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Galaxy Nation Explore the other side of the universe. Discuss AM/FM, XM, DISH, DirecTV, HD Radio, and all mp3 players. Here you can also discuss the ins and outs of tomorrow's radio technology...where music and satellites collide. Who said it's not rocket science?!?

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Old 10-29-2004, 02:56 PM   #1
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Default Sirius Vs XM reception in the PNW

I wrote this summary for a NG regarding the reception issue and thought I'd share it here for comments.

For some background info, I initally bought an XM roady for my Motor Home. I go into the mountains to camp with the motor home quite often where FM is non-existant many times. I was disappointed in the XM reception here in the PNW..

Please keep in mind that I'm speaking of reception issues, below, based on the PNW area and results will vary depending on where you live and even the unit you use.

While on the road, the Sirius cut out twice up to Rockport State Park. It was mostly pouring down rain on the 2 hour drive up. When the reception did cut out, I considered it minimal and only for a second, no more. I was *very* satisfied with the service since I knew that the XM, on two trips up to Rockport, was cutting in and out frequently (maybe 20-25 times and several times for minutes at a time).

When I turned into the deep wooded area of Rockport State Park (very heavily wooded old-growth tree canopy directly overhead), my signal cut out and in. I figured it was about the same as XM at this point. (To be clear, this was through a very thick canopy of trees. Not just a little thick but to give you a better idea, when it rained, the trees acted as an umbrella and all you'd feel is huge drops of water every now and again.)

I parked and setup camp which included helping setup a large awning over the tables.. I brought my cool-new Sirius boom-box out and expected to get excellent signal using the portable antenna. Every time I thought it had a great signal, 5 minutes later it didn't have a signal at all (this while it was raining and overcast). Reception faded in and out regardless of where I aimed the antenna <grrrr>. I figured the XM would do just as bad but decided I'd try it. I plugged my XM Roady outside with the directional antenna. Found alignment with the XM satellite and the signal was *ROCK SOLID*. I mean *ZERO fade*.. It was perfect.. Both radio's side-by-side.. It was clear to me after an hour, the XM kicked Sirius's ass as far as reception in this circumstance. I didn't have to fuss with XM's antenna after the initial alignment AT ALL.. I was fussing with Sirius's antenna all the time.

Today when I drove home. It was partly cloudy, only a rain shower occasionally and even lots of sunbreaks. I didn't lose Sirius reception even once after I drove out of Rockport State Park. Not even a blink. I know for a fact that XM would have lost reception many times while driving the roads out as I've experienced it before with XM on this same road on cloudless days.

I can't say for sure why Sirius worked like crap under the dense foliage yet worked so well on the roads, but I have an educated guess. Sirius Satellites are not in geosynchronous orbit but XM satellites are. That is, XM satellites are over the equator but stationary to us so when you lock in the signal with a directional antenna, it works because the satellite isn't moving in relationship to the earth. However, Sirius satellites are in an elliptical orbit meaning they move but are more vertically over-head (not so far south). That is, you can't lock-in to one Sirius satellite for very long as they move in relationship with the earth. Also, I think XM satellites may be a bit more powerful. Sirius compensates for both these issues by having their satellites directly over the US and not directly over the equator such that any hills or trees on the sides won't have as much impact on the reception.

To summarize, it seems both systems have an advantage and both have a disadvantage.

*) If you are within a very heavy canopy of trees which actually covers the area, XM may work better especially with the directional antenna if you have a hole in the tree canopy in the direction of the stationary, geosynchronous, satellite.

*) If you are on a road that doesn't have foliage *over it* but may have very tall trees or hills directly on the sides, you'll likely get better reception from the Sirius due to the fact the satellites are more directly over head.

That's my two cents as to why both satellite radio services have very different reception characteristics. I still like Sirius more than XM because I prefer the channel lineup and prefer to have good reception while traveling down the remote roads of Washington State. I now think XM would be better for *Stationary* and heavily wooded areas which have a canopy of trees overhead. If I had my way, I'd keep both but I had to make a choice and Sirius is both better on the road and in the channels they have.
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Old 10-30-2004, 02:19 AM   #2
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good info .. I am at the extreme opposite of you SouthEast and my
experience is the same as yours

on the road the Sirius is more solid , I also notice that XM reception
is lower in the hours from 6am till about 10am .. not sure what would
cause that but it has been that way all during October
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Old 10-30-2004, 09:24 PM   #3
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Sirius Vs XM reception in the PNW
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I just switched from XM and was able to receive a constant signal with my car in the garage and the door closed. I found that with Sirius, although I receive some signal, it's not enough for audio.
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Old 12-11-2004, 05:24 PM   #4
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I don't have any experience on this topic. Ordered by haven't even gotten my Sirius PnP3 yet.

But ... I am interested in similar marginal reception issues, and HAVE read really extensively here and elsewhere around the web on these issues over the last week.

My application is on a sailboat going around the Caribbean (as well as East Coast US, and regions outside any American Sat radio's coverage).

Your conclusion that Sirius is better in most mobil marginal reception situations, while XM can be better in stationary ones (at least in the continental US), based on the different types of satellite orbits is completely consistent with what I've discovered.

However, in really fringe areas, like the southern Caribbean, it seems XM doesn't come in at all even with a good receiver antenna (given how focused thier geostationary sat transmitting antennas are it seems).

What I'd suggest you do with your RV is to get what's available for the marine market, and listed in fact on the Sirius direct part of their website. Get a Shakespear SRA-30, or better SRA-12 marine high gain antenna. It's not directional in the horizontal plane, but is in the verticle one - highly so.

Of course I haven't tested the one I've ordered yet and won't be able to until Feb, when I go back to the boat.

But that's what my researching has told me.
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