Sirius Satellite Radio…is it worth it?


Should you look to space for your car entertainment, or keep your eyes on the road and your ears listening to something else?

Back in the summer of 2005, I was looking to upgrade the radio in my ’05 Escape. I was never into that heavy bass shit that seems to dominate high school and college campuses (though I’m happy to say that seems to be going by the wayside in my area), but I wasn’t into buying and listening to CD’s either. I had an interest in XM Radio when it first came out, and when GM cars started to integrate it into their factory radios, but I held off. Instead, I turned my attention to a dwindling satellite radio company known as Sirius. Not watching to change the head unit out of my vehicle, I opted for the plug-and-play unit that mounted to my windshield. After the install and activation, I was blown away by the number of music choices that the service provided. They advertised CD Quality music, and boy did it deliver. I kept it mostly on the 70′s/80′s/90′s rock, and occasionally ventured off into some of the other specialty programming, such as sports and news. The service was great, I couldn’t have been happier.

Then the announcement that Howard Stern had signed with Sirius Satellite Radio came, and it got me even more excited. Prior to this I wasn’t a Howard Stern fan, not because I didn’t like his sense of humor, but because I very rarely heard his radio show. He was on a rock station out of Detroit, and I could just barely pickup the station signal from where I lived. I loved his movie “Private Parts” however, so I thought I would at least give the show a try when it came to Sirius. No, this isn’t an advertisement for the “Howard Stern Show”, but it’s a nice thing to point out, because exclusive content was coming to Sirius Satellite Radio.

Unfortunately, I think this began the demise of Sirius Satellite Radio. Yes, the acquisition of Howard Stern eventually resulted in a merger between both Sirius and XM, but in my opinion is has severely hurt the quality of the service. Prior to Howard Stern, the service offered CD Quality music. Since then, bandwidth has been diverted over to the “Howard Stern Show”, which in turn has resulted in a drop in quality for every other channel on the service, especially talk channels. I used to be a huge listener of the “Covino and Rich Show” on the then MAXIM channel. Since then, while the channel name has gone away, the “Covino and Rich Show” still remain, albeit in a quality that often seems worse than AM radio. Like or hate the “Howard Stern Show”, it has had a significant impact on Sirius XM, and not in a good way.

Fast-forward to 2011, and while Sirius and XM may now be a single entity “SiriusXM”, they remain two separate services that each offer exclusive programming. (Note, some newer radios allow you to subscribe to channels only offered on the other service for a premium price.) So what does Sirius offer? Here is the rundown:

  • 13 Pop channels
  • 24 Rock channels
  • 6 Hip-Hop/R&B channels
  • 3 Dance & Electronic channels
  • 5 Country channels
  • 2 Christian channels
  • 7 Jazz channels
  • 3 Classical channels
  • 2 Howard Stern channels
  • 10 Entertainment channels
  • 4 Comedy Channels
  • 5 Family & Health channels
  • 23 Sports channels
  • 12 News/Public Radio channels
  • 5 Politics channels
  • 3 Religion channels
  • 10 Canadian channels
  • 3 Latin/World channels
  • 10 Traffic/Weather channels
  • 22 Additional Internet Only channels (requires a separate internet subscription)

Add all of this together and you get about 150 channels that are available to you on your radio (not counting the internet only channels). Sounds like a lot, but you’re probably not going to listen to more than about 10 channels or so. At $12.95/mo, the service isn’t outrageously priced, but the variety between channels in the same genre is lacking. Often times you’ll hear the same exact songs across various channels, and maybe that’s how it should be, but it seems like there should also be more variety. Tack on an extra $2.99/mo and you can get Internet radio, allowing you to listen to nearly all of the channels offered on the actual radio (minus the sports play-by-play channels), and you can download an app for your smart phone to listen to Sirius on the go. I personally haven’t had any luck with the smart phone apps myself. The iPhone app seems to work ok over WiFi, but cuts in and out over 3G on my experience. When it does work over WiFi, after 30 mins it will automatically stop do to inactivity. Inactivity? What if I just want to listen to the same channel for hours on end? Why is is shutting off on me? Many times it will automatically log me out and tell me I just logged in somewhere else…certainly not the best of apps. The Android app seems to be even worse. On the off chance I do get it to play a channel, regardless of whether I am on WiFi or 3G, the app usually quits playing after about 10-15 mins. Once that happens I usually have to exit the app completely and restart it. Sirius should definitely outsource these apps because their developers don’t have a clue…just look at the Internet player on the Sirius website, completely clueless.

It may sound like I am trashing the service, and maybe I am, but not everything is bad. If you’re a serious sports fan, there is plenty for you here. Play-by-play for both local and national games is fantastic, and there are special live events, such as the Paul McCarthy concert, that pop up every now and then, but those are usually few and far between, but nonetheless do exist.

So is the service worth $12.95 a month? I guess it depends on how much time you spend in your car. Is satellite/cable T.V. service really worth $80+/mo? Guess it depends on how much T.V. you watch. I used to be a big fan, but with the diminished audio quality, the merger that eliminated a number of channels I used to listen to, and the lack of variety between channels in the same genre, I’m slowly getting turned off by it. I plan on keeping the service for now, mostly because my new car is equipped with a factory Sirius radio, but with alternatives like Spotify and Pandora, not to mention your iPod, you may just want to save that $12.95/mo.

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