I am a full-fledged XM Radio addict! This is my story!

Ronald Epstein

Jul 3, 1997
Real Name
Ronald Epstein

Since the introduction of satellite radio to the
automobile market, I have been dying to get my
feet wet. I love music -- especially in the
comfort of my car.
In the past two days I have experienced good XM
radio and great XM radio.
It started with an ad for Delphi Skyfi to have XM installed
for about $200. I went to Circuit City. They recommended
an Alpine FM Modulator and Tuner over SkyFi -- mainly for
the fact that the SkyFi modulators were recently recalled.
I spent $400 to have the Alpine FM Modulator added.
But you know what? FM is FM no matter how you cut it.
Yeah, the sound was slightly better than FM radio (very
strong in fact), but you could hear the shrill highs in
the music that often became overmodulated.
Well, I went back to Circuit City this morning and had it
all taken out.
Instead, I bought a $380 Alpine 7894 head unit (I wanted
MP3 playback capability), and had XM hardwired in my car.
In addition, I had an old subwoofer boombox placed in
my car with a brand new power amp. By the time I was
done I spent a little over $1,000.
It was worth it. The XM sounds absolutely incredible --
far more robust than the FM modulator with far greater
dynamic range. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to
not know it wasn't a CD playing.
I love my XM. I guess by the money I spent today to
upgrade, you can tell what an influence this new digital
format had over me.
If you want to get your feet wet, the Delphi SkyFi
with FM Modulation may be an inxepensive option. I
hear that some car receivers (mainly Kenwood) have
inputs that you let you hardwire the SkyFi to it.
Gregg Loewen can tell you more about that.
I promise you, though, you'll like this XM radio
so much that you won't want to stay with FM modulation
forever. This is a forum full of stereo geeks like
me who appreciate quality audio.
If anyone else here has XM radio or even Sirrius
satellite radio, I'd love to hear from you.

Brian L

Jul 8, 1998
Interesting post Ron. I bought a Pioneer head unit almost a year ago specifically because it was XM ready...still haven't pulled the trigger on the tuner yet.

One question...how is the reception? Any noticeable and/or frequent drop outs?

I live in the mountain west, so obviously me reception won't match yours, but I am still curious to hear for a 1st hand user.

FM in my city is the usual corporate wasteland. XM sounds like the answer to my radio prayers.



Ronald Epstein

Jul 3, 1997
Real Name
Ronald Epstein

This is day one, and so far, no dropouts.

I am very pleased with XM radio. I gave up a 6-CD
changer that came with my car and traded it in for
a single-CD head unit just to get this technology.

The problem right now is that it is expensive.
However, when has that stopped any early adopters

I am very impressed with this technology. It
sounds just about as good as CD audio. In most
cases, you can't tell the difference.

What I like is the programming. I am a 70s junkie.
There's a channel devoted to 70s music and they
really play a great variety of songs -- not just the
top 40 hits you hear all the time.

There's a CINEMAGIC channel that plays all movie
soundtrack music. Was listening to Harry Potter
and The Chamber of Secrets
this evening as well
as some Star Wars cuts from John Williams.

There's three comedy channels, one of which is very
raw with its raunchy language. But you know what?
This is the type of adult radio programming I want.

There are about 100 channels that cover all realms
of music, News, Weather, Entertainment News, Sports,
Broadway & Movies and so on. There is so much to
listen to that I find it hard to listen to a single
station for more than 10 minutes. You are always
curious as to what is playing on the other channels.

This XM is really huge! The problem is, they are
slowly nearing bankrupcy. Still, there is much hope
on the horizon that they will be loaned money, as they
are signing up a huge amount of new subscribers daily.

I can't go back to FM radio anymore. CDs? Well,
you know what you get with those. I liked the fact
that I can turn to any music channel of my choice
and not know what song is coming next. Many times
it's a nice little surprise -- something I have not
heard in a long time.

I guess you can see by how I am rambling on here
how much I am impressed with radio programming that
sounds stunningly amazing.


Stunt Coordinator
Oct 26, 1998
Hi Ron,

I have had XM for several months now and I love it for long road trips. I drive to and from FL frequently from Atlanta and it is great. I get maybe 2 or 3 audio dropouts on my 7 hour or so trip, underneath overpasses. I will lose signal for at most a couple of seconds. The variety is super as you have found out.


Scott Pierson

Stunt Coordinator
Nov 20, 2001
Hi, Ron.
I too have the Alpine hardwire setup in my car. It is terrific. The variety of music is great, especially for those of us who aren't really into the pop scene. There are three classical channels, several jazz, blues, lots of world music, the comedy stations, old-time radio, etc.
About a week after I had it installed in March I bought the Sony plug-and-play for the house. It's great to have it in the house, but the Sony is so darn loud (a fan runs constantly), and the thing only allowed five presets and no random direct access. As soon as the Delphi tuner came out I bought it. It has 10-key direct access. My Pronto has many stations programmed in, and the display is easily readable across the room. Plus it's dead quiet (no fan), and I think it even has a bit better sound.
As to dropouts, I live in a hilly area, very heavily forested. There are a few spots as I'm driving to or from work where the signal will drop out for a couple of seconds, but it's a very minor deal. There are no terrestrial repeaters in this area, so I probably experience more dropouts than most people would, and I hardly consider it an inconvenience. At home there are no reception issues, as I have a good line of sight for the antenna off my deck.
I highly recommend XM for any music fan bored with local radio fare, and especially anyone who spends lots of time in their car.


Michael St. Clair

Senior HTF Member
May 3, 1999
I've been pondering an XM purchase. The latest financial news has me putting this on hold for a bit. Ultimately I'm sure things will shake out and there will be at least one solid player in the market (XM or Sirius). I'm eager but patient.

Thanks for the review!

Jason Caudill

Stunt Coordinator
Aug 7, 2001
I am going on 5 months of XM service and couldnt be happier. I dont even take my cds in the car anymore because I can always find something on. The real reson I got it is because I am a talk radio junky. If I could just get them to not all take commercial breaks at the same time life would be even better.
By the way I have a pioneer setup (not modulated). I would highly recommend XM to anyone who listens to much radio. I dont love it as much as my Tivo, but I like it alot. Jason


Supporting Actor
Feb 6, 2001
You do get charged an extra $10 for each unit you have, ie an extra deck for another car or a home unit.
I've had XM since May and have almost stopped listening to FM radio. The quality is great, but for some reason's on Saturday Mornings I have problems with reception. I don't get it.

I enjoy listening to Fox News Channel. Its great when i'm out and about and can still listen to Bill O'Reilly.
I have a Pioneer deck in my car with a built in XM turner. Its a bare minimum deck. I purchases front and back Polk speakers at the same time i made the deck purchase.
I'm not sure if they have this technology or if its only offered on more expensive decks, but it would be great to see what songs are playing on the deck display!!
I'm waiting for the update of Channel 41 in December the Bone Yard (ch. 41) will focus primarily on 80s rock - hair bands, stadium fillers, and power metal.

Brian Fitterman

Stunt Coordinator
Mar 26, 2002
I too bought a XM Alpine head unit a a while back. I still have not even set my FM station presets. I love it.

I too spent a long time trying to figure out how to keep my 6 disc MD changer (sony) but pick up a XM unit that was NOT modulated. I ended up going with Alpine and plugging my old Sony head unit into the AUX of the Alpine with the XM tuner going in the Net Bus (or whatever they call it). I have a double din space in my car so both head units are in the front. Works great. I think we can still add the Alpine cd changed too on the bus. They have a 12 disc MP3 chnager I was looking at.

Ted Lee

Lead Actor
Senior HTF Member
May 8, 2001
i have a question about commercial content. how heavy is it? i assume it's better than fm?

also ron, you mentioned something about them going bankrupt? that kind of worries me too. i'm not sure if i'd want to make an investment with that in the back of my head???

Jeff Kleist

Executive Producer
Senior HTF Member
Dec 4, 1999
My biggest question would be is there anywhere with a channel list? It'd be worth $10 a month to get Japanese stations


Stunt Coordinator
Aug 27, 2002
I was very interested in XM radio for home use until I read the sound quality wasnt that good. Comparable to mp3's. I dont expect cd quality sound as I dont plan on critical listening but I would like close to it. Would it be better for car use than home sound wise?


Supporting Actor
Feb 6, 2001
i have a question about commercial content. how heavy is it? i assume it's better than fm
The music stations that have commercials on them, they play about 5 minutes of commercial an hour and what they do is play a bunch of songs and play about a 1 minute commercial then go back to their play-list. I have no problems with their commercial content.
XM also bills quarterly, so every 3 months i get billed for $30.
Also the pricing for Sirrus, last time i checked is $12.95 a month but there are less commercials.

Ronald Epstein

Jul 3, 1997
Real Name
Ronald Epstein
Obviously this is going to be worth it for some
and too expensive for others.

I look at it this way....

FM radio sucks. Not just because of the sound
quality but because of programming. It doesn't take
a genius to figure out that radio station content
is complete crap -- mostly due to the fact that
stations are corporate run.

XM radio changes all that. It gives you the
opportunity to listen to the kind of music you like.
There are 100 channels of entertainment available
at your fingertips.

The quality of the music is very close to CD quality.
My Alpine unit has a MX feature that really enhances
the music to the point you really can't tell the
difference. Otherwise, the music could be considered
just better than MP3 and just short of CD quality.

All I know is that the dynamic range is there.

I guarantee that anybody that gets XM is going to
stop listening to FM radio, and most likely, stop
listening to CDs in their car as well. The playlists
are always interesting, giving you a nice variety
of the kind of music YOU want to HEAR.

I love the CINEMAGIC channel. I used to download
movie soundtrack MP3s to listen in my car. Now I
don't have to. All the great stuff from the likes
of James Horner, John Williams, Hans Zimmer and
others are continuously played here. There's even
cool movie soundbytes played between some songs.

At $10 a month you are going to scoff at that?

Scott Pierson

Stunt Coordinator
Nov 20, 2001
Yeah, $10 a month for each. i wish they would have a discount for multiple receivers, but how would they police whether they really belong to you? Ron could have called me, given me his receiver ID and I put it on my account for a lower rate. They don't know where my car is. So I don't see any way around it at this point.

If you like the programming in the car, it may be worthwhile to get it for your house too. The Delphi unit is really useful for household use.

When I get the theater room done, I anticipate getting a second Delphi unit and putting one in that room--or I might just start with a second home kit and carry the receiver unit back and forth. If that's too much trouble I'll spring for a third account. I want Cinemagic playing before we fire up the projector in the theater!

Ron--I, too, love Cinemagic. You will notice that their playlists run about 8 hours, then repeat three times a day. Even if you don't listen for hours on end, it seems like I catch the same segments multiple times each day. I go to work and they're playing Braveheart. I get off work and they're playing Braveheart. I turn it on about 10 pm and they're playing Braveheart, etc. And it seems like they run certain movies much more than others--and not just current hits. Lawrence of Arabia plays every freakin' day. After you've had the service for awhile the variety of channels really pays off. Now I dip into Cinemagic several times a week. They do keep current on new releases, though which is cool.



Jan 24, 2000
So right you are Ron...XM rocks and I am hooked.
Picked up a Delphi SkyFi receiver and home kit last week.
Also just picked up the boombox today and am using the boombox with a power inverter to get XM in my car and my wifes car(decided to go this way vs. 2 car kits, 2 FM mods, and 2 installs).
Sure beats the dreck being spoon feed to the public on AM/FM Clear Channel radio. Finally radio with variety and choice.
Seems they got a lot of new subscribers over the holidays. I'm just suprised more people here aren't talking about it.
long live XM

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