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XM Satellite Radio Review

I’m not a big fan of reviewing anything, but I have decided that XM satellite radio is a subject that I know enough about that I can speak with an open mind and an honest tongue. Having been an XM subscriber for three months now, I feel that my perceptions are quite valid. I have a good amount of experience with XM, and I am pretty happy with their service overall, despite a few interesting events that occurred a month ago. Allow me to digress.

A Bit About Satellite Radio

Satellite radio is kind of like the new kid on the block when you compare it to established audio technologies. Traditional radio has been around for over a century, and that market has become heavily saturated with varying radio stations that offer their own spin on the usual music mix. Unfortunately, traditional radio is also limited in range to about 40 miles or so, which really inhibits a radio stations ability to hit a diverse listener base.

Satellite radio, on the other hand, covers the entire North American continent, offering nationwide service to both Canada and the United States. You can literally be in Washington State and take a road trip to New York State while listening to the same radio station. The coverage is continuous, and with XM, largely uninterrupted. It takes the meaning “eye in the sky” and puts it to a different use, as XM’s twin orbiting satellites (aptly nicknamed “Rock” and “Roll”) broadcast a crystal clear signal that any subscribing received can pick up, decode, and then play through your radio.

I’ve always had a soft spot for radio. Until television came along, radio was the big fish in the advertising and entertainment pond, relaying sports games as they occurred, telling cool stories and broadcast shows, and playing timeless music as directed by charismatic DJ’s. Truth be told, I didn’t know how I’d feel about a satellite radio subscription- the service just seems rather distant (pardon the pun, I couldn’t resist).

About XM as a Company

XM is the competition of Sirius satellite radio, and is one of the two only service providers that operate in the North American market. Both of XM’s satellites exist in a geosynchronous orbit, one at 85º and the other at 115º . By remaining in the geosynchronous orbit the two satellites are able to provide constant, unbroken service- this is why you can drive across the country listening to the same radio station. XM also has a third satellite that is ready to be launched in the event that one of the satellites in space fail, acting as a safe-measure that would limit any downtime that would be experienced as a result.

XM has been promoting their brand quite heavily, and the result is a good amount of market knowledge and peripherals that expand the reach of XM. Not content with offering just home and car receivers, XM as licensed their technologies to manufacturers of portable goods, meaning that you can take XM satellite radio with you when you go out for a stroll later. This was an absolutely genius move on their part.


Let’s get to the bottom line: what kind of pricing can you expect, and what kind of service comes with that pricing? This is the meat of any satellite radio subscription, after all, and the general public wants to know that there is value to XM’s services.

When choosing to obtain XM service, you are going to have two up front costs:

The receiver – This unit actually interprets and decodes the satellite signal, offering you 100 channels of satellite radio, as well as information such as the artist, song name, and track duration. These units vary in cost, though they can be had for under $50 these days.

Monthly subscription – The pricing on this ranges, as you can have $12.99 a month for satellite radio, or you can add things such as internet radio or extra receivers for a small premium. XM awards discounts for paying in advance, so if you plan on having the service for a few years, pre-pay and save!

Usage Impression

    My XM receiver only cost $39.99 after the rebate that was associated with starting a new subscription. It isn’t the fanciest model, but it does the job and it displays all the information that I need to know about the music I’m listening to. Once I had it hooked up in my car, listening to the radio while driving is beautiful- the audio is clear and high quality. Compared to traditional radio, satellite radio sounds much better: the bass is more defined, and there is no radio hiss (or commercials).

    I had the opportunity to buy three dozen mobile XM radio units for $6 each, so I of course bought them and attempted to register them all on my account (for $6 a new radio) for a total of $12 for a working radio. Though XM allows you to activate new radios, they apparently frown on mass activation of dozens of receivers. Oh well, they didn’t suspend my account and I subsequently sold most of the receivers that I had bought.

    Otherwise, my service has been pretty standard. I paid for 3 months up front, so I haven’t had to worry about monthly billing quite yet, though I’m sure it won’t be a problem when I do.


    XM satellite radio is a terrific service- one that I’d recommend to anyone who is looking for a steady supply of music that sounds great and is fairly inexpensive. I wish that XM would integrate it’s services into cell phones sometime soon, but I’m getting the impression that it’s only a matter of time.

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