January 23, 2006

Getting 'Sirius'

It's been a few weeks now since I got my newest gadget, the Starmate Replay for use with Sirius Satellite Radio. The bottom line: it's awesome.

I am, and have been, a Howard Stern fan for years now, and I will be the first to admit that the entire reason for buying this radio was simply to listen to his show. I was really having trouble justifying the purchase though, and while I knew I would eventually break down and get it, I wasn't toally sure I'd be happy with myself afterwords.

Alas, the radio came in the mail, and I haven't listened to anything since. Situation - justified. It does have some issues that are mildly annoying, but I'm sure that with the number of new subscribers Sirius has they'll be more than ready to upgrade their radios and bypass these concerns with each new generation.

Satellite radio is more to me than just Howard Stern, which again was the entire reason for buying it. Endless music choices, news, entertainment, comedy... the content is unbeatable. You just can't achieve that with an iPod no matter how hard you try. (Don't get me wrong, I still love my iPod.) Again, this was more than enough to justify the purchase.

Not convinced? Well, I'm not a saleperson, so unless Sirius wants to pay me I won't try and push it. However, I will make a list of pros and cons, just in case anyone is toying with the idea and needs that extra little kick in the arse to make a choice in either direction.


-Content: To me this is the most surprising and most important feature of Sirius satellite radio. Of course, they offer Howard Stern (which, aside from my love for content, Sirius would still be awesome simply because Howard's show is much better than it was... and I loved the way it was). He's also brought along Bubba the Love Sponge who I have grown to love very quickly. They have a lot of other choices for talk radio as well, from CNN and Headline news, to Martha Stewart and Bam Margera. They have any genre of music to choose from (international, top 40, rock, jazz, just to name a few). Every song is labelled and scrolls on the radio so you always know who and what you're listening to. They have a Korean Language station which I have, in fact, listened to. Want to listen to broadway hits? Tune to channel 77. How about Court TV? Maxim Radio? Gay and Lesbian? Call-in Advice programs? Discovery channel? I could go on and on. Check out the rest of the listings here. The content is amazing.

-Commercial Free: Traditional radio nowadays is almost fully supported by advertising, which is fine. After all, it's free. But it can't be denied that commercial free radio makes a world of difference. When I'm in the car I can actually listen to music for the WHOLE RIDE. There's no need to channel surf unless I want to because stations aren't littered with 20 minutes of commercials for every 30 minutes of air time. It's true, the Stern show includes some commercials, but they are few and far between. Besides, they're on the air for 5 hours (sometimes more) every morning. We all need a break once in awhile. True, the iPod essentially offers "commercial free" radio, but must I remind you of the key difference between the two... content, content, content.

-Uncensored: Obviously this is directed at the Stern show (and Bubba the Love Sponge). Now contrary to what some of you might say, I am not a very vulgar guy. I don't swear much, I don't have a 'potty mouth,' but I sure as heck get a kick out of hearing it. But here's the thing... the Stern show is not really... vulgar. Yes, they use foul language, and yes they do some really outrageous things... but no one can deny they don't hear these things on a daily basis (except maybe a nun... or a deaf person) Besides, if it's really offensive or if you have children, block the channel out (which is very easy to do). Or, just like when he was on regular radio, change the station! What Sirius has done is give the Stern show a wonderful level of comfort, a comfort which is passed on to its listeners. They sound real, they sound happy, they sound comfortable, and it's wonderful to listen to.

Internet Listening: So you don't like the idea of bringing the radio with you everywhere you go? Well good news, you can access Sirius Satellite radio online. It doesn't offer all of the content (and as of now it doesn't offer the Stern show, though it's currently being worked on) but it offers most, if not all the music channels, along with limited talk and comedy. Again, commercial free radio at work makes a huge difference. I found a dance remix station the other day, and the upbeat tempo motivated me to finish 45 minutes of work in about 20. Is this factual info? Will Sirius guaruntee a faster work ethic? No, probably not... but it might.

Built-In FM Transmitter: This is definitely a product sensitive "Pro", but my experience with the Starmate Replay built-in transmitter has been fantastic. Of course I do have to fool around with the stations to avoid static in some cases, but overall I've had very little trouble. Not only that, but this allows any radio (say, in your home) to become a satellite receiver. For example, if I want to listen while in the shower, all I need to do is tune my FM radio to the Satellite frequency, and viola!


-Reception: Overall reception is very good. However, the annoying necessity of satellite radio is the location of the antenna. While driving I have very little trouble. Of course bridges cause problems, and tunnels, as well as ATM, drive-thru, etc. But for the most part, I don't have many issues while on the road. The main problem happens indoors. The antenna needs to face a certain direction (and needs to be in a window or outside) based on which part of the country you live in. For me, the direction happens to be the opposite direction that my windows face. In a house this wouldn't be a huge deal, but in an apartment it made for some interesting "make-shifting". Luckily we are on the third (and top) floor so I was able to wobble my way up to the roof and somewhat stabalize the antenna. If I wasn't able to do this, I'd have no reception in my home. This is a very troubling problem for those who don't live on the top floor and don't face the proper direction. Sure we can listen online, but we lose half the content.

-Not Portable: Sirius recently came out with a portable radio (the s50), but it's still not exactly what I, for one, am looking for. As I mentioned earlier, the antenna becomes a real issue. As a result, the radio can't be completely portable because it's highly unreasonable to ask a person to carry an antenna with them wherever they go (and point it at the sky at all times). The s50 acts more like an iPod, where you can download 45 minutes (I think) of Sirius content and store it on the device itself. It also allows storage of MP3's which helps... but again, I already have an iPod, and for MP3's it's just much much better. For people who commute via train, walking, biking, etc., Sirius just can't accomodate you quite yet, so unless you plan to only listen at home it may not be for you... yet.

-Cost: Perhaps the most obvious of 'problems' is the cost. Subscriptions can be pretty expensive over time unless you pay a lot of money up front. The common theme there of course is a lot of money. Receivers cost money as well, and you have to plan on at least $60 to $70 for a decent one. Is it worth it? Well totally, yes it is. But hey, if I had the money I'd buy a Porsche, or a house in Hawaii, and would that be worth it? Definitely. But it still doesn't mean I can do it. Now I realize that's not comparing apples to apples, but there is some truth to the statement. Is it affordable? Yeah, I guess, but in the end it's still a big chunk of money that might better be used buying food, gas, electricity...

So there it is, my review of Sirius Satellite radio. I for one am 100% satisfied and am so happy I went for it. The Stern show, as I said, continues to get better everyday. Bubba the Love Sponge has fixed a permanant place on the radio for my commute home. The music gets me through the day here at work. If they can now work on upgrading the system... find ways around the antenna issues, make a truly portable radio, and not let the FCC intrude on what is truly a wonderful thing, I'll be more than happy (and willing) to fork out the money for a subscription every year. Who knows, if they can really advance their technology, I'd even shell out the dough for the lifetime deal.

Till next time,


Posted by jed at January 23, 2006 02:50 PM

I am really enjoying my sirius radio. I am a Stern fan but only listened while in the car before I "got sirius". Now I can listen to his foul mouth while my 5 month old daughter watches wholesome entertainment on Noggin. I can also belt out broadway tunes in the comfort of my own home and get advice from Martha Stewart while changing diapers.

Posted by: Beckie at January 24, 2006 10:00 AM

I love my Sirius! Emma screams if I put on Sesame St. instead of Howard Stern. We'll have to teach her it's only ok to swear if you're on the radio.
Marc loved the bluegrass channel, and I love channel 9, the hits of the 90's. I know every word to every song on that channel.
Although, I haven't really changed the channel since Howard 100 and 101 have been up and running.

Posted by: meghan at January 24, 2006 05:53 PM

Alas, I don't have satellite radio. But if I did, would you wobble out on the roof for me too? THAT I would like to see.

Posted by: your sistah at January 24, 2006 09:15 PM

sure i would, but i don't think i'd have to... you face the proper direction.

also meghan, i like channel 9 too. i'm also a fan of the sirius super shuffle (channel 12) and recently the beat on channel 36 (it gets me through work). but most of the time i can be found on howard 100 and 101.

Posted by: jed at January 24, 2006 09:19 PM

That sweet little boy I used to know gets his jollies from listening to Sleazebag Stern? I may be old-fashioned but I know crap when I hear it!!!!!!!!!! I prefer a dirty joke anytime.

Posted by: anonymous at January 27, 2006 07:42 PM
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