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Old 04-01-2004, 12:24 AM   #1
azz3879
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Default Sirius – XM Sound Quality Contradictions???

As many of you have probably gone through I wasn’t able to decide on XM or Sirius so I went ahead a bought both receiver units to try out for the next 30 days. (Gotta love those Circuit City return policies).

Anyhow in all of the reading I’ve done many reviews say that XM’s sound quality is far superior to Sirius’. XM’s web page has a brief description as to how an independent group took both units to the lab and determined that XM’s sound quality was far beyond what Sirius’ was. When I set up both units in my house I quickly came to the same conclusion. XM’s quality seemed to be much fuller and vibrant sounding then Sirius, which seemed flat. The sound quality of Sirius’ unit reminded me of FM radio, where as XM’s reminded me of high bit rate MP3’s.

The reason I bring this up is because there is some contradiction here. I’ve read in the forums from several members of Backstage that Sirius has hands down better sound quality then XM. (I am currently using the AudioVox PNP unit and the Delphi SkyFi unit as my receivers; they are directly connected to the same set of speakers) But I can’t help but disagree. Being that so many have made it a sticking point that Sirius’ sound quality is superior to XM’s I’m beginning to wonder if my equipment is faulty or if those who made those comments are just vigorous supporters of Sirius.

I’ve only had the units for about four days, and I am really leaning toward going with Sirius but I can’t help but notice the difference in what I am hearing.

What are your opinions on this, and anything else that might directly relate?

Thanks,

Justin Kase Conder

BTW: A big thank you to everyone who makes knowledgeable posts to these forums. This site has been very very helpful in helping me determine what’s out there and exactly what my options are, thanks for all the help you’ve unknowingly given so far!
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Old 04-01-2004, 06:17 AM   #2
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The problem is that sound quality is subjective to individual tastes, I listen to music with a +2/+3 bass and -1 treble. And I think most music without distintive bass (distintive, not boom boom) is flat. I do think SIRIUS has the edge here though, because their SPEX technology allows them to adjust the bandwidth each individual stream uses, making it very easy to steal a little bandwidth from one stream (talk streams/traffic) and put it where it's needed (music streams.)
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Old 04-01-2004, 07:37 AM   #3
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I dont consider myself to be an audio expert by no means, but I do have both Sirius and XM. I, personally, cant notice a difference between the two services. I have listened with the boomboxes, my home stereo, wireless headphones, etc and think the sound quality is great.
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Old 04-01-2004, 09:18 AM   #4
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Listening tests are difficult to interpret, because the way the brain perceives sound is complicated.

It's known from listening tests of audio components that small changes in volume are perceived as changes in sound quality rather than volume. Have someone listen to a CD at one volume. Then increase the volume a tiny bit, and play the same thing. Typically people don't perceive this as louder, but they think it sounds better. To do listening tests of audio equipment, you have to do level-matching at the speaker outputs. That means you put a sound meter in front of the speakers and make sure the actual physical sound level is the same.

It might just be that the SIRIUS output is just at a slightly lower level than the XM output. If that's the case, all you have to do is turn up the volume a bit. Just a thought.

And as has been pointed out, it's a very subjective thing in general.
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Old 04-01-2004, 09:28 AM   #5
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Sound quality is subjective, and unless you are comparing the same exact song, seconds of each other, you are not making an apples to apples comparison.

The other thing is that if you setup the tone controls for one and then switch to the other, it may not sound as good because each probably needs different tone controls to be optimized.

On the PNP2, there is a volume control on the menu. Use that to make sure you set the output level to match closely to the SkyFi because extra loudness will generally be interpreted as better sound.

Also you should know that any comparison you have read is based upon out of date information. Sirius has upgraded the Codec a few times in the last year, so if the comparison was done more than 3 months ago, it is out of date.

You should select the service that plays the music you want because that will be more important in the long run than marginal differences in sound quality. Once you don't have the other radio to compare, you will not notice the subtle differences in sound quality.

Good luck in your choice and welcome to Sirius Backstage
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Old 04-01-2004, 09:28 AM   #6
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I have Sirius in my new Explorer, an XM Delphi Skyfi at home and an XMPCR at work. I personally can't notice any difference. I also hear people say how they can tell the difference between a 128kbps MP3 and one ripped at 256kbps. Maybe I'm just not an audiophile, but I can't tell a difference.

One comparison review that I do remember seeing was on 'The Screen Savers' on TechTV last year. They also came to the conclusion that XM sounded a lot better. I don't notice and have no preference.
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Old 04-01-2004, 09:54 AM   #7
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There are a lot of variables. Like Manco said, different songs sound way different. For example: don't compare that crappy remix of Back in Black by Justin Timberlake they play on Hits-1 to anything. That song just sounds terrible. But, on the contrary, I would put Sultans of Swing (heard through Sirius) against any song on XM service. Its like comparing apples to oranges though. Here is my advice, keep listening, and whichever you decide you like better, keep that one. Or better yet, keep both!
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Old 04-01-2004, 10:54 AM   #8
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Default Justin's Contradictions???

Quote:
Originally Posted by azz3879
As many of you have probably gone through I wasn’t able to decide on XM or Sirius so I went ahead a bought both receiver units to try out for the next 30 days. ....

....XM’s quality seemed to be much fuller and vibrant sounding then Sirius, which seemed flat. The sound quality of Sirius’ unit reminded me of FM radio, where as XM’s reminded me of high bit rate MP3’s.

The reason I bring this up is because there is some contradiction here. I’ve read in the forums from several members of Backstage that Sirius has hands down better sound quality then XM. (I am currently using the AudioVox PNP unit and the Delphi SkyFi unit as my receivers; they are directly connected to the same set of speakers) But I can’t help but disagree. .....

I’ve only had the units for about four days, and I am really leaning toward going with Sirius but I can’t help but notice the difference in what I am hearing......

Justin Kase Conder
Justin: in this post you said that you have AudioVox and Delphi units. In another of your 4 posts since you became a member here on 3/31 you said you have a Sony unit.

It seems to be a contridiction.
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Old 04-01-2004, 11:06 AM   #9
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Default Re: Justin's Contradictions???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jackson
Justin: in this post you said that you have AudioVox and Delphi units. In another of your 4 posts since you became a member here on 3/31 you said you have a Sony unit.

It seems to be a contridiction.
Are you referring to this post?

He states he bought a Sony head unit with AUX inputs so he could hook his PNP up to it directly instead of going through FM mod.

No contradiction here.
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Old 04-01-2004, 12:02 PM   #10
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Well, I can speak from personal experience, albeit not technically. I don't have sophisticated technology in my car to test things, but I do have one important thing... my ears.

I also have a nearly $3,000 dollar stereo system that can faithfully produce anything I want, or rattle the windows blocks away, all in my car.

That said, I owned XM for almost a year and I've had Sirius for 8 months or so. Sirius has always sounded better to me. I'm not going to say light years better, or even significantly better, but most definitely... BETTER.

That's all I can offer, but it is real world experience.
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Old 04-01-2004, 01:11 PM   #11
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Well, I've avoided the sound quality thing for a long time, but I'll chime in in case Sirius is watching.

I've got both XM and Sirius, and my #1 beef with Sirius is their sound quality. Try as I might to tweak it, I still don't like it. I've done 'blind' listening tests with people at work in my car to see what they thought (a long time back) and all picked XM as sounding better, and that included many females who claimed they didn't care about sound quality. I've had Cartoys try tweaking my setup (they installed/fabricated everything) and they couldn't do any better. Finally, every magazine review I've read so far has picked XM as better sounding.

I find an easy way to tell the difference between XM and Sirius is with female vocals. Sirius has a very hard time with them, they don't sound smooth at all, but very very raspy. By chance recently I was playing "As The Rush Comes" on mp3 fairly loud, then switched to Sirius which happened to be playing the same song (on The Beat I think). The Sirius version just sounded horrible in comparison. Female vocals just don't sound smooth at all on it. There's other problems with the sound quality, but female vocals are the easiest to notice.

I know this totally flies in the face of everything you read here, but thats my experience. Everytime theres a post here about how some new codec has improved sound quality, I always listen to check myself and never notice a difference. There's occaisional differences here and there, but they are more likely due to the channel I'm listening getting more bandwidth that day. I wish Sirius would do something about it, but it does seem like I'm in the minority on this forum (most seem to love their sound quality) so I doubt anything will ever change.

Now, some theories. Could it be because Sirius has less useable bandwidth? Fairly recently on this forum someone had mentioned that the two active Sirius satellites actually transmit the same data offset by 4 seconds, so in reality they only have 1 satellite's worth of data going out. XM (as I understand it) sends out different data from each of its two satellites so they have 2 satellites worth of data going out. I'm oversimplifying it a bit, but assuming each has the same amount of total bandwidth allocate to it, it would seem that Sirius actually uses 50% of it (and the other half for redundency data) whereas XM uses somewhere between 50% and 100% (also with some redundency data). Could that be what accounts for the difference in sound? Or is XM doing the same thing as Sirius?
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Old 04-01-2004, 01:21 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joker454
Could it be because Sirius has less useable bandwidth? ... Could that be what accounts for the difference in sound? Or is XM doing the same thing as Sirius?
They have the same bandwidth, and both use it all. But they each use it a little differently.

This diagram shows how they each chop it up.
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Old 04-01-2004, 03:59 PM   #13
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Sirius sounded alot better to me when I compared the units. I compared a Sirius H2A and a delphi. The H2A killed it. My review would look just like yours except replace the XM with sirius in the good review and XM in the bad one....

I am not biased to one company or the other or was not at the time. I was comparing to see which to stick with.

Sirius has alot more content espically in play by play sports and NPR. The sound being alot better was just the straw that broke the camel's back that was my XM unit.
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Old 04-01-2004, 04:25 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Icing
They have the same bandwidth, and both use it all. But they each use it a little differently.

This diagram shows how they each chop it up.
Ah, cool link. I understand how the Sirius slice is used, but have one question on XM's. Do Sat1A/Sat2A transmit the same data, with one being used for redundancy (and likewise for Sat1B/Sat2B)?
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Old 04-01-2004, 06:41 PM   #15
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There is little doubt that SQ is subjective, because there are just so, so many factors that affect it. I've done many, many test and I do think there was a time when XM SQ was way superior to SIRIUS. However, in the last several months, my opinion has changed. SIRIUS has indeed improved and much of the SQ test that where done are outdated and at this point worthless. I am far from being an audiophile, but I have the Roady connected to my Kenwood setup via a direct connect, as well as the 902 connected via the din cable and there is a very noticeable difference not just by me, but anyone that rides in my vehicle. I've had many say that thing sounds like a walk man.

Also plugged into my Kenwood Home Theater Difference, I notice a difference between the Roady and my Audiovox PNP2 though its less dramatic.

I also think that for those that like mainly bass with little treble, would be more happy with XM's SQ. While someone that likes a more balanced bass/mid/treble would probably find SIRIUS SQ is better. Amps, Speakers, direct, modulated, transmitted. All these things make a difference.

I have to go with my own perference though and for my taste having both and very much so enjoying both. I have to give the edge to SIRIUS SQ wise.
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