Choosing a Satellite Radio Receiver

Kevin Ott
satellite radio

Although there is only one brand of satellite radio provider (SiriusXM), the company has worked hard to combat fierce competition from Apple and Google's streaming services. For this reason, the market has produced a nice variety of satellite radio receiver products to retain the loyalty of its customers.

Receivers for the Car

The car was the logical place for satellite radio to begin because it offered an alternative to standard FM/AM radio. Now, after years of product development, satellite receivers for cars offer some nice features.

Besides the basic ability to connect with satellite radio while you're cruising, car receivers are often equipped with features, such as GPS and dual-use portability, which allow you to remove the radio receiver and use it at home in a speaker dock.

Pros

The versatility of the car receiver makes it the most sensible choice, especially if you use the radio most often in the car but occasionally like taking it into your home or other locations where a speaker dock can be used.

Cons

Any car product that requires installation has the potential to be tedious. Satellite radio receivers have multiple parts that require careful installation (i.e. the antenna that must be placed in the right location in the car to get the best signal, and the primary radio interface that goes on the dashboard).

Product Features and Examples

The following examples, spread across the price range, will give you a sense of what features are available for a car satellite radio receiver.

Price Range Recommendation Price Range Features
Low-End XM Onyx EZ Satellite Radio Receiver $40 to $50
  • Bare bones receiver.
  • Includes an antenna, an interface to control the programming, and presets to remember your favorite stations
Mid-Range

Sirius Sportster Replay Satellite Radio

About $200
  • A replay feature that can record the last 44 minutes of a game that you've missed so that you can listen to it later
  • Automatic score updates and relevant sports news that appears on-screen as you're driving
  • All of the standard features that comes with the basic Onyx-style radio receiver, but with more presets and larger memory
  • The unit also alerts you when your favorite songs are playing on Sirius stations. It's essentially a DVR for satellite radio.
High-End

Alpine brand of satellite-friendly car radio products

About $2,500
  • Satellite radio capability (though SiriusXM subscription, and a SVX-200 SiriusXM radio vehicle kit must be purchased separately from the Alpine car stereo system)
  • GPS
  • Bluetooth
  • Docks for mobile devices
  • CD/DVD player
  • HD radio tuner
  • Top quality stereo amp for premium car speaker set-ups
In this scenario, the satellite tuner is just one feature among many and requires additional purchases directly with SiriusXM to function.

Receivers for Home

music in the pool

For many satellite radio enthusiasts, having it in the car is not enough. For this reason, home-based satellite tuners are available. Most satellite radio receiver products for home are dual purpose, meaning you buy the receiver that works in the car, but it comes with a speaker base that allows it to function as a stereo for the home as well. Other receivers are speaker units meant for stationary home use only.

Pros

The satellite tuner products made for home are all portable, meaning you can easily tote them around the house or even bring them outside to provide audio for your next BBQ or pool party.

Cons

If you already own a stereo system for your home, adding more equipment just to have satellite radio capability can clutter up your home entertainment set-up. In addition, home systems tend to cost a little more than basic car tuners.

Product Features and Examples

The following examples, spread across the price range, will give you a sense of what features are available for a home satellite radio receiver.

Price Range Recommendation Price Range Features
Low-End SiriusXM's basic home kit $50 to $100
  • A basic plug-and-play integration with your pre-existing home stereo
  • Pause and rewind buttons for advanced control over live programs
Mid-Range

Sirius Starmate bundle

About $198
  • Speaker dock designed for home use
  • Dual purpose interface that can function in the car and in the home dock
High-End

150W Yamaha R-S500BL

About $350
  • Built-in SiriusXM satellite radio capability
  • Deluxe home stereo system perks such as multi-room speakers and a remote control
  • Docks for iPhones/iPods

Receivers for on the Go

on-the-go satellite radio

The world of fitness and portability is a must-have market for any serious audio service company. SiriusXM is no exception. Thanks to app technology, it is very easy to get your SiriusXM programs in the mix of your exercise routine.

Features

Portable SiriuxXM options, through an app or mp3 player, offer digital playlists, music file storage, digital tuning, and an abundance of presets for easy access to your favorite programs.

Pros

These options allow you to listen to your favorite satellite radio programs on your ear buds when you're exercising or doing other on-the-go activities.

Cons

The options are few, though for good reason: when the SiriusXM mobile app became available there was less incentive for consumers to buy a separate mp3 player-style unit.

Detailed Product Features and Examples

You essentially have two choices: use the free app or purchase a standalone SiriusXM mp3 player.

Price Range Recommendation Price Range Features
Low-End SiriusXM Mobile App for Apple and Android Free
  • Streams live SiriusXM channels
  • App-exclusive channels
  • Create custom mixes of favorite channels
  • Access to SiriusXM's on-demand content
  • Social features that turn the SiriusXM into a social media experience
High-End

SIRIUS Stiletto 2 Portable Satellite Radio with MP3 Player

About $200
  • It has a built-in SiriusXM radio antenna so you can access the SiriusXM subscription signal.
  • Besides streaming SiriusXM programming, it allows you to store a private library of music.

Receivers for Motorcycles

Motorcyclists have not been left out of the satellite radio craze. Satellite radio tuners custom-designed for motorcycles are a standard product now.

Features

Satellite radio receivers for motorcycles have the same basic functionality as SiriusXM's other satellite players, but they're designed to integrate seamlessly into the bike's radio system and fit snugly onto the bike's handlebars without distracting you.

Pros

It allows you to enjoy the satellite radio experience safely in a system designed for the motorcycle experience.

Cons

There isn't a huge market for motorcycle satellite radio receivers so the options are limited.

Detailed Product Features and Examples

The products range from the basic SiriusXM Onyx made-for-bikes product to a fancier touch-screen version.

Price Range Recommendation Price Range Features
Low-End Basic SiriusXM radio kit for motorcycles About $80
  • Works through the pre-existing radio system on your motorcycle
  • Comes with a Do-It-Yourself installation kit
  • A large, easy-to-see blue screen so you can quickly view programming data while riding your bike
  • A "One-Touch Jump" option that allows you to quickly see traffic and weather information
  • A large bank of presets available to save your favorite programs
High-End

Commander Touch

About $120
  • Large color touchscreen with easy menu navigation
  • Beautifully rendered visual display featuring album art, artist name, song title, channel logos and program information
  • Numerous preset channels
  • Pause, rewind, and replay control for live programs
  • Advanced functions such as TuneStart, TuneMix, and Traffic & Weather Now
  • Mount kit
  • Rain cover

Satellite Radio Has a Bright Future

With the popularity of streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora, you might be wondering if satellite radio will eventually become obsolete. Sirius XM, however, shows no signs of slowing down. A December 2016 report from Forbes reported that Sirius XM might acquire Pandora, one of its main competitors. Although the company has had customer service complaints occasionally, Sirius XM's dominant success makes it clear: satellite radio is here to stay, and the diverse range of products will likely continue for years to come.

Choosing a Satellite Radio Receiver