So you have have read all the hype, seen all the commercials and are ready to take the leap into satellite radio. What is the difference between Sirius and XM? Is there any? Well, there are obviously hundreds upon hundreds of articles here and elsewhere dealing with the subject and I would like to add my two cents to the pile.
First, it is important to note that I am a Sirius subscriber and have been since late 2005. I have been very happy with the programming and I believe I made the right decision, although I wasn’t sure initially. When I bought my radio, my wife worked for a retailer who sold both services, along with cell phones and wireless internet to truckers. She lobbied for Sirius for some reason at the time, although I am not quite sure what her reason was.
I also worked for a company with a satellite radio connection then; an RV manufacturer who offered Sirius radios as an option in our models. That was the deciding factor for me. I got a better price on a Sirius through a vendor as a purchasing manager.
The programming actually seemed nearly identical to me in most areas. They both had music channels that covered the whole spectrum, so I wasn’t swayed in that way. I was vaguely aware that Howard Stern had signed a contract and was due to move to Sirius in 2006. I occasionally find his show to be entertaining, but that was not enough to make my mind up. Where I think Sirius excels is in the other non-music offerings. They offer NFL,NHL,NBA and college basketball. They also will begin offering NASCAR beginning later this year; not an issue for me, but a huge one for many. They have a good line-up of comedy channels as well as a comprehensive news and sports-talk line-up. Many of these channels are offered on both systems, but many more are exclusive to Sirius.
As for the quality of the audio from Sirius, I’d give it a B. It is not, despite the hype, CD quality audio. Having said that, it is better and more consistently so than FM broadcasts. My original unit was the Streamer which, like most car-based units, utilizes a small FM transmitter to broadcast the signal to your speakers. The Streamer was terrific. It sent a strong signal and interference was seldom an issue. A few months ago my unit lost the display backlight and I took advantage of a special from Sirius to get 2 free Sirius One radios with a paid six-month subscription for each. I took the opportunity to replace my old unit and set my wife up with one. The One is a step below in terms of quality and features in my opinion. The strength of signal sent to the FM radio in my car is anemic. I have to search hard to find a “quiet” FM station and the display is less detailed. It is a very compact and unobtrusive unit however and you still get the same programming no matter the receiver.
Both companies are duking it out currently to come up with new technology and, based on what I have seen, they are pretty close in that area. Both now have truly portable units and units with hard drives built in to record programs.
So, to decide which service is better, it’s all subjective. If you are a Howard Stern, NASCAR or NFL fan Sirius is the only choice. If those aren’t issues for you then XM would serve the same purpose. XM has long been the bigger of the two companies, but Sirius has made a relentless charge. The “Stern Effect” gave them a huge shot in 2005 and 2006 and now the huge following NASCAR has will likely give them another bump in subscriptions.
I personally am pleased with the decision I made to subscribe to Sirius. With a 50 mile commute, it has been money well-spent. Ultimately, however, it’s all a matter of taste. Both are a great value.