What Is an Infrared or Radio Frequency Trigger?

Power entire home theater systems with just a touch

One of the best parts of putting together a custom stereo system is having full control over component choices, along with the joy of wiring it all together. But with multiple components, you also end up with a pile of remotes. If you'd like to minimize your remote collection and play your music with just a touch, consider using a trigger. Here's what you need to know.

A hand holding a remote directed at a home stereo system, using trigger functionality
Tom Merton / Getty Images

What Is a Trigger?

A trigger is a device that facilitates simultaneously powering on and off multiple components within a larger stereo or home theater system. For example, use a trigger to automatically turn on a projector, receiver, amplifier, AV processor, TV speakers, and more when you activate a single device.

It's possible to hard-wire trigger connections between components. Another way is to do it wirelessly via IR (infrared) or RF (radio frequency) signals emitted by remotes.

For example, with an IR or RF trigger connection set up, your TV and cable set-top box would both turn on when you power on the receiver.

Some receivers, pre-amplifiers, and AV processors include trigger functionality built-into source components (e.g., a DVD or media player), video displays, amplifiers, and several other types of products in a stereo or home theater system.

When you power on a unit, it sends a signal to each trigger output. Devices connected to these outputs wake up from standby mode. This way, all it takes is one controller to turn an entire system on and ready to play.

Alternatives to Trigger Functionality

If key components lack trigger output and input, there are still ways to achieve similar functionality. For example, trigger kits, which are fairly straightforward to set up, can connect multiple components.

A simpler option is to use a smart power strip or surge protector with 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 or off, everything plugged into the switch sockets also turns on or 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 you can control changing channels, volume level, input selection, and more.

Users create custom commands that execute with a single touch. These systems often come with a companion mobile app that turns smartphones and tablets into convenient universal remotes.