wired and/or operated wirelessly through IR (infrared) or RF (radio frequency) signals emitted by remotes.

Pronunciation: trig•er

Example: With a trigger connection set up, one could have a television and cable/satellite set-top box turn on or off whenever the receiver has been powered on or off.

Trigger outputs can be found as an integrated feature on some receivers, pre-amplifiers, and/or AV processors. Trigger inputs are typically built-in to source components (e.g. CD/DVD/media player), video displays, amplifiers, and several other types of products in a system. The concept is that when a unit has been powered on, either manually or through its own remote, it sends a signal to each trigger output. Devices connected to these outputs are then "woken up" from being in standby mode. This way, all it takes is one controller to turn an entire system on to be ready to play.


If key components lack trigger output/input, there are several other ways to achieve the intended functionality (especially if there is a lack of documentation in the manufacturer product manuals to step through one correctly). Trigger kits can connect multiple components and be fairly straightforward to set up. A simpler option would be to use a smart power strip or surge protector that has auto-switching technology. These devices feature different socket types: control, always-on, and automatically switched. When the equipment plugged into the control socket turns on/off, everything plugged into the switch sockets also turns it on/off.

The last alternative to using an IR or RF trigger can be a little more complex to set up, but far more comprehensive and rewarding. Modern universal remotes, such as the Logitech Harmony Elite and Harmony Pro, are designed to offer full control over almost any type of IR-enabled device. This means everything from changing stations, channels, volumes, inputs, and more. Not only can users create custom commands that execute with a single touch, but these systems often have a mobile app that turns smartphones/tablets into convenient universal remotes.