Sirius-XM Going To The Dogs

Richard Chen
by Richard Chen
sirius xm going to the dogs

The two U.S. satellite radio carriers became one at the end of July, but the monopoly has not had a smooth ride. After a few multi-million dollar golden parachutes payoffs, the combined company is in debt to the sad tune of over $2 billion. Neither was turning a profit prior to the merger, and the long-term outlook has SIRI singing the blues. Borrowing more money is near impossible right this moment and $400 million in convertible notes are due next year. (Sound like a GM-Ford merger to anyone?) Investors have punished the stock, sending its value below $1, risking delisting from NASDAQ. Just about everyone who wants satellite radio already has it, as hardware is already affordable. New cheaper ($4-$7/month) rate plans in hopes of bringing in new customers risks backfiring with current cash-strapped subscribers downgrading. The subscription-free competition is brutal: iPods, MP3-playing cell phones, OEM in-car jukeboxes, and terrestrial digital (HD) radio. Enjoy it while you can, but those satellites may be going dark in the not-so-distant future.

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  • Willbodine Willbodine on Sep 16, 2008

    I have had both Sirius and XM. The sound quality for music, as mentioned, is so-so. Has a sort of hollow echo effect. But I love it for the choice of talk and comedy channels. Especially for drives in the western states; there is no terrestrial radio outside of large cities. It's worth $10-15/mo. to me.

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Sep 17, 2008
    As for sound quality, there is a major difference between vehicle head units and their respective XM implementations. XM in the Vette was terribly compressed. Was that XM? No, it was the Vette’s horrible head unit. XM in the Odyssey/Accord? Very good. Better than FM. In the Audi? Closer to CD quality with fiber optic connections. I actually cancelled XM in the Vette because I couldn’t bear to listen to it. Just wasn’t worth it. Before blaming XM/Sirius, make sure to listen to it in another vehicle. It should sound a good deal better than FM. Interesting. I came back to this thread because I started thinking about exactly what you're saying; maybe the receiver is responsible for the terrible sound quality that I've experienced? My friend has had XM through an Alpine deck, and two different Sirius receivers. They all sounded terrible (we do a lot of road trips together), but I suppose it is possible they were all just terrible receivers. Maybe the D/A converters just aren't very good. It’s true that car environments are tough for hi-fi. But the main problem (external noise) does not absolve the playback system of being able to resolve complex music faithfully. I always thought the main problem with the car environment is that it's a small area with hard plastic and glass surfaces. Combine that with the horrible enclosures (doors and dash; the trunk is actually a decent enclosure), and it's an acoustic nightmare! I spent much of my youth drowning it out with a ridiculously loud sub. But yeah, I agree that the car manufacturers should spend the extra couple bucks to put decent speakers in. It seems absurd that you have to rip apart the interior of a brand new car just to make the stereo worth listening to. Also, would it really cost much more to put in at least 18 gauge speaker wire while they're at it?

  • Nopanegain Nopanegain on Sep 17, 2008

    Although the audiophiles will never agree with me until they have heard the A-B-X tests I have, you would be hard pressed to hear a difference between a CD in the player mechanism, and one being played at Sirius or XM headquaters, through the compressed through the computer, beamed down through the Hughes or Sirius 1 satellite, and then into your car IF there are no other factors adding audio 'funk' into the equation. The problem is most head units and car audio systems introduce signal equalization to the mix. On the Corvette make sure that the ambient volume dependent compression circuits are off. If you want clean, pure, unadulterated audio, there are some awesome new aftermarket products that can eliminate the Corvette/Bose(or any other car manufacturer)amplification, crossovers, and signal processing circuits- check out JL Audio's CleanSweep or AudioControl's DQL-8. Finally, although the speakers from the factory in the car usually aren't the greatest, speaker placement is the main difference between a good sounding car audio system and a poor one. A car is a terrible place to listen to music because of comb filtering and reflections, however, a set of mediocre speaker in a good location (to minimize path-length differences to preserve stereo) will outperform great speakers in a poor location. And although 18 gauge or better would be nice for a subwoofer, automakers will always use the skinny stuff to keep weight down. Have no fear, 22-gauge is all you need in a car for a 'normal' system (uh-oh, I hear the audiophiles getting ready to attack).

  • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Sep 18, 2008
    And although 18 gauge or better would be nice for a subwoofer, automakers will always use the skinny stuff to keep weight down. Have no fear, 22-gauge is all you need in a car for a ‘normal’ system (uh-oh, I hear the audiophiles getting ready to attack). I actually won't disagree with you on that. I wasn't about to bother running new speaker wire to the doors of my Mazda3 when I did the stereo on that, and the 22 gauge wire certainly hasn't hurt anything. My 5X7s don't play very low and the relatively poor sound has nothing to do with bass; it's all mid-range coloration from the doors. But, I do believe that upgrading to 16 gauge on 6X9s in the back deck has improved the tightness of the bass on previous systems I've had. Those speakers actually do play low enough for damping factor to be a, uh, factor, and if you calculate the DF for a long run like that on small wire you probably end up with a DF well under 5. Whether it's just my mind playing tricks on me or not, it isn't difficult to run some decent wire to the back deck anyway. And yes, I'm not enough of an audiophile to think that oval speakers are never the best option in certain spaces for automotive applications!