Need an XM equipment primer!!!

Discussion in 'Mobile Phones / Entertainment' started by BrianAe, Mar 24, 2004.

  1. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

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    I'm looking at getting XM soon but I'm having trouble sorting through all the equipment options. I'm looking for a fairly extensive explanation of what I need to use XM in the car, in the HI-FI system, and through the computer. Some help from Ziggy, Ron, et al. would be much appreciated! Ron, I think an equipment run down would make a good sticky too. Here are my specific questions:

    1) Receiver choices. Right now it seems the Delphi SkiFi is the way to go but what are my choices?

    2) What options do I have for getting XM in my car?

    a) What do I need in the way of an antenna? What does hard wiring your car buy you and what does it cost?

    b) FM Modulator vs upgrading to a head unit with an aux vs getting an FM ready head unit.

    3) What are my options for use using XM with my HI-FI/HT system?

    a) Again, what sort of antenna do I need?
    b) Home kit vs Toslink vs some other option?

    4) What are my options for using XM with my computer?

    Thanks in advance for you help guys!
     
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Brian,

    A hardwired head unit in your car is always
    the best sounding option, but unfortunately,
    not the cheapest.

    The Delphi SkyFi unit is my favorite of all
    the portables if you don't plan to go with
    hardwiring. You would really luck out if the
    head unit in your car has an AUX RCA input that
    you can plug the SkyFi directly into it. This
    will give you FAR SUPERIOR sound than using a
    FM modulator, which in my opinion, sucks.

    You could also then take your SkyFi and use it
    with your home system or boombox. The portability
    of the unit easily lets you switch between both
    car and home. You will need a HOME KIT and a CAR
    KIT in order to switch between both.

    As far as Antennas are concerned, I don't know
    if one is better than the other. The antennas
    that come with the CAR or HOME kits are perfectly
    suitable for the job. I have both kits and the
    antennas do the job with no dropouts.

    Is a Toslink SkyFi better than a normal RCA SkyFi?
    In my opinion, yes. You are actually bypassing the
    SkiFi DAC and getting a direct digital connection
    to your stereo system. The difference is noticeable
    but not astronomical. Do I think the regular RCA
    connections sound good? Absolutely!

    While XM does not offer web streaming like SIRIUS
    does, there is a pretty nifty XM gadget for $49
    called the PCR that hooks up to your computer and
    does not use your internet resources.

    Though you may be enticed by Sirius' offer to
    get in cheap with additional web streaming, be
    well aware that Sirius music programming falls
    very short of XM programming. In addition, if
    there are no repeaters installed in your area
    you will experience audio dropouts with Sirius
    whenever you go under an overhang such as at a
    bank or gas station. There are no repeaters in
    my area (I live in the NYC metro area of all
    places) and the dropours drove me crazy.
     
  3. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

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    Thanks Ron. Even though I'm heavily leaning towards XM based upon your previous post, the lack of repeaters with Sirius is additional valuable information.

    So, just to make sure I get it all straight in my head, an optimal XM solution would be:

    1) A Delphi SkyFi unit with the toslink upgrade.
    2) A new head unit for my car(s) that includes a toslink input.
    3) A home and car kit for the SkyFi. Would I need one for each car if I wanted it in more then one car?
    4) Optionally, a PCR for my computer. Or how about upgrading my sound card to one that accepts an external optical input (if such a card exists)?
     
  4. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    I think Sirius's lack of repeaters is a minor issue. Sirius can get away with less repeaters because of the position of their satelites, which are more overhead. I think the dropouts on both happen about equally here in the DC area, they just happen in different ways.

    I also think you may get better rural reception with Sirius, since they don't depend as much on repeaters to get you the signal.

    I agree with Ron on the playlists of both services, tho.

    Jason
     
  5. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    Brian - If you're going to be using your SkyFi in more than one car, it would certainly be more convenient to have a car kit for each car rather than moving the kit back and forth. You'll probably want to install your antenna and other wiring as unobtrusively as possible, so you wouldn't want to have to move it back and forth between multiple cars. Each car kit costs around $70 or so, but that's a one-time expense whereas the inconvenience of not having multiple car kits would be experienced each time you move the SkyFi. So I'd definitely recommend having a car kit for each vehicle.

    As far as head units, I've never seen one that has accepts an optical digital input, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. I think you'd be better off buying an XM-ready Pioneer deck and the XM tuner, which you can mount in the trunk. That's what I have in my car now, and I'm perfectly satisfied with the sound quality and not having any exposed wires. Obviously you can't move that to another vehicle or your house, but aesthetically it's a better arrangement than the SkyFi. Of course, a second subscription is required, but additional subscriptions are only $6.99 per month.

    I started out using the SkyFi both at home and in my car, but I quickly grew tired of the maze of wires. It was functionally perfect, but it was a mess visually. Plus it made it difficult for me to adjust the heating controls, and the front seat passenger had to be careful or they'd bump it with their left knee. Please consider these factors as well.

    Whatever you decide, I'm sure you'll be delighted with XM. Even aside from the absence of commercials on the music channels, the variety of musical choices available is incredible. I no longer think of XM as "radio"; instead I think of it as unrestricted access to the world's largest music library.

    Enjoy!

    Steve K.
     
  6. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Yeah, stay away from Sirius if you are concerned
    about the size of the music library you will be
    listening to.
     
  7. BrianAe

    BrianAe Second Unit

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    Thanks for all the help guys!

    Hmmm. I thought I saw a head unit for not that much dough that had a digital in, but who know, I can't remember where. Maybe I'll go to tweeter or circuit city and ask.

    Steve, I think you made a good point about getting a dedicated car solution. By "XM Tuner" do you mean specifically for a Pioneer deck? Also, is there any Pioneer deck in particular that you'd recommend and what might it cost?

    thanks,

    Brian
     
  8. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    Brian - Yes. Pioneer makes a number of decks that are "XM ready"; you just need to find the one that has other features you're looking for. I forget the model number of my deck, but it also plays CD, mp3 and wma files (but I've only used XM so far). I believe the head unit was approximately $179 at Crutchfield, and the XM tuner was approximately $150. The tuner connects to the radio by means of an IP cable. No matter what brand you go with (Pioneer, Sony, Alpine, etc) the head unit and the XM tuner must be the same brand.

    Pioneer has several XM-ready head units, so you would just need to select the one that offers the features you're looking for. The prices range from around $99 for a casette only model to several hundred dollars for some of the models with fancier displays. I believe all the Pioneer XM-ready head units use the same XM tuner. I bought mine through Crutchfield, but you'd probably find similar models at Best Buy or Circuit City.

    If you have the cash for a dedicated car setup and don't mind the slight added expense of a secondary subscription, I think you'd be much happier with this type of setup. I hated all the exposed wires the SkyFi results in, and I was also concerned about the durability of the SkyFi if I had it in a hot (or cold) car all day. I'm much happier with my Pioneer setup, and I still use my SkyFi setup in my home. I'm hoping to send my SkyFi in soon to have the Toslink connnection added, as I've read many favorable comments about the significantly improved audio quality. You can order the SkyFi with the Toslink connection from MyRadioStore on XM411.com.

    Once again, I know you'll be happy with XM no matter what units you buy, but I believe you'll be happier with the hardware if you have a dedicated setup in your car. I enjoy getting in my car, not having to hook anything up and not seeing wires hanging out all over the place.

    Let us know what you decide, and how you enjoy XM when you buy it.

    Steve
     
  9. Tom McA

    Tom McA Stunt Coordinator

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    Ron et al -

    How do you get audio to a car stereo's RCA aux input, which my stereo does indeed have? Is it out of the docking cradle's power/audio output wiring, which would be ideal, or is it a separate plug out of the SkyFi head unit itself, which seems like it would be sloppier looking, plus another connection to make each time you put it in the car?

    I'm a little confused, because the guy at Circuit City (I know...) told me that RCA outputs aren't available with the car kit, and that without a casette player, I HAVE to use an FM modulator.

    I'd much rather use an RCA aux input than the FM mod, especially since it'd be better-sounding AND cheaper.
     
  10. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Well, YMMV. For me, it would only go out occasionally. My XM probably goes out as often, which isn't much. It could also be the antenna and the tuner. I've heard such things could be variable.

    Jason
     
  11. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    Tom - All connections for the SkyFi are on the cradle. The antenna-in, power-in and audio-out connections are on the cradle, not on the SkyFi itself. Technically, the guy at Circuit City was partially correct, because there are no RCA audio-out connections, just a single stereo 1/8" connector jack. So if your car radio has RCA in jacks, you'd simply need a 1/8" to RCA adapter, which you can find at Radio Shack or Best Buy, etc.

    Hope that helps.

    Steve K.
     
  12. Tom McA

    Tom McA Stunt Coordinator

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    SteveK -

    Eeeeexcellent... That's a lot easier than I thought. The way the Circuit City guy made it sound, I thought the cradle output was some proprietary jack with no simple Rat Shack adapter option. Cool. Thanks.
     
  13. SteveK

    SteveK Supporting Actor

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    Tom - You're welcome. The only other thing you might need is a GLI (Ground Loop Isolator) is you have alternator whine. I'd try it without one first, but don't be surprised if you need one. I think they're about $15 or so at Best Buy.

    Good luck and enjoy!

    Steve K.
     
  14. Scott_lb

    Scott_lb Supporting Actor

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    I am highly interested in pursuing XM as well, and am in the market for a new car stereo (a Pioneer). In addition, I have a friend who recently got his car stereo stolen (also a Pioneer), although they did not take his XM tuner or antenna. He is willing to give me them to me for free, provided that I give him my old head unit (he has chosen to sell his car and has no need for the XM tuner and antenna because he is discontinuing his service but would like to have a stereo in the dash when he sells the car). Therefore, when calculating my total equipment and installation costs (I'm not talking about start up or monthly fees here), does this sound right:

    1. My selected Pioneer head unit that is XM ready ($180.00 at Best Buy)

    2. The XM tuner and antenna from my friend's car ($0.00)

    3. Installation of the new head unit ($0.00 - I already have the wiring harness since my old stereo was also a Pioneer).

    4. The installation cost of the XM unit, provided that they will install it since it was purchased from a friend.

    Therefore, the total should be $180.00 plus the cost of installing the XM, correct? If so, can anyone give me a ballpark figure of what to expect?

    Thanks!
     

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