Music from spaaaace!

I picked up an XM radio over the weekend, the Delphi SkyFi. XM is a digital satellite radio service. It costs about $10 a month and is available nationwide. The subscription includes about 100 channels...covering nearly every musical genre as well as a wide variety of talk, comedy, and news channels. Many of the channels are commercial-free but I have yet to hear more than a minute or two of commercials on any of the channels.

Originally, XM was available mainly for cars, but the SkyFi receiver has a rather unique modular design. The main unit has a large display and easy to use controls. It also comes with a small, but usable, remote control. It requires one or more additional kits to use it: Delphi offers a home kit, a car kit, and a portable boom-box. The receiver slides into cradles included with any of the three, and it can easily be moved from one to another. I purchased the home kit and had the car kit professionally installed at Best Buy.

The home kit consists of a cradle, a power adapter, and an antenna. I placed the antenna near a window and get pretty good reception from repeaters that XM has on the ground. The power cord and antenna plug into the cradle, which has a standard RCA output adapter to plug into a stereo.

The car kit includes an antenna which is mounted on the car's trunk or roof, a cradle, a 12v power plug, and a cassette adapter. Since I don't have a tape deck, I also had to purchase the Delphi FM modulator. This basically connects the cradle directly into the car stereo; I just tune to an unused channel and turn the XM receiver on and it broadcasts onto the empty channel.

Because the SkyFi is modular, I just take the main receiver out of the car to use it inside. I only need to pay one subscription fee but can use the receiver pretty much anywhere there is a cradle.

Satellite radio is still fairly new. XM was first to market here in the US. Their competition, Sirius, now offers a similar service. Their subscription fee is slightly higher, but they claim to have no commercials on any of their channels. A downside is that there is no satellite radio standard; in other words, a XM receiver can never tune into Sirius, and a Sirius receiver can never use XM. Overall, I enjoy XM - it offers a great alternative to local radio and there is always something to listen to.