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Interesting XM Radio observations........


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14 replies to this topic

#1 of 15 OFFLINE   Chet_F

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Posted October 10 2003 - 06:52 AM

I've been test driving the XM radio service(with the PCR module) and have noticed several things:

1. The "free" preview channels, 5 total, change randomely every 4-5 hours. No big deal there except they keep kicking me back to the preview channel after the first week of previewing. Sometimes takes 6 or 7 clicks to get the interface to change to the desired channel.

2. The quality is something that is at the very least, worse than radio. Adding on top of that it sounds as if they are using MP3's to play the music. The music has a compressed sound to it and the highs sound EXACTLY like MP3s.

3. The wosrt one is that they seem to be giving some channels better bandwidth than others. Example - listeing to John Mayer on one channel sounds better than another channel. And this was VERY obvious.

4. You MUST have a window with a southern view to get signal. And there can be no obstruction in the way of the antenna.

5. Extension cables are WAY too expensive. $45 - the amount I payed for the entire PCR set with receiver, antenna(20-25 feet long), software, and a slew of cables. If anyone has any cheaper ideas I'm all ears. Posted Image

Still undecided on the whole thing due to these issues.

The one redeeming quality is their variety of music they play. It is unbeleivable the amount of new music I have been exposed to and as a result I have bought more CDs in the past week or 2 than I have over the past 2 years listening to CLEAR CHANNEL - Hey RIAA do YOU GET THE POINT YET!!! I'm sure they don't(they should hire some chimps as they one probably start seeing a profit). It's amazing where your money will go when there is something your INTERESTED in spending you money on.

Just some observations.
"If you’re lucky, people like something you do early and something you do just before you drop dead. That’s as many pats on the back as you should expect." - Warren Zevon 1993, R.I.P.

#2 of 15 OFFLINE   SteveK

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Posted October 10 2003 - 07:13 AM

Chet- I agree that there is an incredible variety of music available on XM. I've been a subscriber for about 5 months now, and I'm completely satisfied.

I don't have any complaints about the sound quality. Yes, they do play compressed music (not mp3), and as I understand it, there is a cutoff at 15Khz so the high end is absent. But I find the quality to be better than FM but not as good as CD. Sound quality is obviously extremely subjective, but I'm completely satisfied with XM, both in terms of the variety of music styles offered and the quality of the sound.

I consider XM to be the best entertainment value available today. $10 per month for 100 channels is truly incredible. Of course you won't actually enjoy listening to all of those channels, but you should be able to find a number of channels you really enjoy.

I hope you'll stay with XM...it truly is addictive after a while.

Steve K.

#3 of 15 OFFLINE   Joshua Clinard

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Posted October 10 2003 - 07:27 AM

I have listened to both XM and Sirius, and I believe the highs are better on Sirius, while the lows sound better on XM. But that is only slightly better. They both sound great, but I give the edge to Sirius. They also have different strenghts and weaknesses. I evaulated both services before I purchased my Sirius system. I have had my Sirius for about a week now, and I have no complaints whatsoever about the sound quality. Some say that XM sounds more compressed than Sirius, and it's probably because Sirius uses something called S-Plex. S-Plex determines which songs need the most bandwidth, and then it allotocates the available banwidth to the streams that need it the most based on which songs are playing. I think that's a major advantage over XM. XM does have a lot of good things going for it, and I want both services to survive. You also should know, that Sirius does not have any commercials on their music streams. It's only 3 dollars more per month for that great advantage. I would reccomend that you go to a Best Buy or Circuit City and give Sirius a listen, and see if you like the sound quality any better. You can also listen online for free at www.sirius.com.

#4 of 15 OFFLINE   David Broome

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Posted October 10 2003 - 07:54 AM

1) Yep, they rotate what the preview channels are. Don't know why, though. When I was previewing, you just got channel 1 :-)
2) Many things can affect the sound quality. Are you listening to the PCR on your computer speakers and comparing to radio on a nice reciver/speaker combo? Try hooking up the PCR to your receiver to see what it sounds like. Alternatively, the enterprising folks at XMFan.com are slelling a kit to bypass the DACs in the PCR and provide ap ure digital TOSLINK connection for better sound
3) I think giving some channels more bandwidth is a big plus. Classical music requires more bandwidth than talk radio.
4) This is not always the case. If you live in an area with a repeater, no window is required at all. And many people have reported great success even without repeaters without windows.
5) no comment here.

Best of luck deciding. I thoroughly love my PCR, and if you decide to keep and activate it, be sure to check out the replacement software written by many people for other os's and Windows. I personanly recommend ReplacePCR (the first and still best). But, being the author, I am a bit biased Posted Image

#5 of 15 OFFLINE   Chet_F

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Posted October 10 2003 - 09:29 AM

"2) Many things can affect the sound quality. Are you listening to the PCR on your computer speakers and comparing to radio on a nice reciver/speaker combo?"

Actually I am comparing the sound of a $50 Phillips boombox(radio) with Yamaha YST-M7 computer speakers. These have been the best computers speakers I have listened to. There are probably better computer speakers out there mind you, but I have yet to see them. I really haven't been looking since I found these though so....

But thanks for the feedback guys. I'm definately going to check out more of xmfan.com this weekend.
"If you’re lucky, people like something you do early and something you do just before you drop dead. That’s as many pats on the back as you should expect." - Warren Zevon 1993, R.I.P.

#6 of 15 OFFLINE   Ken Chan

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Posted October 10 2003 - 11:48 AM

Quote:
The quality is something that is at the very least, worse than radio.
Not sure what you mean: the worst XM is not as good as the best FM? Maybe. But surely FM quality varies wildly. In my area, there are about 1.5 good strong stations (none of which play stuff I actually like), and XM sounds much better than they do, so I'm definitely happy with XM.

And XM uses (some flavor of) AAC, which is MP3's cousin. Apple's iTunes also uses AAC, although I'd guess the details and parameters differ.

//Ken

#7 of 15 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted October 11 2003 - 04:17 AM

How good XM radio in the car sounds
depends on your hookup. I first went with a
FM moulated hookup. That crap lasted about a
day before I tore it all out and plucked down
some good money to buy a new XM-READY head unit
and have the system hardwired.

I also added a kickboxer subwoofer to the trunk.

The end result was XM RADIO that sounded
significantly better than it did before -- very
close to the quality I was enjoying with CD '
playback.

XM (and Sirius) is not CD quality, however.
The compression is noticeable. You have to play
the radio at a higher volume level. The range
of highs are never as broad as CD music. The
lows are pretty good (my subwoofer kicks at high
volumes) and yes, sound quality varies from
channel to channel.

Also, a song may sound a little different
than what you may be used to. Many times it
sounds as if a center channel is missing as
vocals can drop in level and background instruments
take center stage, making the song sound sort
of odd.

If all of this sounds like a complaint -- it
really isn't. XM RADIO does exactly what it is
supposed to do -- replace FM radio. Once you
start enjoying XM RADIO you realize just how
bad FM radio really is.

If I could make improvements to XM Radio I
would increase the bandwidth to make the music
pure CD quality.

I also hate to say this, but I am getting tired
of the commercials on the decade channels I listen
to. I wish XM would have charged the $3 more per
month to get rid of the commercials. I know this
statement is going to be a big WIN for SIRIUS RADIO
fans, but I have heard Sirius radio, and I would
still stick with XM RADIO even with the commercials.
XM seems to have more personality to it. I also
LOVE the Cinema Magic channel, something SIRIUS
has not been able to duplicate.

 

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#8 of 15 OFFLINE   Steven Simon

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Posted October 12 2003 - 01:48 PM

I agree with what Ron said above regarding XM Radio. It blows away FM by far. To my ears, Xm sound somewhere in between Fm and CD. I have also noticed differing sound quality amongst channels. For instance, the Decade channels always sound much better than let's say LA. Kiss. That L.A kiss always sounds metalic, and tiny....

Also I should point out that you must consider the quality of components your using. I found all Xm channels to be Tiny before I completely stripped out the Sucky Bose Premium Sound System (That's an Oxymoron If I ever heard one) and replaced all the speakers, as well as a box Sub on my Z. After upgarding all the speakers, and using a Sony XPLOD head unit, and XM via Direct Inputs, XM sounds a heck of alot more natural, and not as MP3 like... Much closer to CD if you ask me...


XM Radio Posted Image Posted Image I would never own another car without it!!!
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#9 of 15 OFFLINE   Chris

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Posted October 12 2003 - 02:10 PM

Quote:

I also hate to say this, but I am getting tired
of the commercials on the decade channels I listen
to. I wish XM would have charged the $3 more per
month to get rid of the commercials. I know this
statement is going to be a big WIN for SIRIUS RADIO
fans, but I have heard Sirius radio, and I would
still stick with XM RADIO even with the commercials.
XM seems to have more personality to it. I also
LOVE the Cinema Magic channel, something SIRIUS
has not been able to duplicate.

I think a lot of it has to do with the kind of formats you have interest in as well. I'll admit it, I almost never listen to the decades channels or the main channels on my Sirius. Almost never. However, when I was looking for both, I found the kid programming to be more solid on Sirius (that is, I can basically listen to streams of "The Wiggles" and mixes of stuff ad nauseum when I have the toddlers with me) and I enjoyed the talk formats more.. I know that sounds odd, but I knew I was picking up one or the other because I will be making a 12 hour drive every month now (back & forth to St. Louis) and need something to entertain kids, etc. Posted Image

Now, as to the argument in the original post, this one I know to be true, but let me make a case as to why I like it that way:

Quote:
3. The wosrt one is that they seem to be giving some channels better bandwidth than others. Example - listeing to John Mayer on one channel sounds better than another channel. And this was VERY obvious.

Absolutely. When the wife & I are out driving around by ourselves (Saturday night) we will listen to Reggae or the Comedy channel.. now, the comedy channel does sound heavily compressed, whereas Reggae does not. That's OK by me.. you don't need that much bandwidth for a comic to deliver their jokes, etc. and the bass / etc. in it is non-existant; whereas hearing Bob Marley belt out "No Woman No Cry" you want to be able to hear the crowd and everything going on.

I'll say this, I liked both XM /Sirius, and I think if you evaluate them in a fair way, XM/Sirius both do a much better job then almost any local FM network I can think of (the only time I flick it off is during NFL games to listen to the local team) and on a long trip, hard to match.

Now, if only they could come up with a pay-per-view feature on these things to allow them to broadcast audiobooks at a small cost, I would eat that up Posted Image
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#10 of 15 OFFLINE   Chet_F

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Posted October 15 2003 - 09:05 AM

"The quality is something that is at the very least, worse than radio."

What I mean by this statement is that a FM station that comes in clear, which is all of the one's I listen to(6), are better quality than the best XM channel that I have heard. The best way I can explain the sound is that it sounds like an MP3 file but not as bad. Highs are WAY compressed. Symbols sound like crap. If I heard a song on XM and then heard the same song on the radio(on a cheap boombox), the radio has better sound.

Here's another question: does the signal strength effect sound quality. On my PCR software they have a representation of the signal level. Is this TRUE digital radio: meaning it's either on or off?

I assume it is digital radio and once you get the signal and hear music, that is what you are going to get regardless of whether the signal strength is 75% or 100%. Is this correct?

CF
"If you’re lucky, people like something you do early and something you do just before you drop dead. That’s as many pats on the back as you should expect." - Warren Zevon 1993, R.I.P.

#11 of 15 OFFLINE   Scott Wong

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Posted October 22 2003 - 04:19 PM

Quote:
What I mean by this statement is that a FM station that comes in clear, which is all of the one's I listen to(6), are better quality than the best XM channel that I have heard. The best way I can explain the sound is that it sounds like an MP3 file but not as bad. Highs are WAY compressed. Symbols sound like crap. If I heard a song on XM and then heard the same song on the radio(on a cheap boombox), the radio has better sound.


I'm suprised that the opinions on the sound quality seem to vary so widely. I'm also disappointed. If what Chet says is true, then yeah, I'm really disappointed. Others are saying sound quality is somewhere in between. I just purchased a new car two months ago and I am planning on adding an upgraded stereo system. I *was* planning on adding XM Radio (I want a particular Alpine head unit). However, I don't care what kinda diversity XM Radio offers, if the sound quality isn't there, I'm not buying. Posted Image I guess I need to take a listen for myself.

Scott.


#12 of 15 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted October 23 2003 - 07:38 AM

Most everyone (with very few exceptions) that
has XM Radio hardwired to their automobile will
tell you it is noticeably better than FM radio.

The only people who could possibly report otherwise
are those with a unit that is being broadcast to the
radio via an RF Modulator or a cassette deck (which
the Delphi SkyFi is in most cases).

Otherwise, I can't see how anyone could say that
XM Radio (or Sirius Radio) sounds worse than FM.

 

Ronald J Epstein
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#13 of 15 OFFLINE   ChrisClearman

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Posted October 24 2003 - 11:44 AM

I have a Roady hardwired into my headunit w/ RCA-stereo out for XM.

It's obviously better then FM.

Sometimes, on some stations, I can't tell the difference between a song from a CD I own and XM. That is the exception though. Some broadcasts sound "tinny" like it's echoing out of a metal can (especially sports/news). Some are obviously missing the highs, while others seem to be missing the lows (rare).

My only complaint with the service I guess is that they're not consistent with their compression.

#14 of 15 OFFLINE   Chet_F

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Posted October 28 2003 - 05:20 AM

"My only complaint with the service I guess is that they're not consistent with their compression."

I noticed that right away. Maybe it's the PCR module? That's the only variable that is different. I don't know. All I DO know is that it does sound worse than radio.
"If you’re lucky, people like something you do early and something you do just before you drop dead. That’s as many pats on the back as you should expect." - Warren Zevon 1993, R.I.P.

#15 of 15 OFFLINE   JerryLA

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Posted November 01 2003 - 05:36 AM

I don't know why there would be so many variances in quality on the stations mentioned above. I just purchased a new truck with XM and it is great! The sound is not up to CD quality but compared to the FM choices where I live,(3), XM has them all beat. Like the man said, I'll never own another vehicle without it. It is certainly a welcome treat for those of us living in small towns in the mountains, where "Good FM" is unheard of.


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