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Friday, October 21, 2005

XM Satellite Radio Is a Many Splendored Thing

As my small but faithful audience will attest, I am not prone to using this space for commercial purposes. Lord knows I haven't made a penny off it. But this is not a post about commerce; it is a post about love.

It has been just over three months since we got our satellite radio receiver and our XM subscription, and I am urging each and every one of you to get yourself some XM today. And I'm not just saying this because I'm hoping to get my show on there some day. That is just one of the possible rewards (or liabilities, depending on one's point of view) that will come with this amazing service.

Let me tell you the whole story.

We got it so that I could test it out and see what the satellite radio experience was like. Still, we installed it first in my wife's car. I had long been away from listening to the radio in the car because I am, by nature, a generalist and modern radio prefers to focus on the specialist. If I were to listen to something while driving, it would be a CD. Most of the time, I just treated myself to the noise of the traffic and my own neurotic ramblings. It seemed my wife would get more use of it than me, and everyone was pleased.

Well, about a month into things, we planned on taking my car on a mid-length trip (about an hour-and-a-half each way), so I switched the satellite receiver and antenna over. And when we got back, I kept it. I started listening to the radio all the time. And I'll tell you why.

There is a feature on the receiver we bought--the Delphi SkyFi 2--that brings me more delight than I have ever gotten from a technological device before. You can program it to remember up to 20 artists whose work you enjoy. Every time a song of theirs comes on any XM channel, the receiver beeps. It shows you the name of the artist, the selection being played, and what channel it is on. And then you can either press a button and change over to the new channel or leave it alone and stay with what you've got.

This gets me all over the 150 channels and leads to occasional bits of serendipity. Take last night, for example. I'm driving to CVS and I hear the beep. I look at the receiver and find out that Bob Dylan is on Hear Music (the official channel of Starbuck's). They're playing selections from a CD made from a bootleg of Dylan in performance at the Gaslight in New York in 1962, and the first thing they play is "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall."

Now, frankly, the Starbuck's channel isn't my go-to channel. Without this feature, I would never had heard it. But thanks to XM and the SkyFi 2, I got to hear the young Dylan, his voice still supple, rich, and melodic, singing the greatest folk song in history live. (The thought struck me while I listened that it was no wonder that he abandoned folk music. Where could he go after "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"?)

Now there were a couple of weeks there when we switched the radio back over to my wife's car. She missed XM. But then I began to miss it, too. So we bought a Delphi Roadie 2 for her and added it onto our subscription. I got the SkyFi back, and this morning got to enjoy both Alanis Morrissette and Allan Sherman without having to surf across the dial. There are three menus of favorite channels that you can set, so that, with the touch of a button, I can go from the 60s to Sonic Theater to Frank's Place to Lucy.

So go ahead. Line up and sign up. It's worth it. Believe me.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the excellent rundown on benefits.

I have a quick question: I'm looking for something that I can plug into both car and home receiver/amplifier. Do you have recommendations?



Len said...


As a matter of fact, the SkyFi 2 fits into a docking station that can be purchased separately. It ends up looking like a boombox, although I think the speakers are detachable.

The only reason I don't have one currently is because our apartment faces the wrong direction. As soon as we're in a house, though........

Len said...

I have further information concerning adapting the SkyFi 2 to home use. According to a reliable source:

"[B]esides the boombox, the SkyFi can fit into a home cradle that plugs into the 'Aux In' inputs in your home receiver, so you can use it with your existing home system. Believe me, hearing [insert favorite song/artist here] XM through a 100 watt-per-channel 5.1 surround home system with big speakers and a sub woofer is a religious experience."

Again, as soon as we have a southern exposure.....