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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. mylan

    mylan Well-Known Member

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    This is why I returned a Polk XM tuner and opted for the direct connect kit. I saved $200 and can not hear a difference.
     
  2. Tom_Price

    Tom_Price Well-Known Member

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    Ron-

    I agree with you. Would it be a bad idea if XM took a new direction by focusing its selling point on the overall quality of their programming and not so much the quantity? I don't think so. I too have been an XM subscriber for almost 3 years now. I started with the original SkyFi primarily for the 45 minute commute to school each day and I pretty much fell in love and currently have 3 XM tuners. I received my first tuner as a gift, so there was never really a need for me to shop between Sirius and XM. During a short time of employment at Circuit City, I did sign up for Sirius but after a few months of listening, I was turned off by the repetition in playlists and annoying DJs. In all my years of listening to XM, I have tried tuning into most of the entertainment stations...comedy, news, talk, etc. and I always keep coming back to the simplest element of radio: the music. I think you're right, with all the additions and limited bandwidth, the sound quality is definately suffering. It's not like I cared a ton to begin with, but it has just gotten so bad that it is now noticeable and sometimes distracting. Don't get me wrong, I will still listen to XM for the new music and for discovering new artists, but I sure wish the quality would get better.

    What I'm getting at is that neither Sirius or XM can be everything to everyone and that's why XM should differentiate to attract a more targeted market being those looking for emphasis on music and sound quality. They would still have my business and I'm sure I'm not alone. Just my $.02. Take care.
     
  3. Stu Rosen

    Stu Rosen Well-Known Member

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    If XM focused its marketing to aim at audiophiles, it would be out of business in record time.

    If you're an XM fan, ask yourself if you'd quit XM to go to Sirius, if Sirius still had the same shallow playlists but with better audio. I wouldn't.

    I have DVD-As, SACDs, HDTV for years, laserdiscs - so I'm a supposed target for this new strategy some of you are advocating, and if I had to listen to a top 40 format for all the genres I like, I wouldn't care if it the sound was implanted inside my skull for the highest possible sound quality. I'd be gone.

    I suspect I'm like most people in that I care for what's being played, not how cool it shows off my new system.

    I wouldn't mind better sound quality, but that's not the determining factor for me; not by a long shot.
     
  4. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Stu,

    I understand what you are saying, and even agree somewhat.

    It's a tough decision as to which way to go -- channel and
    playlist selection vs. audio quality.

    I just tend to listen to satellite radio less and less these days
    as I greatly prefer the sound of quality audio coming through
    my car speakers when I commute. The audio quality on satellite
    radio has become so bad as of late that sometimes I feel as if
    I'm listening to AM radio minus the static. There is so much
    distortion in the music. The best way I can describe it is a lot
    of breakup at the higher tonal levels.

    Perhaps the problem is that I have a premium sound system
    in my car.

    It's a huge difference from 3-4 years ago when I first got XM
    and music quality could be mistaken for CDs.
     
  5. KevinJ

    KevinJ Well-Known Member

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    I listen to XM through my home system[Advent baby 2 speakers hooked up to a Yamaha HTR-5150 receiver]and while i'm out through my Sennheiser headphones and XM sounds quite good to me imho.
     
  6. JohnS

    JohnS Well-Known Member

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    What's the recent status of sound quality. I'm actually going back into XM, with a portable unit, after selling off my Boombox and roadie, and was out of XM for a few months.
    Has the sound improved, or deminished like everyone is saying?
     
  7. Chris*W

    Chris*W Well-Known Member

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    I would also like to know what the current status of the sound quality is. I'm thinking about getting XM because I've started to listen to Opie and Anthony again online. I live just beyond fringe coverage of Free FM NY, so I can't listen to the show on terrestrial. But I'm also interested in the music channels, which is where my concern over sound quality is about. Is digital flutter heavily present, or is it barely there?
     
  8. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Sound quality has not improved.

    Let me be a little more specific....

    The great thing about satellite radio audio is that it comes in clean
    and crisp. There's no static. If you compare the audio quality of
    XM from 2 years ago to today -- yes, it has diminished.

    The problem is that there's no great level of fidelity either. These
    days the audio is at least equal to a strong FM radio station. On
    some of the more popular channels, the audio has been tweaked
    to the point where it sounds like compressed 128kb MP3s usually
    associated with downloaded music on your iPod.

    Sound is subjective. I can immediately hear flaws in audio.
    However, if you went to the XM and SIRIUS forums where there
    is more active debate on sound quality, there are just as many who
    are perfectly happy with the sound quality of satellite radio.

    ...and Chris, you are in for a real treat as far as Opie and Anthony
    are concerned. Their XM show is miles ahead of their FM radio version.
    It's great that with XM you get to listen to both versions.
     
  9. Chris*W

    Chris*W Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the response, and thats good to hear. I know I'm missing out on some great stuff, like the walkover to the XM studios, for one thing. I just installed a new head unit in my car that is XM ready, so all I have to do is buy the tuner and digital adapter, and I'm all set. [​IMG]
     
  10. Chris*W

    Chris*W Well-Known Member

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    Well, just a follow-up...

    I got my XM equipment installed in my car last Tuesday, and I have to agree on the sound quality concerns. It's not of unlistenable quality, but there is a lot of digital flutter and compression on basically all of the music channels. Most of my listening will be to High Voltage, so sound quality won't be a concern, but I've grown to like a lot of the music channels as well, especially Top Tracks, Soul Street, and Flight 26. We'll see how this works out, but hopefully they'll do something with these compression issues.
     
  11. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Chris,

    They will probably do nothing until future technology comes
    along that allows some sort of compression without reduction
    in sonic quality.

    Really, when it comes to XM music I listen to it only to find
    new songs that I can download online and make better quality
    CD recordings of to play in my car.
     
  12. Anthony_De

    Anthony_De Active Member

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    How exactly are codecs/bandwidth handled? I mean how do they upgrade the audio codec on their end and on the receivers' end as well? 64k AAC+ sounds really good, even if 300 channels were at that quality you're looking at 19.2 Mbs. That's what..one HDTV channel stream? Do these companies really get so little bandwidth?

    I'm also surprised at how awful the XM Online channels sound compared to the same channels on AOL Radio. Even listening to the free Shoutcast stations through Winamp are much better. I had no idea AAC+ compression sounded so good. Even the 24kbps AAC+ stations beat the 64kbps stations on XMRO! And the selection on AOL Radio is much better. They have a lot eclectic stations I enjoy. How did XM allow ~78 of their stations on there and only get 10 back? The internet version certainly doesn't have the same bandwidth limitations, I don't understand why they can't/don't do more to improve it.
     
  13. SeanWz

    SeanWz New Member

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    The quality on this channel is better than the average XM channel. It's most likely due to that fact, that it's broadcast in 5.1. There are other channels that I've set as my favorites. I've had an opportunity now after purchasing my car to listen to all the channels available (this is my first XM receiver) and I've picked my top 12 by content and sound quality. There are a few channels that aren't subject to quality tests, due to content however. Ch113 is one of them because I wanted to take advantage of the 5.1 sound when I didn't have a DVD-A to play.
     
  14. RomanSohor

    RomanSohor Well-Known Member

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    I think what was meant was not that 32kbps XM was better than 128kbps MP3, but rather it is more efficient, so 32kbps XM sounds way better than 32kbps MP3... maybe more like 96kbps or 112kbps.
     
  15. Big Dog

    Big Dog Member

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    In the real estate business, the most important consideration is "location, location, location."

    According to most sat radio customer surveys, there are two considerations that are deemed the most important. Commercial-free music and quality content, though not necessarily exclusive content.

    Sound quality just isn't one of the higher priorities with the significant majority of sat radio listeners.

    If and when the FCC allots sat radio more bandwidth, we'll see an improvement. Until then, those who just don't think they can live with XM's current sound quality, are going to have to consider other options for their music.

    In the meantime, those who aren't ready to give up on XM quite yet, should contact the FCC and request that sat radio be allotted more bandwidth. The only thing that will sway the FCC's current stance at this point in time, is public opinion.

    The FCC was supposedly created to serve the public. If enough people would contact them on this issue, they would be obligated to at least give it some consideration. One thing is for sure---nothing ventured, nothing gained. If people don't bother to contact the FCC, the status quo will prevail.
     
  16. rws

    rws Member

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    I agree with all of you. But since i listen to 71 the contemporary jazz channel, and have it on allot, my gripe is that if I have to listen to Waymen Tisdale , or Anita Baker just one more time I'l going to chuck this radio out the window. Repete,repete,repete, and advertise whats on other channels. If I cared, I would be over there. Shut up & just play a larger selection. New or old. just not the same old thing. Now while at home, I have been listening more & more to skyfm. on the computer. http://www.sky.fm/ Now if & when they start clouding the city I may put wireless in my truck. I originally got XM so I could use it on my motorcycle for trips. Now i just listen to the wind! Rant done thank you!
     
  17. frogpond

    frogpond Well-Known Member

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    When I bought my Honda two years ago it came with 3 months free. I loved it, especially Cinamagic! Then I let it expire for financial reasons. Now my wife, as an early XMas present, got it for her car. While she loves it so far I'm worried about channel selection. I too have noticed a watering down of channels. How many stinken' top twenty channels do we need? I had a chance to meet Lee Abrems awhile back and back then he was genuninaly interested in the variety of music and programming. Now it seems he may not care. I hope he reads this forum or is there a way that we can be heard? A petition? Letters? I would hope that the subscribers had some voice.
     
  18. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    XM was originally born with a revolutionary idea in that
    it was going to be radically different than what FM radio
    had been.

    While SIRIUS stuck to the FM philosophy of playing the
    same limited playlists over and over again, XM vowed to
    be more eclectic, interjecting their playlists with songs you
    may not have heard in a long time.

    For people who truly appreciated music, XM was the clear
    winner. Those that loved FM radio and hearing just "familiar"
    music chose SIRIUS. There was a definitive difference between
    both services.

    I listen to XM much less these days because of the diminished
    sound quality. Additionally, I'm only listening to two stations,
    Flight 26 for new music and The 70s for my
    all-time favorite hits. While I expect repeats on Flight 26
    because it is essentially a top hits station, I still find The 70s
    to be a lot more diverse than what SIRIUS plays.

    Talking to friends and reading this thread, however, has made me
    realize that XM has turned down a dark road. They have brought
    in music consultants, which in my experience, is the death of radio.
    Music consultants always recommend tighter playlists with lots
    of repeats so only familiar music is heard. This is what SIRIUS had
    been doing for years.

    The problem with satellite radio these days is that it's basically
    being programmed by people with background in FM radio. There's
    this mentality that what worked for FM will certainly make Satellite
    successful. What these consultants and executives have seemed
    to forgotten is that satellite radio, at one time, was revolutionary.
    People like myself jumped to the new format because it offered
    programming far more diverse than FM radio.

    When XM went on the air some 5 years ago, they persuaded
    their DJs to make their shows sound as radically different from
    FM radio as they could. In those days, it seemed the DJs played
    the music. Now, it seems to be all controlled by consultants.

    What has happened here is no different than what happens to
    any revolutionary product that gets accepted by the mainstream
    public in that it needs to get "dumbed down." Look at DVD for
    example.....as the general public embraced the new format the
    studios dumbed the format down in order to gain wider acceptance
    to those that rejected widescreen.

    Since I limit myself to just two channels on XM these days, I don't
    hear the problems the rest of you are having other than lousy sound
    quality. However, I have read enough complaints across the boards
    to realize that XM has made some very bad decisions and probably
    is becoming more like SIRIUS every day. That's a shame because
    satellite radio seems to have become a cookie-cutter FM radio format.
     
  19. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Well-Known Member

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    XM has a long way to go to plumb the depths of Sirius.

    I have met Lee Abrams, and I read his blog on a regular basis, and he's certainly a guy who believes in pushing the envelope. Problem is, he seems to have a hard time finding guys who think like him.

    The biggest issue seems to be with Steve Kingston. There is no one who gets more hate than him right now. Ethel fans pretty much have decided that he has ruined the channel with all the repeats and shallow playlists. While I'm not a fan of Ethel, I can hear the same thing going on with Squizz.

    Other changes, tho, have been for the better. It sounds like XMU has really blossomed under Billy Zero's care, and so far, Da Boneyard fans have been happy with Kevin Kash after a few months.

    The main problem I see right now is in the selection of stations. Yes, there does seem to be a lot of "hits" stations right now, some of which are beyond the control of XM. But, some of that comes around because that's what the customer wants. Unfortunately, that comes at the expense of the niches.

    In the end, XM needs to sell subscriptions and convince people to sign up and stick around. In that case, there are going to be compromises.

    That being said, XM is still far better than Sirius, and I expect that to continue.

    Jason
     
  20. Mark Bendiksen

    Mark Bendiksen Well-Known Member

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    Although I agree with the comments on Ethel, I predominantly listen to the lighter adult rock stations such as XM Cafe and The Loft, and I must say that I have not noticed any significant changes to the programming on those stations, so perhaps this issue hasn't crept into all corners of the XM lineup yet. I'm still very satisfied with the service right now, except for some of the aforementioned sound quality issues.
     

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