Six Things You Should Know About Sirius Satellite Radio

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Updates to this site and answers to frequently asked questions:
  • Q. What frequency is best for my area?  Is there a table of best frequencies for major metropolitan areas? 
  • A.  The Sirius frequency finder is here.
  • Q.  Where can I get online copies of the Sirius user manuals?  
  • A.  The manuals are available here. 
  • Q.  Where can I get a replacement antenna for my Sirius satellite radio?  
  • A.  The web site for the Sirius replacement antenna is here, although I haven't personally done business at this site and therefore cannot vouch for or endorse it.
  • Q.  What can I do about the fact that my Sirius unit keeps heating up and cutting out?  
  • A.  Try turning down the brightness on the set. 
  • Q.  What can I do about the static and interference that I get in my car?  
  • A.  If you can lower or disconnect your external car antenna, try it.  Or try this product, per Jason's comment below (scroll down to "Dealing with Radio Interference").
  • Q.  How hard is it to opt out of the opt out program (point 5 below)?
  • A.  Extremely hard.  Check out this video, which shows a Sirius subscriber who had to wait 85 minutes for a Sirius representative to answer the phone! 
  • (November 2013 update:  Could Sirius be any more obvious about the fact that, once they get your permission to keep charging your credit card every month, they will NOT want to let go?  Here is a quote from their FAQs: 

How do I cancel my service?
We're sorry you want to cancel. Unfortunately, we can't complete cancel requests online. We'd also like to understand and resolve any issue you may have had with the service, so please call our...

  • Translation:  We won't let you cancel online. We want you to call and talk to someone whose job it is to make it as difficult as possible for you to cancel.)   


I just got Sirius Satellite Radio, and I love it.  The 24-hour comedy channels are a great way to start off a cold, cruel Monday morning.  The 24-hour disco channel is great for my sister, the former Disco Queen.  My parents will love the "big band" swing channels, with music from the 1930's and 1940's.  My kids love the contemporary hits.  And, like the Internet, you can get your news from several sources, CNN and the BBC just to name two.  With the addition of radio superstar Howard Stern, the content and variety on Sirius keeps getting even better.
 
But there were a few things about Sirius that came as, well, surprises to me as well as others who have shared my Sirius listening experience.  I'm sure many of these will improve over time (satellite radio is still in its infancy).  But just in the interest of full disclosure, here are the six things that surprised us about our newly-enhanced satellite radio environment.

 
1.  You almost certainly will not be able to install the Sirius equipment in your own car.  I got the Starmate Complete Car and Home Package, thinking that I'd just pop it into my car and get going with my new satellite service.  Forget it, unless you can confidently follow these instructions:  "Route the cable from the antenna to the vehicle's interior by tucking it underneath the rubber molding around the rear window.  Route the cable from the lowest point of the rear window into the trunk.  From the trunk, route the cable around the passenger compartment and to the back of the cradle."  I even went to my regular auto repair place, showed them the instructions, and they refused to take it on!   I finally wound up taking it to an auto audio specialist, who did the job very effectively for $75. 
 
2.  There will be static.  A lot of my passengers are surprised that there is static on satellite radio, but there is.  Your Sirius satellite receiver "broadcasts" to your car's FM radio through a frequency you select.  For example, the Sirius channel on my car radio is 89.1, which is pretty clear and works pretty well on my regular commute.  But if I drive beyond that route, where 89.1 is routinely used by regular broadcast radio stations, there is a lot of interference and static.  I then have to switch frequencies on both the receiver and car radio, to find another clear channel.  Quite a pain.
 
3.  There will be interference.  Even the smallest bridge, tunnel, or parking garage often seems to block satellite reception, and occasionally the signal will completely disappear for no reason.  Almost always, reception returns after a few seconds or when the obstruction is passed.
 
4.  There will be commercials.  Currently, there are commercials on the non-music stations, and even the music stations have ads for the other Sirius stations.  Not particularly a big deal; why should satellite radio be any different from satellite television in this regard?  But it was initially surprising to me, and some of my passengers.
 
5.  You can't opt out of the opt out program.  Once you sign up for Sirius satellite radio, they'll continue to charge your credit card with the monthly/annual fee until you die, or cancel.  To my knowledge, there is no program that allows you to make it your option to decide whether to renew each period.  They are very open about this when you sign up, and it's clearly in the terms and conditions.  But I don't know how easy it's going to be when the time comes to cancel.  (It's a little spooky that you can sign up for Sirius on the Internet, but you can't cancel your account that way.)  I'm a little leary after my experience years ago with AOL, where the telemarketers were famous for being highly resistive when you tried to cancel your subscription.  We'll see what happens.
 
November 2013 update:  For the past 8 years, I have tried to tread carefully on this topic.  But based on comments I've received, and read in other forums, in my opinion the verdict is in:  Sirius appears to be deliberately pursuing a strategy of "capturing" their customer credit cards upon sign-up, then putting the customer through a maze of long hold times, "system down try again" messages, and Cancellation Specialists who try every trick in the book to prevent you from cancelling when you finally get through to them.  It's a shame, because in every other way Sirius is a high class service.
 
6.  Don't look for a lot of technical support on the Sirius web site.  At this writing (early summer 2005), Sirius.com is mostly a demo and sales site.  If you click on "help," you get a phone number and e-mail to contact.  No frequently asked questions.  No on-line User Guides or instruction manuals.  The telephone reps are very friendly and helpful, however. [2012 update:  This has changed considerably for the better, and is no longer an issue.  But I'm keeping it here, because I don't want to change the name of this site to "Five Things You Should Know About Sirius Satellite Radio."]

QUESTIONS, COMMENTS AND UPDATES
 
Dealing with Radio Interference
  • Jason:  One of the points referred to getting a lot of static from the unit because of interference from land-based radio (regular FM).  Sirius does have an accessory available (possibly dependent on your Sirius unit) that helps this.  If your Sirius has an "FM out" plug, the unit will work.  It plugs into that port of the unit, then into the back of your car stereo where the car antenna would plug in.  The car antenna then plugs into the accessory.  It then completely overrides the incoming FM signal when the Sirius unit is on.  I use it on the same frequency of a powerful local radio station that has a radio show I like to listen to.  When I turn on the Sirius, it is crystal clear with no interference from the FM.
Sirius Home Docking Station
  • How to Improve Sirius Radio Use In Your Home:  Tony:  By using the Sirius Radio in the home dock, with the internal rf transmitter activated, all your FM radios in your home (30 ft +/-) can receive the Sirius programming.  There is no necessity to directly connect the Sirius receiver to an amplifier or speakers.  The same could also be said for office use.  Everyone on your office floor could be listening to Sirius with their own walkman or radio.  In order to increase the range of the Sirius RF Signal in the home or office, swap the auto dock with the home dock (just change the base).  The auto dock has a jack on the back to insert the short wire antenna included with the auto dock, usually not needed for an auto install. The home dock base eliminated this extra jack.  Even my bedside clock radio on the 2nd floor is tuned to Sirius for my wake up call!
  • Increase the Range of the Transmission Signal?  Tim:  I have a SportsterR in a docking station with small antanna attached, transmitting to a clean FM transmitter position and cannot hear the radio on my other radios, only faintly or with a lot of static, unless it is within a few feet from the unit.  Is there any way to increase the range of the FM Transmit signal from the home docking station out?
  • Satellite in San Diego?  Phil:  Got any idea where the satellite is in reference to San Diego?  The Sirius site says for me to point my antenna either north or east.   That seems pretty vague, especially since I'm an amateur radio operator and very familiar with antennas, etc.  Are there LNA's (low noise amplifiers) available for these systems? 

Mono Instead of Stereo

  • I Get Mono Instead of Stereo:  Andy:  Just got a Sirius in-dash radio installed from Dodge dealer. I was and still not pleased with the fact that the sound is not in STEREO but in MONO. Is there anything I can do about this? They don't have a clue. I use Dish for the home and that music sounds far better than in my vehicle where every channel sounds as if it is being played out of a tube. Please help, does Sirius play in mono or stereo?  (Response:  I've gotten several questions like this [see Brent's comment below] and would be interested in any suggestions.  My car reception comes through in stereo, no problem.) 

Cancellation Problems

  • It's Hard To Cancel Your Sirius Subscription I:  Brent:  I just canceled by Sirius subscription after making several LONG attempts to do so by phone. You are correct that you cannot cancel online. Therefore if you want to cancel, you have to call them and expect to be on hold for 10-15 minutes or more. My Sirius experience sucked.  After spending hours routing the antena thru my SUV, the reception is like FM Mono at best. And the channels... Since when is Elvis "Rock"? I rest my case.  (Response:  Just as I suspected.  I'm always suspicious of these "easy to join, tough to cancel" membership policies.)
  • It's Hard To Cancel Your Sirius Subscription II:  Denis:  Went to cancel my Sirius Radio after they cancelled Fox (refused to renew contract)... they said tough - $75 cancellation fee...money hungry... oh yeah - NEVER got my rebate for the radio.
  • It's Hard Top Cancel Your Sirius Subscription III:  John:  Anyone thinking of buying Sirius should know that they have
    HORRIBLE billing practices, and it's TIME CONSUMING AND ANNOYING TO CANCEL.  They are a model of corporate bull.
  • On The Other Hand:  Adam:  I just called an cancelled my Sirius account and it took literally less than 5 minutes.  I called on a Friday morning and had no hold time whatsoever. 
  • It's Hard To Cancel, Part IV:  Jeff:  I just spent 50 minutes cancelling my Sirius. Clearly they are attempting to wait out the customer and hold us hostage to their bad business tactics.  There is no way to cancel online, so you have to call. Once you make contact, inevitably the person at the other end will not be able to cancel you and you'll have to call another number. After speaking with that rep, again you'll be on hold or about 15-20 minutes. Then on the third rep you speak with you get to cancel.
  • It's Hard To Cancel, Part V:  Jeff:  I received radio this Christmas,activated it but unfortunately I don't get reception at work. Now I am trying to cancel subscription.  Customer care gives me a number of 866-527-6040 but the number just
    rings busy. Any help or ideas? Thanks.

Sirius Customer Service

  • Sirius is Better than XM:  Steve:  I just got my SPORTSTER SIRIUS radio from Best Buy and had it installed by Circuit City.  I have had it for about a month now, and  have to say, I'm more than satisfied -- and since I have BOTH satellite services, XM and SIRIUS, my SIRIUS radio is by far much more "Bang For MY Buck."
  • "Nothing Short of a Nightmare."  G:  Sirius Radio has been nothing short of a nightmare; problems with customer service right from the start.  We told them after the first year of service, when it expired, not to renew it.  My daughter no longer listens.  They charged her bank account for the renewal fee, and cost her an overdraft fee as well.  She is a full time student and did not have the money in her account at the time.  They told us they will refund the total amount, but it will take a few days.  Guess we will have to wait and see.
  • Constant Problems:  Dain:  I have had constant problems with my Sirius Radio. I paid good money for a Sirius Ready Pioneer Premier Deck for my car and my sound went out a week before Stern's 1st show and I was down for a month. They put another one in and I am now having the same problem. I am paying for nothing. I get the signal but no sound. It will come on when it wants to and for maybe five minutes before quitting again. Sirius won't take responsibility, Pioneer won't take responsibility and the audio shop that installed it won't take responsibility. So, who then can make it right? If nobody's wrong, then I can only assume that this is the type of service that is to be EXPECTED from sirius and they just don't sell a good product. Unless you love Howard Stern so much your willing to have your Sirius unit replaced every three months and not have sound in between.
  • Multiple Problems:  Joyce:  After buying Starmate ST 1 in August for a Christmas gift and sending in the $30. rebate, I was notified that I would not receive the rebate because I had to have the radio activated by October.  I was not notified of this until December.  Radio runs very hot.  I had the antenna installed by an Audi dealer for $200 plus had to rent a car for the day.  Kept blowing car fuses every 5-10 days.  Then it blew fuse in the cigarette adapter.  Tried to get a new fuse; no luck.  Tried to get new adapter from Circuit City; no luck because now they have Starmate 2.  So I went through the $200 instllation for nothing - can't use it in the car if I can't get a fuse or adapter.  What a RIP OFF.
  • Warranty Problems:  Gary:  Has anyone had a problem with the warranty department at Sirius?  My radio has stopped working, and talked to the warranty department, and they have no idea how long it will take to get replacements in.  But
    they have plenty on the shelves to sell to new customers.  It's been three weeks, and it could be another six weeks.  Thanks
    for the great service Sirius!

Sirius Rebates

  • Rebate Problems, Part I:  Shannon:  I sell and own both brands of satellite radio. I have been in  a constant battle with Sirius for four months for a rebate I submitted  four months before that.  I know what I'm doing, especially with rebates, and they admitted my paperwork was fine, but the kid who activated me did something wrong.  So I'm out $30 dollars, which isn't much, it's just the principle.  I just got another Sportster kit for free, and I'm having doubts about activating it, not because of a new rebate, but because I dont know if I want to give this company any more of my money.  I would shut the other one off, but it is my husband's, and he has no television where he lives.  I have never had any of these problems with XM, and XM's customer service is much better. When my customers ask me which one is better i can say from personal experience XM's customer service is WAY BETTER. (and so is XM's Signal).  (Response:  If you are having problems with this or any other rebates, please consider some of the tips on one of my other sites:  Confessions of a Mail-In Rebate Junkie.)
  • Rebate Problems, Part II.  Majick:  Just a comment on Sirius Rebates. I sent mine at Thanksgiving 2005. I receeved a postcard stating the rebate was denied (2 $50 rebates!) due to the receivers being activated with a gift card( I was encouraged to buy them at Radio Shack) instead of credit card. The customer service rep I talked to last month said that I should receive my rebate because nowhere does it say you cannot activate with a gift card. Another caution:  If you ask to pay month-to-month, they do not e-mail you a reminder to make a payment- they cut you off and expect you to pay reactivation fees (with a second call to a customer service rep I was able to waive that). It is April 2006, and there is no sign of my rebate yet. Also, their antenna costs $49 to replace, which is the cost of a new radio with rebate (if you ever get it).  But I do love the thing when it is on -- choices for all!

Other Sirius Web Sites

  • Sirius Backstage:  Webmaster:  I stumbled across the Sirius Backstage website while surfing the web for technical support.  There is a lot of useful information about Sirius on this site, but I really can't figure out whether it is a "fan site," as it claims, or whether Sirius is somehow involved with this site.  At this writing (May 2005) there is a posting on the site that says it is put together "with the help of an eclectic team of moderators and an active community of SIRIUS 'Brand Reprentatives' [sic]," whatever that means. 
  • TopSatelliteRadio.com:  Scott:  You may want to check out our site on the subject of satellite radio:  TopSatelliteRadio.com.

Other Comments

  • Don't Install Antenna Through The Windshield!   Jeremy:  Circuit City installed my antennna through my windshield.   All seemed well until my windshield cracked right were the cable was routed.  Every glass place I have spoken to says the windshield is a bad location.
  • "Avoid the Sirius Boombox."  Brian:  Avoid the SIRIUS Boombox...The power cord went dead after only a few months...leaving it up to batteries only. SIRIUS agreed to let me have a new box free from Radio Shack, but now
    the new box has a speaker that crackles and pops...The home and car docking stations are both good, and the SIRIUS programming is excellent.
  • Be Careful When Jump Starting Someone's Car!  LH:  I had a Sirius sportster in my truck for maybe 3 weeks before it "burnt out" or something.  I jumped off a friend's car and got up the next morning with no channels on my radio. Nothing the company did helped at all.. I can't really complain about their customer service line all that much, as I didn't wait long to talk to a human being, but the manufacturer needs to fix these units to withstand something as routine as a slight electrical fluctuation from the battery.  All you Sirius owners, unplug the radio if you're jumping anyone off or changing car batteries.
    They did replace it at the store where I bought it and I wasnt out any extra money for the radio or the subscription as far as I know.
  • I Love Satellite Radio.  Corey:   Satellite radio is the best thing I have ever purchased for my commute to and from work - it almost makes traffic in Boston bearable!

Various Comments About The Webmaster's Intelligence

  • You Paid Too Much:  Buccaneer:  You mentioned getting the system installed for $75 in point number 1 on your site.  I'm getting Sirius from Best Buy this week and they're only charging $59.99 with complete coverage on the installation.  (Response:  Live and learn.  In retrospect, buying the Starmate unit directly from Sirius and then paying to have it installed separately wasn't the wisest choice economically.  I probably should have gone to a retailer to buy and install it, preferably during an advertised sale.)
  • You're An Idiot:  Jimmy:  The installation instructions are simple. The words window, molding, trunk, around, and beneath aren't exactly technical terms. My guess is that you are not too apt with mechanical problems. If that's the case, you shouldn't be blaming the instructions, you should be blaming yourself. Never go back to that mechanic. Either of them.
  • You're An Idiot, Part 2:  Corey:  I am a mechanical idiot and managed to install the antenna myself in about 30 minutes, routing it underneath my moulding, through my trunk, out my car seat and through the interior moulding.  It can be done with planning and a little patience.
  • You're An Idiot, Part 3:  Ralph:  I just purchased a Sirius One and installed in my 2006 Impala.  I placed the antena on the package self in the rear window.  So far this works great.  No outside installation required!!!
  • Okay, Okay, I Get It:  Dave:  Antenna installation difficult??  l just threw it on the shelf behind the back seat routed the wires under the floor mats. l do get better reception in my Aurora than in my Hyndai...more metal l guess.
  • Enough Already!  Belinda:  Oh my goodness!  The car installation for my Starmate Replay 2 was ridiculously simple... 1) stick magnetic antenna to roof 2) plug other end into the Replay 3) plug power cord into Replay and 4) plug other end into car charger hole for power.  Done!

 

WHY NOT "SMELL LIKE CHEESE"? 

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CLICK ON THE COVER FOR MORE INFORMATION

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Add this witty and funny book, about searching for truth, to a child’s library today.


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This reportedly shows the movement of the Sirius satellites in space

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This website and its contents are copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 by James K. Hickel.  Links to this site are welcomed and encouraged, but pasting or copying the content onto another site or medium is prohibited without advance written permission.  The advice and comments on this site are often untested and are posted without warranty or recourse as to their accuracy or any results, intended or unintended.  This site is not affiliated in any way with Sirius or XM Satellite Radio.