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Sirius Satellite Radio vs XM Satellite Radio Which Streams Should You Choose?

 by: C. J. Gustafson

Just as many TV viewers have come to consider cable TV a life necessity, so too is satellite radio becoming a mainstream replacement for traditional AM/FM listening. Yes you have to pay for it, but just as with cable, you get way more channels and edgier, more innovative programming. Plus, you don't lose your favorite station as you travel across the state or country. And satellite players show the artist and name of the song, which is definitely a plus for those who like to know what they're listening to. In the U.S. there are just two main players in the satellite radio industry, Sirius and XM. WorldSpace, which has been broadcasting the longest and covers the most area, currently does not offer coverage in the United States. So with just two providers to pick from, one would think that the choice would be easy, but each has its own pluses and drawbacks and the decision usually comes down to budget and personal preferences.

How It Works

In 1992, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allocated a spectrum in the "S" band (2.3 GHz) for nationwide broadcasting of satellite-based Digital Audio Radio Service (DARS). Of the four companies that applied for licenses, only two were granted rights to broadcast; Sirius (formerly CD Radio) and XM (formerly American Mobile Radio). Each company has satellites in orbit above the earth to transmit their programming. Programs are beamed to one of the satellites, which then transmits the signal to the ground, where your radio receiver picks up one of the channels within the signal. Signals are also be beamed to ground repeaters for listeners in urban areas where the satellite signal can be interrupted.

In many ways, Sirius has set the tone for the industry, being the first to offer commercial free programming on all its music channels and has larger selection of receivers, adapters and other products. XM has a cheaper subscription fee, at least for its basic plan, which offers much the same fare as its competitor.

Both providers have partnered with automobile manufacturers to offer satellite radio in new car models. And each has systems that will search the channels for your favorite music and alert you when and where the songs are playing. Choosing between the two companies can be difficult since each has its advantages. Here is some information that may help listeners choose between the two.

XM Satellite Radio

XM satellite radio offers 68 commercial-free music channels, 33 news, sports, and talk & entertainment channels and 21 dedicated traffic and weather channels. XM is the exclusive satellite radio provider of FOX Sports Radio, Sporting News Radio and the world's only 24-hour NASCAR Radio channel. It does not offer NFL programming.

Equipment

XM has several choices in equipment. For just under $120, you can get the Delphi XM Roady receiver. This complete package comes with a micro-antenna, cassette adaptor, 12V power adaptor, and a universal mounting bracket. For another $10, you can upgrade to the Roady2, proclaimed as the smallest satellite receiver available. In addition to the typical satellite radio features, it allows you to scroll up to 20 stock symbols and has 30 channel presets.

The Delphi XM SKYFi is a receiver with a more advanced display. It gives you more information about each song and the five-line display lets you see what's playing on other XM channels before you switch. The SKYFi2, which costs $30 more, gives pause and play functions. It must be combined with an adaptor kit for home, vehicle or audio system. These adapters range from $70-$100 in price.

Coming in November of 2004, the Delphi XM MyFi, touted as the world's first XM2go receiver, becomes available from XM. It comes with car kit, home kit, rechargeable battery, headphones, antennas and more for $349.99.

Sirius Satellite Radio

Sirius satellite radio offers 65 channels of commercial free music, plus more than 50 channels of great sports, news and entertainment programming. They are the only one of the two competitors to offer NFL coverage, including play-by-play action and pre-game gab.

Equipment

Siruis offers a host of equipment options. Customers can choose from over 15 plug and play options. Average receivers sell for $99.95 and can be combined with a car or home adapter, or a choice of different boomboxes. For the same $99.95, the Sirius Sportster adds special features for the sports enthusiast such as Game Alert, which prompts you when your favorite NFL or other sports teams are playing and Game Zone, which lists all of the play-by-play games and scores on Sirius by league.

Or for $149.99 you can cover all your listening needs with the Sanyo CRSR-10 Plug & Play System. It includes home and car kits for use at home, office, truck, RV, boat or car and antennas for home and car. It has 20 presets and a built-in wireless FM transmitter for use on all 100 FM frequencies. If a boombox is not your style, you can go with a home system that integrates with you existing audio equipment. Prices range from $250 up to $2000.

You can put a headunit in your car, throw in a tuner and antenna and you're wired for satellite in your vehicle without the portable receiver and adapter. Sirius has over 15 headunits to choose from in prices ranging from under $200 to over $1000. Some of the more reasonably priced units come with CD players and removable fronts.

Comparisons

So in the world of XM vs Sirius, it's a tough call and depends on your budget and listening preferences. The following satellite radio comparison summary consists of information taken directly from the websites of the two satellite radio companies.

Sirius Satellite Radio

Pricing


$12.99/month - with annual & lifetime options available. Extra receivers for an additional fee.

Activation fee


$15 by phone, $10 online

Commercial free


All 65 music channels are commercial free

Online listening


Listen online for free. On any computer. With no extra fee.

NFL coverage


Live play-by-play coverage of every NFL game and the only 24/7-radio channel dedicated to all-things-NFL, all year long.

Available in new cars


Exclusive car partners of Daimler Chrysler, BMW and Ford.

Customer service


24 hour Customer Care by toll free phone number and email.

XM Satellite Radio

Pricing


$9.99 basic package - premium programming, such as Playboy and XM's own High Voltage are available for an additional monthly fee, as are extra receivers.

Activation fee


$14.99 by phone, $9.99 online

Commercial free


All 68 music channels are commercial free


Costs an extra $3.99 a month.

NFL coverage


No play-by-play. No local NFL coverage. No original NFL programming.

Available in new cars


Exclusive car partner of GM.

Customer service


Customer Care is open 18 hours a day.

Satellite radio appears to be here to stay. The offerings keep getting better and the decision between the two keeps getting tougher. Equipment is available at store locations and websites of retailers like Wal-Mart and Best Buy and through the providers' websites. For static free, commercial free radio listening and your favorite stations wherever you go, satellite radio is the choice of millions. Installation and activation are easy. In fact the toughest decision may be deciding which provider to choose.

About The Author

C.J. Gustafson is a successful freelance writer for paid cable television
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