Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why SiriusXM satellite radio is not for me

For a long time I've flirted with getting SiriusXM. Satellite radio appeals to me, especially because I drive about an hour and a half a day. I've even had a subscription for about a year in 2005. But now I've definitively decided against it. I want to share with you my reasons, to save you research time.

  1. Low sound quality and getting worse; SiriusXM keeps adding channels to the same bandwidth. These days it sounds worse than FM radio.
  2. SiriusXM's channel lineup doesn't match my interests. There are about a hundred (no exaggeration) sport channels, two Christian channels and three channels dedicated to ONE band each, yet there are no foreign channels beyond Latin and Canadian. I wouldn't mind the hundred channels that I'll never listen to, except that their existence lowers the sound quality of other channels.
  3. SiriusXM wants to keep everything proprietary, including the signal protocol, wiring and adapters. It's surprisingly difficult and expensive to integrate the radio (and especially the mini-tuner) into any setup. For example, to integrate with my car stereo I need this $51 piece of junk: <http://www.amazon.com/Audiovox-CNP2000UCA-Direct2-Main-Kit/dp/B003O86GZS>. Read its reviews. For home/office listening, AUX-IN is the standard interconnect, unless you get a $400+ receiver with built-in XM support. If you want a digital interconnect like Toslink, forget it. (Though with the low sound quality, why would you anyway?)
  4. Like Sprint and Verizon, SiriusXM locks one's subscription to the hardware receiver. Switching to another receiver incurs a fee, and a "lifetime" subscription is not really for the lifetime of the customer -- SiriusXM will kindly let you move it to a new device about three times. Then you're SOL.
  5. To make up for the above, SiriusXM has created a Mini-Tuner, equivalent to a SIM card for phones. It's a small block that pops into a receiver to authenticate you. This lets you have multiple receivers wired up at home and in car, with just one subscription. However, for some reason SiriusXM failed to capitalize on this idea -- I can't tell if it's because SiriusXM prefers for people to have multiple subscriptions, or due to pressure from MPAA, or general incompetence. Almost no receiver supports the mini-tuner. As a result, if you want the extravagance of having a receiver in your car and in your home or office, you need two separate paid subscriptions.
The future appears to be headed toward Internet streaming. I much prefer the satellite solution, since decoding a satellite signal doesn't clog up Internet pipes, but SiriusXM has firmly killed the satellite option for me.