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Old 11-22-2006, 09:58 AM   #1
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Thumbs up Another Stratus mini-review

I picked up a Stratus last night for a mere $53 including tax. Here are some thoughts in case you are weighing this option as a second radio, especially if you plan to use your existing car and home universal docks.

The car dock has an extra set of clips to hold the unit steady. Those clips are not present on other car docks so you will not be able to plug any other Universal dock-compatible unit into the Stratus car dock. The Stratus fits loosely into the Sportster4 car dock and Universal home dock--this might be the reason for those clips that are only present on the Stratus car dock.

When plugged into a Universal home dock the FM transmitter is attenuated so greatly that only a directly adjacent FM receiver will receive it. In the car dock, the FM transmitter is stronger but much weaker than previous generation units--about the same power as the new Sportster4 which I also own.

Sound quality on the Stratus' FM transmitter is much worse than the line output, which is unusual since the Sportster4's line output and FM transmitter are pretty equal on my vehicle's high-end (but stock) sound system.

Sound quality is also weak and flat when compared to the Sportster4 on the same channels, aux-out, and audio system settings. The Stratus' sound output barely moves the subwoofer, where the Sportster4 drives it hard when listening to channels Area 33, Boombox 34, The Beat 36. I am at a loss to explain the flat, lifeless sound that comes out of both of the Stratus' outputs.

The Stratus display is clear and dims to a nice level that is suitable for both night driving and daytime listening. It's a more traditional LCD than the blue-screen Sportster4 that displays well both in sunlight and in darkness. Other posters have mentioned the display lacking a line but most cars have illuminated clocks so why bother?

Indeed the upper Canadian channels are present (presumably these are the HM channels since they don't appear on my older Kenwood H2EV).

Buttons are squishy and you will probably move the unit unless it's securely mounted using the supplied car dock (with Stratus-specific reinforcement clips on it). Mounted in a Sportster4 dock it's difficult to press buttons without moving the unit. As the unit warms up it flexes even more (it gets quite hot to the touch though not as much as the old 12v units did).

The Sirius service's very weak and fickle satellite signal is captured very well with the Stratus. This has been my #1 complaint with all Sirius radios I have bought until this new generation came out. Channel changing feels faster and there is a pleasant quick fade-out as the channels change (other radios of this generation also feature this nice anti-popping feature).

The car antenna is the same size and shape as the mini "coin" antenna but there is black plastic where the shiny "coin" is supposed to be. It performs the same as my "coin" antenna at a presumably much lower manufacturing cost and is less conspicuous.

There is no suction cup mount included with the Stratus but it can use any AMPS-compatible mounting solution including that of other Sirius radios (but not XM radios). The vent clip is adequate for most users. I don't know of anyone who would use the adhesive mount to ruin their dashboard but it does have an articulating ball joint on it.

Overall the Stratus is a good solution for those who outright refuse to pay more than $60 for a radio. If you can swing the extra $40 you should get the Sportster3. The Sportster4 is a more ideal solution especially with the sound quality issue with the Stratus.
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Old 11-22-2006, 03:01 PM   #2
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Another Stratus mini-review
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Another good review

On the brightness. Yes, I have the level set to 2 bars and it's just perfect for direct sunlight.. I often travel on the highway at night where it's really dark with no street lights and there is no glare from it at that setting.. There's no need to change the brightness... It's an excellent display.

On your sound.. I find the Stratus sounds great.. It's just as good as my old PNP2.. Have you tried to increase the output level? I had to crank mine up to 14 bars out of 16. When you do that the sound seems to expand with better bass and treble.. Each bar makes a very noticeable difference.

If you haven't already, try boost your output all the way up and see if that makes any difference. (The only thing about raising it too high is that you might overload your tuner or amp and wind up with a bit of distortion).
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Old 11-23-2006, 05:46 AM   #3
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Something else I noticed about the stratus..when its placed in the new universal boombox the fm transmitter option is disabled. In my starmate boomcube when you disable the fm trans. The sound quality is improved. With the universal boombox you can't even access this option. I'd be interested to know if ALL the recievers are like this when placed in the new boombox?
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