By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
I never wanted satellite radio in the first place. I was happy moving between KXLU (with those ultra-bored daytime DJs), KCRW when I wanted uneclectic adult pop and Jonesy’s Jukebox on Indie 103.1 between commercials. There was always KROQ if I struck out, and KLOS if I wanted to hear “Dream On” for the billionth time.
Now, thanks to satellite, I have 30 presets and more than 100 channels to choose from. I’ve got the first 10 presets divided between rock stations (including LittleSteven’s Underground Garage and the flagship hodgepodgeSirius Disorder) and three comedy channels (dirty, not dirty and redneck). I also love the Broadway channel. Now I wish more L.A. drivers were chuckling to old Steve Martin routines instead of trying to plow into me.
But first, a little back story. My husband, Joe, is a sports nut. I often tell people that the first time I saw my husband cry was when the Mets won the 1986 World Series. There is no technological barrier that can stand between him and getting his ears and eyes on as many games as possible each season. (We won’t even get into the “secret TiVo” he’s attached to the bedroom TV, reserved only for sports.)
And so, at the dawn of satellite radio, Joe decided he had to have it. But which service would he choose — Sirius or XM? It’s true that the two companies are going to merge, but that won't affect us until next year. This year’s satellite exiles still have a big decision to make.
Joe explains his reasoning: “The big attraction to me was the sports programming. Sirius and XM were each signing up the different sports leagues. If one or the other had gotten the big three — NHL, NFL and MLB — the choice would have been a slam dunk.” (Despite his metaphor, Joe doesn’t care much for the NBA.) As it happened, NFL went Sirius. MLB went XM. And the NHL was on both. Quite a conundrum.
The thing was, Joe also wanted music. “L.A. radio being what it is, the idea of all those music stations, commercial-free no less, was hugely inviting. Also, comedy.” So after exhaustive research, Joe finally went Sirius — which, oddly, didn’t carry baseball. He explains: “This was the big decision of 2005. I went with Sirius because they seemed to do music better than XM. I figured that if I got XM I would listen to baseball all the time to the exclusion of music.”
At the time, Sirius had the “all Bruce all the time” station (since gone) — “and it wasn’t just his albums but his bootlegstoo.” Joe also listened a lot to Radio Margaritaville, as well as the jam-band one (Jam_On), Underground Garage, Buzzsaw, etc. Still, Joe confesses, “In the end, one of my favorite things on Sirius was listening to hockey whenever I could. I flashed back to being a kid in New York and hearing the Rangers on my transistor radio.”
Choosing the right service was difficult enough. But as Joe found out with Sirius, after signing up, you still have to decide how you want the thing installed in your car.
Satellite Installment Options Arranged From Worst to Best
Note: When you sign up, you buy a little radio-receiver buddy that looks sort of like an iPod. This must be installed or somehow docked in your car (or wherever you plan on doing most of your listening).
1.FM modulator. This enables your satellite receiver to be heard through the car’s FM tuner. It is the least desirable option, as the signal often gets overrun by local radio signals.
2.Wired FM direct adapter. This option eliminates almost all interference from the FM tuner. This gets wired into the car’s electrical system, so just about all the wires are hidden in the dash.
3.Hard-wiring into the car’s head unit AUX button. The car’s radio has to have an AUX band for this to work. This is also the way cassette adapters work, but cars don’t seem to come with cassette slots much anymore.
4. Tuners for in-dash Sirius/XM-ready radios. You have added to your car an ugly, gray square box that’s hidden from view with wires running to the radio. This makes your car’s head unit satellite radio functional.
Note: Both XM and Sirius make receivers that can go mobile (some models have a detachable faceplate that can be slapped into a compatible boom box). This is very good for barbecues or running around the backyard with the kid while a game is on. And they both now have Walkman/portable-type things, although I haven’t tried one yet.
All of which leads us to our first “Don’t.” Driving on La Cienega only days after getting Sirius, Joe was experiencing signal drift and glanced down at the unit, which was perched on the console between the front seats. Guess what happened next? Yep, the classic L.A. rear-ender. Luckily, no one was hurt. (If you do decide to read your satellite radio while driving, try to do as Joe did and hit the president and CEO of a major car insurance company. This will expedite your insurance claim immeasurably if you also happen to carry the same insurance.)
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