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How to Buy Satellite Radio Equipment

What Is Satellite Radio?

Satellite radio uses a home base on the ground that is linked to satellites in orbit above Earth. These satellites transmit the radio signal to a portable satellite radio antenna. The tiny antenna picks up the signal and the receiver decodes it and outputs the digital sound, along with information about the program you are listening to, such as the song title, artist, and music genre.

So what advantages does this present over AM/FM radio? Here are a few:

  • Instead of traveling city to city and switching AM and FM radio stations as the signal fades in and out, satellite radio stations stay with you no matter where you travel in the lower 48 states.
  • Listen to upwards of 100 channels of digital audio, including a multitude of musical genres and news services, many of them commercial-free.
  • Because it's digital audio, you can enjoy high-quality sound coming out of your speakers.

How Do You Get It?

First, you'll need to have the hardware to receive the satellite signal. Then you have to subscribe to one of the service providers. Currently, there are two companies that sell satellite radio subscriptions: XM Radio and Sirius. Both companies provide similar services. To check prices and channel listings go to and for more information. Different hardware manufacturers are partnered with XM Radio, than are with Sirius. So if you prefer a particular brand of sound equipment consider who these name brand manufacturers use before you make any purchases:

ManufacturerSatellite Radio Provider
AlpineXM Radio
DelphiXM Radio
PioneerXM Radio
SonyXM Radio

What You'll Need

Besides subscribing to a satellite radio service, you'll need to buy the hardware that can play it. Here are several options for playing satellite radio:

1. A satellite radio-ready in-dash CD player: In-dash systems that can play standard AM/FM stations, CDs, and also have a built-in satellite radio receiver. All you have to do is subscribe to the service, hook up an antenna, and start listening.

2. An FM modulator: This piece of hardware connects between a satellite radio receiver and your stereo's antenna input. All you have to do is tune the radio to an FM radio station, turn on the satellite radio, and get connected to it instantly.

3. A cassette adapter: Instead of buying an FM modulator, you can also get a cassette adapter that connects a satellite radio receiver through your cassette tape deck.

4. A portable system with docking cradle: With a docking cradle, you can hold the receiver, adapters, cables, and antenna in one place, so you can listen to satellite radio in the car, but can also take it out and listen to it at home.

5. A home adapter kit: With an indoor/outdoor antenna, you can get satellite radio at home and play it on your home audio system.

How To Install It

Depending on what pieces of hardware you choose for your car, the amount of installation you'll need to do will vary. While installation is similar to what you have to do to install other audio equipment in your car, it is suggested that you consult a professional with experience installing these types of systems.