Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Sirius Stratus Satellite Radio - Impressions


I've been driving the van around the last few days so I could play around with my new Sirius Stratus satellite radio. I'm really impressed--a lot more than I was hoping for. Also, Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was on tonight so I was able to sample the NHL sports coverage. But I have discovered why the radio I bought was so cheap....

I'm not an audiophile, but I think the sound quality on the music channels is quite good. When I read reviews and descriptions that said "near-CD quality" I was preparing for something bad--you know, kinda like "Close, but no cigar." But it's not like that at all. It's actually quite good. So I'm happy. The talk stations vary in quality ranging from sounding like a good strong FM station to a little tinny sounding like AM. All of this of course with no static, so despite all the comparisons satellite radio definitely sounds better than regular radio.

On our way home from Costco tonight, I switched over to the sports channels to see if I could find the Ottawa vs Anaheim game. I found it on two stations which was awesome. Why awesome? Because I could either listen the broadcast from Anaheim as a Duck fan or I could switch over to the feed from Ottawa and cheer on the Senators. In the end, I'm not really a fan of either (Golf! Canucks, Golf!) so I didn't listen to anything more than the second intermission. Another nice thing about satellite radio is that the stations transmit text information (song titles, names, web addresses, phone numbers, etc) that gets displayed on the radio. In this particular case, it displayed the score of the game(Anaheim - 4, Ottawa - 2) so I never had to wait for the announcer to repeat the score to know what was going on. Oh, by the way, the Ottawa announcers sounded much more depressed ;0)

The Stratus radio that I got was extremely cheap ($50 after mail-in-rebate) but I have noticed how some of the features it lacks that the other radios have would be kind of nice:
  1. The number buttons at the bottom are hard to push. There are actually 5 buttons for 10 numbers and you select the number you want by pressing on one side or the other. It's just not that easy to use. Upgraded radios have separate buttons for each number.
  2. There are only 10 presets available. I guess I'm not familiar enough with all the programming available, but I'd like to have a pre-set for whatever mood that I might be in: news, jazz, comedy, 60's, 70's, 80's, top 40, talk, classic radio, sports, kids, classical, rock.... 10 presents is not enough. Upgraded radios have 30 presets.
  3. The screen is pretty small--it doesn't display much. Upgraded radios have larger displays.
  4. I checked out the accessories like extra car docks and home kits they were selling at Future Shop, but most of them were for upgraded radios. I think the only thing that fit my "plug and play" radio was the Boom Box.

In hindsight, it would have been nice to buy a radio with more features (like the ability to pause and rewind broadcasts and announce when a particular sports team is playing) but you just can't beat the price. The next radio up cost $30 dollars more (60%!) and still didn't have that many more features. The other radios were almost 3 times as much as the one I bought. In the end, the one I have lets me listen to all the stations just like the more expensive ones, so I live with it for now. If I find that I'm going to use satellite radio more, perhaps I'll upgrade.

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