The standard car radio is charging to the top of a lot of Christmas wish-lists with all-new technology this season. Satellite radio. A cornucopia of music choices, built right into your ride. Two companies are competing for this market, but XM is the only one up and running with programs and satellites locked in.
You can't tell by the way it looks in your dash, but the tell-tale antenna, and the endless list of music choices give it away. XM radio -- music received by satellite is here, it's hot, and it's hi-fidelity.
"It's just the hottest thing to buy this season. It's the first real innovation in radio in decades. You get all the quality of digital sound like on your C-D's, and there's all those channels to chose from," says David Creech, of Audio One in Cape Girardeau.
Pioneer and Sony are the first to offer receivers. If you already have a stereo with one of those names, the digital satellite hardware is an add-on. Otherwise, you'll have to start from scratch; although Kenwood and others makers will be offering units soon.
The actual receiver goes under the seat, and a rooftop antenna completes the set-up. Aside from the hardware expense, subscribing to the 100 channels of music costs $9.95 a month.
70 of the 100 channels sound much like commercial broadcast radio: commercials, D-J's and all. The other 30 channels are continuous commercial-free music and entertainment.
"You get Rock, Country, Reggae, there's a Reggae channel. There's also talk radio from CNN, E!, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, the list goes on and on," says Creech.
All those music formats and many others originate from the XM headquarters in Texas. It's an all new start-up, hiring D-J's, and developing song lists especially for XM. You DON'T get the signal of standard commercial broadcast radio.
And if for some odd reason you get bored with your hundred digital satellite channels, you can always switch over to local radio broadcasts, or play your favorite CD.
But the satellite radio deal can't be beat for variety. Numerous well-known media names provide signals. One owner we talked to said he wanted to remain anonymous for fear of theft, but he claimed the signal worked in rain, shine, night and day...just not in metal buildings.