My Rant: XM Radio's greatly diminished sound quality. What to do?

Discussion in 'Mobile Phones / Entertainment' started by Ronald Epstein, May 10, 2006.

  1. Cameron_S

    Cameron_S Auditioning

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    Too few audiophiles and too many people who don't know their ears are being compromised--and they're willing to pay for it!

    As much as I love commercial free streams, I can't take the inferior sound.
     
  2. Dick Knisely

    Dick Knisely Second Unit

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    Ron -- however much I might agree with you, I fear you've "seen the future" when it comes to XM. The mass market has never cared about sound quality and isn't about to start now. As satellite radio tries for mass appeal this result is, I fear, inevitable and it will get worse.
     
  3. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Dick,

    I share your fears. Very unfortunate for all of us.
     
  4. BruceWa

    BruceWa Auditioning

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    I had wondered about the sound quality recently. I thought my car stereo was having problems, but plugging my XM unit into my second car didn't cure the quality issue. Some channels seem better than others. I have a wide range of likes (country, old hard rock, soundtracks, new age, soft jazz, comedy, and news), which is why I like XM.

    And I was seriously thinking about buying a second XM unit for my second car. But now I'm going to hold off. In addition ot the iffy sound quality, I'm noticing that quite a few channels have duplicate play lists, and it does appear that the rock channels are starting to sound much more like FM-mainstream.

    They need to tighten up their channel offerings and get rid of any channels that duplicate others (Big Hits / Big Tracks?). Their nighttime offerings/dj's are quite good (America is so good I don't want to go home but hit the road and head for Omaha or somewhere). The Jazz/Blues channels somehow aren't grabbing me like I know they should, but my experiance base isn't good enough to make suggestions on how to soften one channel. But Cinemagic itself could be improved by adding younger listener soundstracks from Kill Bill and Desparado.

    I went with XM for the overall package, but if they get rid of Cinemagic, I will think seriously about not renewing my subscription for the unit I have now.
     
  5. Michael Harris

    Michael Harris Screenwriter

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    Cinemagic is one of the reasons I got XM as well as its pretty good classical offerings.

    Does XM know what its subscribers are listening too? I want quality channels, not just sheer numbers.
     
  6. Kyle McCabe

    Kyle McCabe Stunt Coordinator

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    What is this? People that actually agree with me on the over-compressed XM feed?

    I'm to the point where the only think I'll listen to on XM is Bluegrass. And that's just because it's supposed to sound "old-timey". But even that is starting to bug me.

    I really like the ability to surf through all of the genre-specific stations, but if XM doesn't do something about the compression issues, I won't be renewing my subscription.

    Who's up for a petition?
     
  7. Stu Rosen

    Stu Rosen Second Unit

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    I know that if XM reduced its musical choices to reallocate bandwidth for better sound quality, I'd have to think about cancelling my 4 subscriptions.

    I mean, what would you cut? I know I'd cut out most of the harder rock stations and the decades stations, as long as I had R&B, blues, the Loft, XCountry, and probably a lot of stuff many of you'd cut without a second's thought.

    Frankly, if you're listening to a lot of great music - Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Miles Davis, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Stax records, etc. - sound quality is a relatively low priority. There's only so much remastering can do to a lot of these classics.

    From what I've seen, some of you can make the fine distinctions between the seemingly endless metal stations on XM. Some of you would want urban music expelled. Some of you don't understand why anyone would listen to World music.

    So, if in the short term we're dealing with a finite pie, what slice would YOU cut? I bet it's different from mine and from the person above or below you in this thread.
     
  8. Jed M

    Jed M Cinematographer

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    First and foremost I would cut the french speaking sports channel. Sorry to the 3 people who listen to it. Then I would get rid of the 40 or so weather channels they have. Sorry, but if you don't know the local weather channel then too bad, but I am paying for a music service, not a weather service. Next I would combine the 5 "dance/techno" channels down into 2 or 3. I mean you want to talk about spreading an already thin niche too far. 5 channels for club music? I didn't realize Moby had so many songs. Also, I love political talk shows, but I would ace C-SPAN. That is painfully boring to watch, let alone listen to. I am sure there may be some point where it may be useful, but for paid service, not useful enough.

    Some cuts are hard, but you have to be realistic. There is no way they are getting rid of the decades channels. I am looking at what they could realistically do without losing their entire subscription base. I understand Stu is more or less focusing on what he wants and not really what would be realistic. If I wanted it tailored just for me I would also cut all the kids stations and about a quarter of all the talk channels and about 10 more music channels, but I realize they can't/won't do that.
     
  9. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    It's an impossible choice....we all know that.

    I'm just counting on that if cuts were to happen
    in exchange for high-fidelity audio, there would be
    just enough channels to cover every genre of music
    that people would stick with XM just for its sonic value.

    Look, all this is a pipe dream, but over on the other
    forum, there is already a major campaign underway
    to address these ideas and concerns with XM management.
     
  10. James St

    James St Supporting Actor

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    Is that channel a requirement for XM Canada? Otherwise I agree with your choices. Dump the weather and traffic channels.
     
  11. Mark Bendiksen

    Mark Bendiksen Screenwriter

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    I'm curious, is there any way for us end users to know definitively how much bandwidth is being allocated to a particular XM station? Do any XM receivers currently on the market display this kind of information? I'm guessing not, but I figured I'd ask, anyway.
     
  12. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Mark,

    Information on bandwidth usage and actual broadcast bitrates
    are carefully guarded by both services.

    About a year or so ago we estimated XM to be at 64kps, however
    both Sirius and XM use compression algorithms that produce
    better sound than basic mp3.
     
  13. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    i've noticed something odd about the sound on some channels but wasnt sure if it was receiver or my car stereo.

    listening to the alan parsons on xm 7 and it sounds garbled or gurgly.
     
  14. Jed M

    Jed M Cinematographer

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    What do you mean by basic? 32kps? I find that 128kps MP3s sound far superior to XM music. XM seems to almost drop instruments from songs they are so compressed. YMMV, but I have a feeling why they guard the bitrates.
     
  15. Dick Knisely

    Dick Knisely Second Unit

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    Anyone been listening to XM Pops (113) lately? To my ears, this one now sounds much better than I remember it and better than most of the channels. The S&V article about XM's 5.1 broadcast mentions that channel as one that's carrying the surround channels. Tho' I don't have a compatible decoder, in the car at least, this channel now sounds like its getting more bandwidth -- or maybe just better program material. Anyone else notice any change?
     
  16. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

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    Ron I agree it's pretty Bad right now, Only the Generational channels come close to sounding colse to anything worth Decent. I think the Only reason I'm even keeping it now is for Air America and Cspan. I listen to both of those on my ride to and From Work and my Wife listens to the Comedy Channel Mostly. I have three Radio and I think I'll be deactivating my Myfi soon and just keeping the other two.
     
  17. Dave Scarpa

    Dave Scarpa Producer

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    I think you have a good Idea with podcasts it would be cheaper
     
  18. ChristopherG

    ChristopherG Screenwriter

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  19. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Sorry if this had been discussed, but I didn’t have time to read the complete thread, but are there any opinions on the level of sound quality with the XM coming from Direct TV? We recently switched from cable to Direct. I haven’t listened to many XM channels yet, but the ones I’ve heard sound on par with FM radio. I.e., nothing spectacular, but decent, and not as bad as what many described in the first few posts of this thread.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  20. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Wayne,

    I miss the music choice channels originally on DirecTV and
    cable. When pumping those channels through a quality home
    stereo receiver, the sound quality was excellent.

    Now the TV satellite companies have replaced those high
    quality music channels with XM and SIRIUS. Subscribers are
    not happy with the greatly reduced sonics that sound like
    absolute crap when played through a premium home system.
     

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