Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sirius STARMATE 5 Radio

Who doesn't love satellite radio? CDish quality sound, a bazillion stations, and no need to change the channel when you travel from city to city. I like it so much in my car that I decided to buy a radio for the van. Since the van already has a decent infinity stock stereo I opted to buy an external Sirius tuner. After reviewing the limited number of choices I settled on the Sirius STARMATE 5.

The radio has a few really nice features. First and foremost it supports A LA CARTE programming. It's one of the only radios that does. That means that if you don't want to pony up for a full subscription you can pick your favorite 50 channels for a discounted price. This option is nice unless you really want live NFL games because they aren't included in the package. The other nice feature is Pause\Rewind\Fast Forward. The pause buffer will store 44 minutes of music. It's really nice if you want to replay the same song over and over again for your kids or your wife wants to talk to you while there's something good on the NFL channel. I'm surprised that there aren't more radios that offer this feature.

And now my gripes begins...

Since it's an external radio you need to figure out a way to connect it to your primary stereo. The STARMATE 5 supports the following external connections:
  • Aux input - Best available sound quality but unless you have an aftermarket deck or a 1-2 year old car you probably don't have an aux input.
  • Cassette Adapter - Why do cars still have cassette decks anyway? It just so happens that the cassette deck stopped working in my van 1 week before I bought the radio.
  • FM Modulation - Good idea, crappy in real life. If you live in a major city then pretty much every frequency is taken up. Driving from city to city requires you to tune a different freqency.
  • FM Modulation with external antenna - Same concept. Unless you can find a wide open frequency you are going to get interference
I ended up going the FM Modulation route (for now). It sounds like hell, but without replacing my deck I don't have any other options. If only this thing supported the Bluetooth A2DP profile then I would be all set. If it play music then it should have Bluetooth.

  • A LA CARTE programming
  • 44 minute music buffer
  • Intuitive UI
  • Looks cool
  • Portable-ish (I can use it at home with the appropriate dock and antenna)
  • Requires 3 cables for the best quality sound (satellite antenna, power cable, stereo out cable)
  • No Bluetooth A2DP profile
  • No Bluetooth A2DP profile ..
  • No Bluetooth A2DP profile ...
  • No Rechargeable batteries. I hate having to run power to the unit.
All in all it's a good unit especially if you have an aux input available. I wonder who Gill Brandt is interviewing right now on the NFL channel.

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