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Your Email: Why does Satellite Radio suck? Cooley explains

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“Pure digital quality” is one of the great sales jobs in tech history. Whether it applies to cell phones, MP3s or satellite radio, it’s code for the provider cramming more signals into the same bandwidth or space and sacrificing audio detail in the process. It makes you pay with a signal that often sounds dry and lifeless. There are a few things you can do, however, to “rehydrate” SiriusXM.

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  • planbenterprise
    July 30, 2018

    My 8 track of Neal Diamond sounds great.
    Never used that digital new fangled gizmos.
    Kids these days……

  • scott917
    July 31, 2018

    your stock audio system sucks. i got a new system in my truck and the new system sounds awesome.

  • James R
    July 31, 2018

    You are no Andy Rooney.

  • glovedcop69
    August 1, 2018

    To hell with quality…can they start with improving the dead spots!

  • Peter S.
    August 2, 2018

    I love your car so much. I had an '03 Marauder as a young man.

  • Kwan Quach
    August 2, 2018

    Used to be commercial and ad free and now its like regular radio with all the ads and commercials…

  • Joseph Solomon
    August 2, 2018

    My 2017 Toyota Highlander is quaint when it comes to those safety features like the lane departure warning and steering assist. That said, the feature was not used and working until a year later (buying in July 2017). I have no idea how or what I touched to activate the feature, but I'm grateful for the positive mistake.

  • Paul Moffat
    August 3, 2018

    My new car came with it (3 month demo, with limited selections), but I refuse to pay $25/month (with Tax) just so I can listen to the 2 or 3 channels that I like. I can get those OTA.

  • fatboy19831
    August 5, 2018

    Do not wast your money upgrading your system for the sake of satellite radio. Most of the magic bandaid digital fixes are more about marketing a product than truly improving sound quality. Internet radio is of much much higher quality and is free ( other than data use). Unlike satellite the audio quality keeps getting better. Pandora has improved 10 fold over the years. There are always a few terrestrial local stations that have excellent audio quality in analog and digital. Many of them have close to the same quality over the internet. If audio quality is your thing give up an satellite.

    I here there are a few premium channels on satellite that have 4 times the bandwidth of conventional sat channels but I have not auditioned them yet. In Theory that should give better sound.

  • Bill Lockheed
    August 5, 2018

    2:39 touches literally nothing in a 2000s Crown Vic and magically transforms into a GM infotainment system.

  • Angel Valenzuela
    August 13, 2018

    He didn’t even answer the question. It’s bandwidth.

  • Willie Turner
    October 26, 2018

    The funny thing is I just bought a used car with a factory stereo that is satellite radio ready. I haven't used sat radio in years and I was once an XM subscriber, way before the merger. I'm sure I haven't missed much. LOL

  • stevey500
    November 28, 2018

    Kind of like mp3's? Lol, mp3's come in all levels of quality. I don't know who was supplying 80kbps mp3s that sound like sirius xm

  • Robert
    December 17, 2018

    Satellite radio sucks because they put an ugly shark fin on my car that I don't want and can't remove without leaving holes in my trunk. 😡

  • Paul Stein
    January 4, 2019

    I subscribe to Google Play which includes ad free You Tube. Also a paid subscription to Calm Radio which is fantastic for sleeping, studying, relaxing.

    I would have renewed Sirius when my free expired, but all the horror stories about dishonest billing scared me away.

  • echo1434
    January 18, 2019

    Regarding the comparison with mp3 at the beginning, I should point out that I have 128k mp3s from 1996, and on the whole they STILL sound better than SiriusXM!

    I don't think mp3 is bad, provided it's encoded with the right settings and a good encoder… I'm not gonna argue it's the same as lossless because it's not, but it can be damn close. But SirusXM just needs to go away if they haven't gotten it right yet….

    I got a 3-month trial with a used car I recently bought, and after a week I really can't stand it anymore, it's just grating to the ears and brain. II keep thinking I should call and complain or demand my money back, but that would be silly of course. I had the service with another car a few years ago, and cancelling that was a headache for sure. And the complaints I made about the sound quality were of course met with some ridiculous responses that had nothing to do with the actual issue.

    The sound has such a dull, lifeless, and flat quality to it. It actually seems there is less artifacting (washy cymbals and applause, for example) – but I haven't put my nice aftermarket system in my current car, so perhaps my factory system is muffling the arftifact.

    And what's with the "bloomy" bass??? So many of the channels are so artificially bass heavy (the Beatles channel is one of the worst). The Beatles were pretty middle of the road in terms of bass heaviness for the '60s, so it's just bizarre. It's a very "empty" sounding bass… Just gives a general thump, definitely no defined bass notes or anything.

    When I had aftermarket system installed in my previous car, I have to say abetter system does nothing but further bring out the flaws in the service's quality in a severe way.. Perhaps the programs shown here than can guess and "fill in" the missing audio data are helpful (I haven't heard them), but there's no way that can be an ideal solution.

    The solution: It's freakin' 2019 – the bandwidth to stream decent HD video has been around for years, so audio (which requires a tiny fraction of what video does), should quit getting second-class citizen treaatment. If SiriusXM has an absolutely fixed infrastructure, then they have to cut down their channel offerings – or hell, encode everything in MONO to improve quality. As insane as that is, it would actually sound a lot better (virtually doubling the audio quality at the expense of any stereo imaging).

  • echo1434
    January 18, 2019

    Oh, and did I mention how YOUTUBE of all places can often have higher audio quality than SiriusXM (when selecting 720p or higher)?

    That's just hilarious, because YouTube's audio is nothing to brag about (it used to be the absolute worst!)

  • ildrichaseron
    January 25, 2019

    Mine is the opposite. I have a 2018 2-series without the Harman Kardon package and I understand that Satellite Radio sounds much clearer than AM/FM but I’m surprised that the AUX/USB/Bluetooth sound a bit weaker than Satellite Radio and not as clear. Is that just the way the head unit is?

  • Stephen M
    March 4, 2019

    Easy Easy Easy Easy fix!!!!! Get a radio with either Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Then download the SiriusXM app on your smartphone. Your music through the app will be with a much wider bandwidth. If data is a problem for those that don't have unlimited. You can also download music of your favorites before you go on a trip. Of course you will pay more for the service but that's usually only $5 more as an add on to a satellite subscription and I think $10 without. Still well worth the service

  • Darkbyte2005
    March 24, 2019

    Yea, we have the same issue here in UK with DAB

    March 25, 2019

    Funny how my $100 Chinese phone has better functionality than the computer that costed thousands of dollars. Its funny that anybody is willing to buy a car with the same functionality we had 15 years ago yet they are willing to pay top dollar for it. Makes no sense.

  • Jay A
    March 31, 2019

    FM, smart phone, I'm old with hearing aids. Not a hell of a lot going to improve it.

  • TheSonyExperience
    April 7, 2019

    Its actually more about the car. My 2019 BMW M550 and C63s sound much better than when I had a 2014 Mazda 3.

  • Kabloosh
    April 18, 2019

    I stream YouTube videos or play Pandora/spotify in my car. Don't know why people bother with radio anymore to be honest.

  • abmon24
    May 1, 2019

    Mp3 doesn't sound nearly as bad as satellite radio

  • bradmann85
    May 12, 2019

    Still more reliable signal than cellular data connection. I'm more annoyed by a choppy cellular connection when I'm way out in the country or overoaded towers in the city than I am of the satellite signal lost quickly be a bridge or a few thick trees. Sound quality from xm isn't all that bad. Ya it won't match sound quality of a CD or streaming service like Pandora or an fm station. Worst sound quality I can recall was streaming a music service like choice radio on dialup back in the late 90's.

  • Landrew0
    July 15, 2019

    None of this matters to me, my hearing isn't so great anymore, and I mostly listen to talk radio.

  • layziebone2152
    July 29, 2019

    XM radio uses CT-aac plus codec which allows for a low bit rate high quality stream. The problem is that they want to give as much choice as possible so there's 150 channels. The CT-aac plus codec is pretty good as most content on XM streams at bitrates around 32-40 kbps, some channels such as talk channels are lower than that. While it is a far cry from a 320 kbps MP3 or a lossless codec but for 40 kbps it does quite well — ever listen to a 40 kbps MP3 file, it's utter crap. That being said there are more updated codecs, the CT-aacPlus codec has updated versions that now include parametric stereo which further stretch the sound quality. SiriusXM's problem is their ability to update the firmware of all the receivers to be able to use a more efficient codec as launching new satellites, coming out with new radios are still pretty expensive.

  • EliteGeeks
    August 2, 2019

    I just keep making 3-month trials over and over with fake emails and phone numbers

  • Mr. Magic
    September 10, 2019

    @ 2:49 damn!! That fully loaded 2019 Dodge Ram sexy 😍😍😍😍😘😘

  • Jay A
    September 17, 2019

    Old school FM doesn't cost anything. My 2011 Silverado still has a CD player but my wife's new 2018 Equinox Premier has all the bells and whistles that cost you extra if you have a subscription but we just plug in her smartphone and listen to saved music. I have the same issues with spending $90.00 a month for Satellite television that you get 200 channels and we only watch maybe 20 of them.

  • a1081042
    November 23, 2019

    I work in multiple states, need sat radio, no way around it.

  • atnstn
    December 9, 2019

    My God, Cooley is a world-class expert on cars and modern driving!
    Perfection in every detail. Short, sweet and concise.

  • ABCD
    December 17, 2019

    Satellites are a hoax. Sat radio is land based transmissions.

  • Daniel S
    April 14, 2020

    I had XM long ago..
    Endless self serving commercials about tuning into other XM channels.
    I'm not interested in hearing commercial about Truck driver Road Hog hour.
    Worst yet,
    The commercial would be or stay at peak volume

  • Modern Rustics
    April 25, 2020

    Satelite radio is a scam.

  • Erik Gonzalez
    July 18, 2020

    sat radio is awesome, am/fm and HD radio is garbage

  • Devin Williams
    August 16, 2020

    In car satellite radio, as well as in car gps for that matters, the main remaining advantage is coverage. you don't have to change radio stations on a long trip, and can still listen to music in the…out back? As for in car gps, it can receive maps when a phone can't

  • crazy wheel to the max
    August 17, 2020

    Satellite radio? I download all the music I want for free from YouTube, i use Tunein radio app for free with 250K stations (some other apps have more) or i use regular FM radio

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