I like contemporary jazz, whatever that means My problem is that
I live a rural area of Virginia. There are tons of FM stations
that play pop, rock, and country. The local public radio station
plays classical music during the day and mostly "straight up" jazz
in the evenings. (They used to play contemporary jazz, but that
was before the station manager riled up the opera fans.)
I used to subscribe to JazzIz Magazine
for a source of new artists and pieces. Each magazine comes
with a CD containing cuts from various artists. The problem
was that the number of cuts that appealed to me were small, I
didn't read the magazine, and it was expensive.
So, finally, I got interested in satellite radio. Besides wanting a source of contemporary jazz, I commute about an hour a day. During that time, I'm either listening to news or switching across the dial looking for some station that (a) is not running a commercial and (b) is playing a tune that's appealing.
I waffled around for a while, trying to decide which satellite service
I would use, what receiver I would buy, and if I really needed
satellite radio. To make the selection more difficult, there
are two competing providers of satellite radio service: XM and Sirius. Add to that, the type and
variety of receivers. I decided I wanted an add-on receiver
that could be used in the home or car. I drive a 1990 Eagle
Talon, and the room for mounting add-on systems is very limited. The
other option was to replace the car receiver with one that was satellite
ready, but that would prevent easily using the unit indoors.
I had pretty much punted on getting satellite radio when I saw an ad for
the Delphi Roady, a small add-on receiver for the XM service. I
was ready to ask for one for Christmas when I decided I'd better
be sure that I would be satisfied with the XM service.
Both XM and Sirius have a way to preview their mixes on the web. With
Sirius, you can listen to the music channels in real time. On
XM, you can listen to a simulated sample mix. So, I started
previewing the streams I thought I'd be interested in. I spent
most of my time listening to the contemporary and smooth jazz streams
on both services. And, like most everything else, there is no
perfect service that would only play the music I wanted to hear.
The results of my evaluation are as follows: Sirius costs more.
The smooth jazz streams for both services play too many R&B vocals
that do not quiet fit the genre. Sirius does not have a new
age stream, but XM does. Sirius has some NPR programming such
as Car Talk, which XM does not have. There are many other differences
that don't matter much to me.
A more detailed comparison can be found at 13donuts.com. Note
that XM dropped commercials from its music streams.
So, I finally decided I liked the Sirius jazz programming better. But,
since XM only had sample broadcasts and since the programming was
similar, I'm still not sure, for me, if one service was really better
than the other. But, with all that said, I'm pleased with Sirius.
Once I decided on Sirius, I had to find an add-on receiver. There
was no Sirius receiver that was comparable in size to the Roady.
Also, the Roady doesn't require a docking station. That's
a nice feature, but I wonder if you carry the Roady from house to
car to house often if you won't stress the connectors on the receiver.
I had this happen with a ham radio HT I used in my car before
I got a mobile rig. I decided on an AudioVox SIRPNP2 receiver, which
I describe below.
I finally decided on the AudioVox
SIRPNP2 receiver. I received one for Christmas 2004,
along with two docking stations: one for home and one for the car.
The receiver has a nice display that shows the current song
name and artist along with the channel number and stream name. There
are three banks of 10 presets that can be accessed by the 0 to
9 buttons on the unit. The Band button selects
the bank of presets currently mapped to the buttons. There are
a number of ways to scroll through the streams: by number, by category,
and in preset order. You can also preview the track information
on other streams while listening to the current stream.
My favorite feature is the set of 20 memories for song tittle and artist.
With a press of the Memo button, the track and song
title are saved. Later, e.g., when you're not driving, you can
scroll through the memory to find out what that great song was you heard
while driving. Optionally, you can have the receiver alert you
with a beep when any of the memory tracks are played on a stream you're
not listening to. At that point, you click one button to go to the
There are several docking station options. The SIRCK1
docking station is for use in a vehicle. It has an FM modulator
that broadcasts to your car radio, or you can use an audio cable
if your car radio has an aux input. The SIRCK2 docking station
is similar but without the FM modulator. Both these come with
a cigarette lighter adapter cable. The SIRHK1
home docking station comes with a 12V power module and an audio
cable that connects to your home stereo. All the docking stations
come with a satellite antenna that is about the size of a computer mouse.
AudioVox also has a boombox amplified speakers unit for the
I used the SIRCK1 in my home for a week or two, and the FM modulator
did a great job of broadcasting the Sirius audio to a number of FM receivers
in my home.
The SIRPNP2 dissipates more heat than I expected. It makes a great
hand warmer in winter when you carry it from the car to the house.
Not long after that, Sirius canceled the Planet Jazz channel. I would typically listen to the Jazz Cafe and Planet Jazz, swapping between the two when the other became too repetitious or was playing something that irritated me. The company response was that there was other jazz programming, so doing without Planet Jazz should not be a problem for me. I canceled my subscription, and it expired on Christmas Day 2007.
I have high hopes for satellite radio and perhaps things will look brighter in the future. Until then, the satellite providers must look to shows that appeal to large markets.
One of my reasons for subscribing to satellite radio was to find a source of new music. For awhile, I did hear some new music I liked, which resulted in the purchase of new CDs and iTunes songs. Without Planet Jazz, I wasn't hearing much new music I wanted to purchase, or perhaps I was tired of the streams available on Sirius. I have a car stereo that plays MP3 files from a memory stick. I have found new sources of music that I can copy to the memory stick and play while I commute, so I find I don't miss Sirius very much.
My only irritation at Sirius is that one of their representatives called me at home to ask me to resubscribe after my relationship with them was over. I think this might be a violation of the FTC "Do not call" regulations. I was also spammed after I canceled my subscription, and it took me several tries to get off their spam list.
I am happy to report that the 3M Heavy Duty Exterior Mounting Tape I used
to mount the docking station in my car worked great. Even after four hot
summers, it's still holding the mounting plate in place.
Benjy Cline, 2/2004, updated 2/2008, ham at tuxcat.com.