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Old 01-27-2006
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Delphi RoadyXT satellite radio and USA SPEC DF-FORD1 converter

I recently got a Delphi RoadyXT XM radio. XM because the MLB is on there and I'm a baseball fan. Sirius would have been fine but I wanted the sports package on XM.

A link to info on it: http://shopdelphi.com/consumers/satr...ails/features/

I love this thing. Here's some comments on it.

Size: Very small. Smallest unit available at this time and it's mounting brackets are small and help hide the wires. Unlike the Roady2, this one makes all the connections to the mounting base and the unit snaps into that -- making it much easier to remove. You can actually make it look like the picture below because the lower flange of the mounting base helps conceal the hookups.



Sound quality: I am mixed on this. Though it is excellent, some of the channels are fairly compressed and have audible quantization noise (like MP3's sometimes have) and/or hiss. I don't find it terrible, but it's not all CD quality for sure. Still, it's very good and worth having -- just not perfect. I'm not going to get rid of it, let's put it that way, lol. I had a serious problem with the sound, but it turned out to be my installation -- I'll cover that later.

FM Modulator: The modulator can transmit nearly 100 feet to a good radio and I can park the truck anywhere near my office and leave the RoadyXT on and listen to it inside. Pretty cool. It also covers 100 channels of the FM band -- basically the whole band. You can DEFINITELY find a frequency unlike some units which only have 10 or 12 or whatever frequencies. You can use a single button to quickly call up a menu of the last 6 frequencies you chose to make it easy to get back to one when you need to. Quality of the FM modulator is EXCELLENT -- but level matching of the satellite channels is not. On some channels, you need to turn down the audio level to the modulator (a menu item), and turn it back up for others if you want the volume back. I think this is not uncommon with FM modulators because my mp3 player modulator is wierd this way too. Some material sounds great, and I have to turn other songs down or they distort. Overall, a great built-in FM modulator, no question.

User interface: The buttons are ALMOST too small, but not quite. Mount it close to you. The layout and the way the number buttons are clustered in "rocker pairs" makes it easy to work blind though when you get used to it. The display is EXCELLENT and has multiple colors. I love it. It's a 2 line display, but you can set it up to show various kinds of data and either page or scroll to show it all. You can also set up a stock ticker or special purpose news ticker -- like sports scores and all. Nice.

Included: Literally everything. A VERY small mag-mount "patch" antenna, two different types of mounting brackets, a mounting base, power unit, cassette adaptor, manuals, and so on. The FM modulator is built in. You can have this thing ready to go in about 10 minutes if you want. Just clip the one mount into a vent, snap on the base, plug in the power supply (goes to the cigarette lighter) and the antenna and stick the antenna to the roof. Snap the receiver onto the base, and voila! Ready to rock. Select an FM channel, tune your trucks radio and go. You have to activate it but it comes on in less than an hour typically.

Now, I said that I ran into a noise problem and that's what I want to discuss in concert with the USA SPEC DF-FORD1 adapter I used.

The DF-FORD1 plugs into the CD changer port on a factory Ford radio and gives it two auxiliary inputs. It's quite a gadget with a LOT of circuitry inside it's small extruded aluminum case. Build quality is EXCELLENT and so is function. If you are keeping the factory radio, this can be a great way to get auxiliary inputs.



What it lacks is GAIN. The CD changer inputs on our vehicles use like 10 volt inputs, and the DF-FORD1 doesn't amplify the signal from the aux inputs it provides much at all. The result was that the volume was weak on the XM.

Now, I opened up the unit and changed two, tiny, surface mount resistors from 47k to 22k and gave it about 3db more gain and its fine. But be advised it's more suitable for devices which put out more signal than the Delphi RoadyXT. I would think that devices designed to drive headphones hard would be fine (like an MP3 player or whatever). I've tried some stuff like that and it worked better than the RoadyXT just by turning it up a bit. The RoadyXT wasn't loud enough even with the audio level maxxed on it.

The noise problem was a ground loop. I used another power and ground feed I had under the dash to wire in the power supply for the RoadyXT so it wasn't in the lighter socket. It turns out to have been a bad idea. Whenever it was in use there was a lot more "glitchy" noise, his, and alternator whine.

The solution was to use the same power and ground as the radio, which are also feeding the DF-FORD1 so that the RoadyXT, DF-FORD1, and radio all share the same ground. Problem solved. I was ready to take the RoadyXT back until I tried this. I was surprised at the noise because the modulator worked so well. Wierd that direct connect was NOISER.

The DF-FORD1 comes with "harness extensions" that plug between your factory radio and the trucks wiring harness. These are tapped to a cable which goes down to the USA SPEC DF-FORD1 which can be mounted in a convenient spot. The harness extension is a convenient place to tap power and ground. I used switched power now so the unit comes on and off with the radio.

Also, I just put a cigarette lighter inline jack on the tapped power and plugged the RoadyXT's power supply into that and tucked it behind the radio.

Oh, you use the track change button to switch between auxiliary inputs when the unit is selected. It looks to the HU like a CD is playing in a remote changer and track 1 is input 1 and track 2 is input 2. Pretty slick.

My display says: "DJ 6 Track 1" when I'm listening to the XM. I'll plug the navigation laptops output into the second auxiliary jack when I need to.

That's about it. I like both units a lot, but the DF-FORD1's limited audio gain may make it less desirable with some input sources unless you can modify it also.

Last edited by n3elz; 01-27-2006 at 07:43 PM.
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Old 01-27-2006
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dummy post, error sorry
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Old 01-27-2006
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Found some interesting info on the RoadyXT...

This guy took it apart and photographed it, and took pictures of the various colors of the display as well, and took pics of it next to the older Roady2. Nice to look at if you're at all curious:

http://www.xm411.com/phpbb/viewtopic...62303d3c448d6a


And this guy took apart the cradle and figured out how to have the audio out jack and the modulator running at the same time. Normally, when you plug in a cable for direct connect, the modulator turns off -- but it's just a switch that signals the unit to do so. By shorting across the switch you can have the modulator running all the time, which can be useful.

http://www.xm411.com/phpbb/viewtopic...62303d3c448d6a
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Old 01-27-2006
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Okay, tried the "cradle modulator mod" and it works! Here's what it looks like below. I used a piece of 30 ga wire wrap wire to make the jump between the pins on the connector. I now have direct audio AND the FM modulator is always transmitting.

Make sure you lock the direct audio output level at max before doing this in case the FM level doesn't adjust it when you're done. When you have a jack plugged in the menu changes and which audio level you're adjusting is different -- or not. Could be they are the same and just the menu changes -- I haven't tried it yet. But the mod itself definitely works.

Update: UN-modded it. Two things -- first, the level control still controls the output jack, even though it SAYS it's the FM Modulation Level, so that's okay. But, the other thing is that in FM mode the output level maximum setting is about 1/2 what it was before the mod. It seems the "range" of levels for the modulator is lower than that for the output jack. The unit was too "quiet" through the direct connect after the mod, and the FM was quite loud.

So, it's a nice idea and if you don't need the highest levels from the output jack you can still use it. But don't do this mod if you need (as I do) the maximum level you can get out of a direct, non-FM-modulated, connection.

Last edited by n3elz; 01-27-2006 at 10:15 PM.
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Old 01-31-2006
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which factory radios have the cd changer input? i have the dual model with cd and tape. i have the sirius starbase with fm modulation, it goes between the antenna and the radio. quality could be better but i would like to have the ability to have rca connectors since there is a option for rca connection for my brain unit.
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Old 01-31-2006
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Maybe I missed in another post.. but why not use the FM modulator in place of the AUX-in box in the truck? You describe the modulator as 'excellent'. Set the FM output level to a desireable level and then listen everywhere..?!? No?

I installed a Sirius Audiovox PNP3 unit in my GF's car not too long ago. I got her the receiver and an 'auto' kit (sadly sold seperately!). The auto kit relied on the built in FM modulator to 'connect' to the vehicle audio system. We were advised by many (even some on this site) that we wouldn't be happy w/ the quality of the FM modulator w/ that set. I investigated getting an Aux-in into her Mazda stock head-unit.. or investing in one of those FM antenna switchers that you install in the dash.

We decided we'd install the unit w/ the FM modulator first and give it a try. In the end we decided that the sound quality is more than good enough w/ the modulator installed as is. The Aux-in or antenna switcher is not required. She has had to retune the modulator once or twice when traveling to different cities (we found a strong station in Boston) once or twice, but overall the built in modulator has been very nice.
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Old 01-31-2006
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The direct link does sound better, Colin, especially after another mod I just did -- dumping the switching regulator in from the power plug and putting in my own linear regulator -- less noise.

I've never found modulators totally acceptable. But on XM there's an additional problem: if you get the modulation level up nice and high (like matching commercial FM station levels) on one XM channel, another my be overdeviated and distort and then you have to turn it down.

Sirius may do a better job of compressing or matching levels channel to channel than XM does, I don't know. Commercial broadcasters use considerable compression to limit peak modulation, even on FM. Without that pre-processing, matched on all channels, modulators have this problem and you will find complaints about it in both the XM and Sirius user forums.

I also have a real problem in this region with FM band congestion. Near home I need one frequency, but near work another -- I haven't found a "single" frequency that works well throughout my driving range here. That annoys the heck out of me, lol.

Finally, I have EXTRAORDINARY high frequency hearing for a man my age. The nurse here at the plant says I have the hearing of a 20 year old -- and he want's it back, lol. My wife says I hear fine -- it's my LISTENING that needs work!

That's yet another reason I'm unsatisfied with modulators. They do limit the frequency response a bit.

But I wanted the direct box anyway to connect the navigation laptop (used offroading where I don't listen to music anyway) to the stereo for voice prompts and info I'm adding with my own programs.

As far as the question about the external CD changers: I don't know. If you give me exactly what radio you have I can look that up. The USA SPEC unit comes with two harness for the two different styles used on 1998-2003 vehicles. Supposedly it works with all the in-dash CD radios from that time period. I can only report that it works fine with the 6 CD.

Don't buy it if you HAVE an external CD changer in place though, as it takes the place of that and won't work in conjunction with one. I thought it did originally , but it doesn't -- not that it affects me since I have only the internal 6CD changer.

But, I think people with a high tolerance for the slight loss of fidelity, and the peculiarities of using an FM modulator will find that an "easy" and usually cheaper solution to getting the signal into their audio system. I just wanted it to be the "best I could get" and not have to worry about adjusting the modulator or frequency daily.
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Old 01-31-2006
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i have a 01 with factory radio. has a tape player and a cd player.
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Old 01-31-2006
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Huh.. bummer. Like I said, the Audiovox Sirius unit works great for Bri. I admit, my hearing is not stellar. I haven't been tested in forever, but I know it isn't top-drawer.. but Bri's is. She has very good, very sensitive hearing. Between the two of us I figured we would never be happy w/ the modulator, but we are. I was actually pleasantly surprised.

That could also be a function of her Mazda audio system as well. In my experience it isn't half bad.

Although I freely admit: I'm not out for 100% perfect sound reproduction either. It is in the car, which is a naturally loud environment anyhow. (Although far far quieter than my truck! ) I never expected top-notch sound, especially from a compressed sound format, like satellite radio.
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Old 01-31-2006
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Well, don't get me wrong here: the modulator is EXCELLENT -- but it's still FM bandwidth. Like I say, good hearing or not, some people aren't bothered by this.

I would still recommend the unit even on the modulator. The only Sirius units I've even heard were all "integrated" units built into late model HU's -- so I don't know how Sirius performs on a modulator. Sirius is superb quality in the units I've heard.

However, it is VERY possible that Sirius has been more diligent about level control to minimize the levels difference I mentioned -- don't know.
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Old 02-01-2006
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I recently heard that Sirius uses a variable bit-rate compression technique for it's streams, while XM uses a fixed-rate. I heard this is why it takes a moment for the Sirius units to 'sync up' when you change channels, yet the same is not true for XM. The advantage to the Sirius technique is that they can allocate their (limited) bandwidth across the different streams more efficiently. Maybe the level discrepncies your seeing are related to this fixed bit-rate technique.

I have an intergrated Sirius unit in my Ranger. (Although I've canceled my account.) It came free w/ my Kenwood head unit back in '03 when I bought it. It connects at line-level via the CD changer/AUX input on the head unit. It sounds fantastic.. or at least it sounds as good as the streams do, which obviously varies between voice only and music streams. ... Bri's modulated PNP unit sounds just as good to my ears as my Kenwood integrated set does. I was HIGHLY impressed. As were my friends. Bri is now one of three people I know running the Audiovox PNP3 setup. Before I bought I did some research on SiriusBackstage.com. The PNP3 was very highly regarded. Maybe her setup is the best of the best so to speak.
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Old 02-01-2006
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There's just no way that a modulated system can be as good as a direct connect -- though I understand that one's ears are the "limit of measurement" as such.

I'm wondering if XM still IS fixed bit rate. Some of the voice streams on XM, even on music channels, sound decidedly low bit-rate. This is true even for some voice on the music channels.

I will say that I no longer hear what I took to be quantization noise, however. That was gone after I got the power supply ground loop solved.

And there's no doubt that the quality of the receiver is going to be telling. I'm not even sure how the RoadyXT stacks up, being as it's so inexpensive. However, it does sound better than FM stations do on my radio -- but that could be my factory head unit also, lol!

There's no end to the qualifying factors!

XM channel changing is not so instantaneous, either. I haven't tuned a Sirius unit to know the difference though.

What I am wondering is why most of the Sirius units seem to be so physically larger than the XM units? I don't know if it's just the designers, or what, but all the Sirius portables I've seen are phyically larger than their XM counterparts -- have any insight on that, Colin?

The only reason I can see is perhaps the frequency agility (and receiver complexity) necessary to switch between 3 overlapping, semi-synchronous orbits. The Sirius orbital pattern is a bit of "brilliance" to my mind -- but I would think it would complicate matters by having 3 satellites whose transponders can't overlap.
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Old 02-02-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by n3elz
There's just no way that a modulated system can be as good as a direct connect -- though I understand that one's ears are the "limit of measurement" as such.
Sure it can! If the direct connection is jurry rigged in some sort of crappy manner! I mean you should see some of the hacked up things people were talking about for connecting to the Mazda 3's deck..
Quote:
Originally Posted by n3elz
I'm wondering if XM still IS fixed bit rate. Some of the voice streams on XM, even on music channels, sound decidedly low bit-rate. This is true even for some voice on the music channels.
I think what they were saying is that each of Sirius's streams are variable, while each of XM's streams are fixed. Meaning each of the XM streams are fixed at xyz or abc kbps.. while the Sirius streams vary over time, not just vary between streams. You still have your high and low-bit rate streams on both services. Sirius' talk and sports streams are pretty low quality too.. some were almost AM quality!

Quote:
Originally Posted by n3elz
XM channel changing is not so instantaneous, either. I haven't tuned a Sirius unit to know the difference though.
Huh.. I thought it was. I've only really used XM sets in passing in the stores.. and my buddy's new set. He's got the exact same set as you do though, so I would think performance would be identical.

Quote:
Originally Posted by n3elz
What I am wondering is why most of the Sirius units seem to be so physically larger than the XM units? I don't know if it's just the designers, or what, but all the Sirius portables I've seen are phyically larger than their XM counterparts -- have any insight on that, Colin?
I don't. Except to say that this hasn't always been the case. Your set is remarkably small. And it is easily the smallest set I've seen for either Sirius or XM. I was actually shocked when I saw my buddy's set in person.

Each revision of these things has gotten smaller and smaller. I presume the chipsets are becomming more and more integrated. My GF actually prefered the Audiovox PNP2 (previous generation) over the PNP3 she finally settled on at first. She wanted the older set because it more closely matched her interior lighting. (Pff! Women, what can I say!) I had already bought the PNP3 and was certian she wasn't going to like the PNP2, so I didn't return it. In the end I was right.. but for a few days we had both sets in our posession. The PNP3 is FAR FAR smaller than the previous gen set. And in my opinion it isn't that big.

Also serval makers (Audiovox for example) make different receivers for both services. I know for a long while XM was statistically kicking Sirius' but w/ regards to subscription rates. I heard some of that was pumped up because XM was counting each and every GM vehicle that had XM factory installed as a 'subscriber'. The kicker is they were counting the vehicles when they were delivered to dealers.. not to actual end customers! Maybe makers are focusing their efforts on XM because they think that service has a larger subscription base, hence they'll have more customers for their equipment. Sirius supposedly one back a lot in that statistical tug-of-war w/ the Stern blitz recently.. so maybe things will go the other way for a while. Who the hell knows!

I think the two service's are just leap-frogging each other in terms of hardware. One will have something better than the other for 6 months or so.. and then it will go the other way. As an example XM had their portable MyFi first. This was the first truely portable satelite set. Now Sirius has the S50 which adds memory and MP3 playback features to up the ante.

Buying into one service or the other because of the hardware alone is a bad way to do it in my opinion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by n3elz
The only reason I can see is perhaps the frequency agility (and receiver complexity) necessary to switch between 3 overlapping, semi-synchronous orbits. The Sirius orbital pattern is a bit of "brilliance" to my mind -- but I would think it would complicate matters by having 3 satellites whose transponders can't overlap.
I'm not sure if I buy that. I was under the impression that the Sirius setup was so that they could put satellites less expensive, semi-synch orbit. I was under the impression that geo-synch orbits were expensive to attain and maintain.

Besides, XM also has three satellites in orbit now as well. They had a hardware malfunction on one, causing them to need to launch their backup to maintain coverage. They now have two satellites doubled up to provide half their coverage and another, newer satellite to provide coverage for the rest.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xm_radio:
Quote:
XM provides digital programming directly from three satellites in geostationary orbit above the equator. XM-1 ("Roll") and XM-2 ("Rock") are co-located at 115 degrees west longitude and XM-3 ("Rhythm") is located 85 degrees west longitude in addition to a network of ground-based repeaters. The combination of three satellites and a ground-based repeater network is designed to provide gap-free coverage anywhere within the continental U.S. Unfortunately, XM-1 and XM-2 are suffering from a generic design fault on the Boeing 702 series of satellites, which means that their lifetimes will be shortened to approximately six years (instead of the design goal of 15 years). To compensate for this flaw, XM-3 was launched earlier than anticipated and moved into XM-1's previous location. XM-1 was then moved over next to XM-2, where each satellite operates only one transponder to conserve energy.
I have to say, I like their style w/ the satellite names. Very cool.

One place that I think XM may be technically superior is w/ respect to terrestrial repeaters. I haven't confirmed this though. Both services use terrestrial repeaters in urban areas to boost coverage and signal strength. Some receivers actually let you check signal strength for both terrestrial and satellite reception seperately. Bri's PNP3 is one such receiver. I've never seen any signal strength on the terestial meter. I hear that terrestrial repeaters are common in NY and LA. My associate has a MyFi and he tells me he gets reception from a terrestrial repeater in this area occasionally, and quite often when he goes to Boston.

Bri has been complaining of drop-outs recently. She mucked w/ the mounting bracket and the leads recently. I'm thinking she might have damaged the antenna lead or something. I've been meaning to check it out. I can't understand it though as the only times I ever lost reception w/ my setup was under bridges and tunnels and such.. and very very occasionally under heavy tree cover. I dunno..

Last edited by NHBubba_Revisited; 02-02-2006 at 10:50 AM.
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Old 02-02-2006
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Okay, good info and I follow your reasoning, thanks.

You're probably right about the "leapfrog" thing. I'm actually GLAD to see Sirius gain share because it will force the two services to be more "competitive" -- which usually benefits us end users.

The reason I thought it might be a receiver thing is that it's possible (I believe) for all 3 Sirius sat's to be in view at once. I thought that might make things more dice to check and lock onto a stream.

I've been playing with the tuning after posting and here's what I seem to be seeing:

1) If a stream has been tuned recently, going back to it is pretty quick.

2) Streams on adjacent channels seem to tune in pretty quick.

3) Streams on a channel numerically much different than the one you're on seem to require longer to lock in.

Of course, this all may be a side effect of the 'XT's hardware -- sometimes shrinking something doesn't preserve "equivalent function".

XM does some funny things with names, like channels called "Fred" and what not. I've read in some user forums that some people are bothered by the "cute" and somewhat diminuitive names and prefer Sirius channel naming conventions. Me, I find that once you've been using a service for awhile you know what's up so it doesn't matter anyway.

It is confusing at first if you only have a channel name and no description. For instance, would you know that a channel called "The Torch" is a Christian rock channel? "Spirit" might suggest that it's a contemporary Gospel channel (it is), but you might also assume it's Buddhist, lol.

I think the combo sat receiver/mp3 player units coming out will be more attractive to me in the future if I keep the factory HU still. But for now, there's so much variety on XM (and presumably Sirius) that I have no problem finding something I like. I have about 15 of the 30 memories filled with stations and that seems to be enough for now, lol.

Yes, the terrestrial repeaters for XM are supposed to be more extensive, though some major metropolitan areas have been fully covered by Sirius now as well. Even relatively tiny Wilmington, DE has full XM repeater coverage.

Like your Audiovox, this unit has a place you can see both signals (in the menu it's called "Antenna Aiming") and when I'm near the city I get full strength terrestrial signals.
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Old 02-02-2006
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I couldn't even begin to guess at how either service's hardware deals w/ the multiple satellites. My only thoughts are that A) both actually have 3 satellites in service right now, B) they'd be crazy (in this man's opinion) not to design for many more than just 2 or three satellites. Whatever hardware they have, it has to be software configurable and expandable anyhow.

Does anyone know any details about the 5.1 surround streams XM is supposedly comming out w/? Supposedly they are calling it XM-HD. I just vaugely saw something about it when I was googling that satellite info.

What you described regarding the channel switching sounds more like what my buddy see's w/ his XT. It switches MUCH faster than my GF's Sirius PNP3. Although the PNP3's performance isn't all that bad. It isn't that critical.

I agree w/ what you've read about the cutsy channel names. That is hard to follow. Although I guess I see your point, you would get used to it. Besides, both services do it. On Sirius one of my favorite streams is called 'Hair Nation'. It's non-stop 80's hair band rock. .. Yet other channel names are pretty straight forward. The blues stream is just 'Sirius Blues'.

In the end I found that presets won the day anyhow. I had 4 banks of 6 presets on my Kenwood set. Bank 1 was rock, 2 was jazz, blues and soul, 3 was country, and 4 was talk, news and sports. I always had a hard time finding New England games when I wanted them w/ Sirius. I'd invariably end up on the stream that had the opposition's play callers. There is probably a pattern to the games.. but I never figured it out.

Good to hear about the terrestrial repeaters. That should improve your reception quite a bit. We have none here in southern NH for Sirius. I was always a little disapointed at that.
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Old 02-03-2006
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Well, with the upsurge in Sirius stock and exposure (all the "Stern Effect"? maybe, but satellite radio is taking off anyway...) perhaps there will be more investment in infrastructure and you'll see those repeaters popping up. XM has such a "head start" both in time and subscriber base that if they WEREN'T ahead on this issue, that would say something pretty bad about the service.

I have 3 banks of 10 presets and I have them "mapped" like you did, lol. Bank A is old radio shows, comedy, Christian music, jazz and blues. Bank 2 is talk radio, news and miscellaneous music/whatever, and bank 3 is sports.

There is ALWAYS something on I want to listen to -- unlike cable TV where there was often NOTHING I was interested in, lol.

Last edited by n3elz; 02-03-2006 at 08:04 PM.
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