Help me choose an XM Radio receiver
December 11, 2007 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I've tried to resist, but I can't any longer — I want to subscribe to satellite radio. XM has at least two stations that I'll listen to almost constantly (channels 4 and 44, though 28 and 81 sound appealing, too). After hearing the web-based "free trial", I'm ready to sign up but I don't know anything about receivers. I'll mostly be listening at home. I don't have a stereo setup, but I do have lots of Macs (including Airport Express). I'd like to be able to listen in my car, too. Which receiver options are best? I know that XM and Sirius are merging — is this any reason to wait to purchase equipment?

(I found XM Fan from a previous AskMe question and will check that out. But I know and trust Mefites better than strangers at a fan board.)
posted by jdroth to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't have any advice about specific receivers, but if you can afford it definitely go with one that is an integrated unit. I have one that sits on my dash and then transmits to the antenna for my car stereo. It's great most of the time, but there are times when it gets overwhelmed by other units broadcasting on the same frequency.
posted by Irontom at 7:58 AM on December 11, 2007


Are you sure you really want to go XM over Sirius? Have you looked at the offerings?

That said, check out the Inno. You'll see it doesn't have GREAT reviews, but it is the latest and greatest(tm) mobile XM offering and the reviews aren't fantastic for any XM radio product except for the Toshiba home receiver (and you already stated you don't have a stereo setup and you also want to listen in the car).
posted by fusinski at 8:12 AM on December 11, 2007


The XM/Sirius merger isn't set in stone just yet, I think, and even after it happens the full process will likely take a few years to complete. For the time being, I'd treat them as separate entities. Even after the merger, the resultant company will still need to support both systems, but whether they provide the same programming on both is anyone's guess.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:13 AM on December 11, 2007


I love XM! Channel 4--the 1940s channel! Sirius doesn't have an equivalent, I don't think, except maybe they have a swing channel?
posted by GaelFC at 8:30 AM on December 11, 2007


FWIW, I chose XM over Sirius for Major League Baseball. No contest.

I have the Inno. It was the only choice when I purchased it a couple years ago because it was the only truly portable satellite receiver/player. Other models allowed you to record a whole bunch of radio and then play it back in a portable manner (out on a jog, for instance) but the Inno has its own antenna, etc. These days I'm sure there are more truly portable models. My only gripe with the Inno is battery life. You really have to keep it in the charger right up until the time you use it. If it fully charges and you take it out of the charger and let it sit around for a few days (actually, a day will do the trick), the battery mysteriously drains on its own. I've had two Innos that did this, so I know it's not just me. :)

I don't have the car kit so I can't comment on that. (Though when I went looking at the car kits previously, they were the kind that had the phony cassette tape that you put into your car stereo, which appalled me ... do cars even come with cassette players anymore? Mine doesn't have one. That, too, may have changed. Just telling you some things to look out for.)

The XM/Sirius merger has not been approved and is indeed not finished. Many of us are betting on it (I personally have been since 9/06) and the ruling is "supposed" to occur this month or next. Anyway, it'll be a long time before new equipment will come into play.
posted by iguanapolitico at 8:32 AM on December 11, 2007


Maybe I'm missing something but you don't necessarily need to buy equipment... XM allows you to log in and listen to most (all?) of the channels via the Internet.
posted by chips ahoy at 8:47 AM on December 11, 2007


I have not listened to XM, but I've had Sirius for a couple months now for free, but would not pay for it. It's just not worth it.
posted by allelopath at 9:19 AM on December 11, 2007


Though it may be coming before long, I don't currently get the internet in my car.
posted by jdroth at 9:20 AM on December 11, 2007


I have an Inno. It is absolutely positively fantastic. No joke. I have a car kit and it works very well. If you plan on using it walking around or away from the home antenna they provide, by the headset with the built in antenna.

I can't say enough good things about the Inno.
posted by ewkpates at 9:26 AM on December 11, 2007


XM portable receivers such as the Pioneer Inno and the Samsung Helix are excellent choices if you live in a city. XM relies heavily on ground-based signal repeaters, as well as satellites, so if you live in even a modestly sized urban area you should receive a good signal when walking around.

When you are listening at home, you shouldn't have trouble getting a signal as the dock connects to a rather large and powerful antenna. If you do not have any interest in portability, the XpressRC is one of the newer units. It has received favorable reviews and can be used in your car as well. That unit runs at the high-end of $150, while you can find receivers for $40 or less that will provide you the basic functionality.

FM modulation has problems as it seems everyone these days has one. Frequently while stopped at traffic lights, your frequency will be overtaken by another FM-modulator. Some newer cars' stereos come with a line-in jack so that you can plug your receiver directly into the sound system. The cassette tape solution always seemed clunky and cumbersome to me.

XM does offer on-line streams of most of their channels, just not the news or sports programming.
posted by aereoperro at 9:29 AM on December 11, 2007


FWIW, I chose XM over Sirius for Major League Baseball. No contest.

Ditto. My boyfriend's a baseball freak. I got him a portable unit. It came with all the necessary attachments for listening in a car, or attaching it to our home stereo. And when he's out and about, it works fine alone.
posted by gummi at 9:32 AM on December 11, 2007


I bought this Delphi receiver for my car a couple weeks ago and love it. The pause feature is a must for me after being spoiled by my DVR while watching TV.
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:45 AM on December 11, 2007


I forgot to mention I hardwired the receiver's output into my car stereo's AUX input for the best sound. A friend uses the antenna adapter and his sound quality leaves much to be desired.

90% of my driving is in the Mojave Desert and/or San Bernardino mountains where terrestial radio is almost nil, so XM has greatly improved my drive-time enjoyment.
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:48 AM on December 11, 2007


This portable speaker kit from Delphi is what I use in my shop
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:57 AM on December 11, 2007


nth-ing the Inno. The built-in antenna is good enough in the car.
posted by neilkod at 9:57 AM on December 11, 2007


i had XM for 2-3 years... started off with a myfi and traded up to an inno. its an amazing little device. i noticed my listening was becoming less and less frequent so i canceled my subscription... cds and ipod work fine for me in the car and at home/work i have the internet so anything i want to listen to is pretty much at my finger tips.

ive been meaning to give it to a friend but i he ended up buying one... so you can have mine if you want it. its just eating up space on my desk. i have a car kit and another year or so on the bestbuy protection plan. if you're in the philly area you can come pick it up, if not just cover shipping and its all yours.

heh, i just noticed it still has the plastic screen protector on it. needless to say, its in great condition. it pretty much sat in the car cradle or on my desk most of its life.
posted by hummercash at 12:25 PM on December 11, 2007


oh, also... interactive demo if you want to play around with a virtual unit.
posted by hummercash at 12:27 PM on December 11, 2007


The merger has not been approved by the FCC. Mel Karmazin, the CEO of Sirius, said in his Congressional testimony that if the merger is approved, pre-merger Sirius and XM signal receivers will still work.
Sirius is gaining subscribers much more quickly and has made better business decisions, so if the merer isn't approved, Sirius looks to have a better chance of surviving than XM.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:46 PM on December 11, 2007


another inno/car kit endorsement here. I never thought I would find myself paying to listen to the radio but there's no way I'd give it up now. I prefer my inno over my ipod for most things except running (too heavy/bulky). It's incredibly painful to sit through FM any more. I hadn't realized how bad it had actually gotten until I had an alternative.

My father in law has Sirius and the lineups seem similar, just organized a bit differently. I wish XM carried NPR Morning Edition though.

btw, I've been listening to 81 nearly all day today. I write much better code that way.
posted by toomuch at 3:30 PM on December 11, 2007


Just another data point: I bought a Pioneer Inno, and I wish I had gone with a free receiver deal instead. I think I'd like satellite radio much better if I hadn't dropped so much cash on a flawed product. The buttons are small and difficult to navigate while driving. You either have to fish around for the tiny remote while hanging onto the wheel with your other hand OR run through 5-10 button presses to navigate to a different channel. That's quite a lot of attention! It has no channel scan mode. I find XM's frequent, repetetive, scammy ads a lot more distracting when I'm driving than when I listen on the website.

Sadly, I also found out after the fact that the Inno cannot wake-and-record a program or song while set up in a car (well, unless you rig up a home kit and constant power in your vehicle). With the home kit, I get no signal inside, even, out of desperation, hanging the home antenna out the window. I wasn't willing to run a wire up to the roof. This shot down my hopes of recording weekly shows and 'always having something great to listen to in the car'.

As a handheld player, it gets no signal unless I'm in the middle of a flat field. A lone tree, small hill, or building will drop it to silence. I guess the the home and outdoor performance mean there's no ground based repeaters around here... You might try asking around in your local area.
posted by Gable Oak at 5:29 PM on December 11, 2007


(To clarify, I meant I also get no signal with the home kit installed inside my home or hanging out the windows of my home. Nothing in the shadow of a building.)
posted by Gable Oak at 5:31 PM on December 11, 2007


I have the Audiovox Xpress receiver, and I like it. The jog dial and numerical buttons are easy to navigate while driving without having to look, and the large screen is also nice. We have a house kit for it as well, which also has an extra benefit - the FM transmitter is on the unit itself, so we can use it either wired into the stereo, or throughout the house and yard on an FM radio.
posted by azpenguin at 12:14 AM on December 12, 2007


i know this isn't your questoin, but XM has much deeper playlists for their music stations than Sirius does. Sirius has different sports coverage than XM does. For your choices, i'd stick with XM. If you're interested in 40s on 4, please note that there is also an Old-Time Radio channel which plays old radio comedies/dramas.
I like my skyfi2 but i dont think its car-ready.. n+1ing the Inno, then.
posted by softlord at 3:46 AM on December 12, 2007


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