How to Get Satellite Radio - dummies

By Danny Briere, Pat Hurley

Satellite radio offers a huge number of radio stations —more than 275 channels — beamed to your home theater or car from a handful of satellites in the sky. You’ll discover a lot more diversity and just plain interesting stuff coming across these space-based airwaves than on your local radio stations.

Satellite radio services require you to — gasp — pay for your radio. You may choose to go this route if there isn’t a whole lot of local programming you want to listen to where you live.

If you want to get into satellite radio, you need to first check out the Web sites of the two services, XM Radio and Sirius (both owned by one company) to see which one has the programming that you prefer. Then you need to get your hands on a satellite radio tuner (you can find a bunch of models listed on each service’s Web page). The majority of these satellite tuners are designed for in-car use (because people tend to listen to the radio most often while they’re driving), but you can find radios suitable for in-home and home theater use from both providers.

If you want to put satellite radio into your home theater, you have a few choices:

  • Get a dockable tuner. You can put these tuners in your car and, when you get home, pull them out and plug them in to your A/V receiver via a simple docking station that provides power, an antenna connection, and the proper connectors to hook in to your receiver. This is usually the cheapest and most convenient approach if you’re going to be in the car a lot but still want satellite radio in the house.

  • Buy a dedicated in-home satellite tuner that looks like any other piece of A/V gear and sits on your equipment rack along with your receiver and DVD player. These models have bigger displays and higher-quality internal components for the best sound quality, but they aren’t portable like dockable radios.

  • Buy an A/V receiver with a built-in or add-on satellite receiver. A growing number of A/V receivers have a built-in satellite receiver. Just add an antenna kit and a subscription and you’re off to the races.

If you’re using a dedicated indoor satellite tuner (or one inside your receiver) and you also want to listen to satellite radio in your car, you’ll end up needing more than one subscription. Each tuner requires its own subscription. Luckily, the second subscription can be part of a package deal.

These satellites are down by the equator, so no matter where you live in the United States, you need to be able to put the antenna in a south-facing window to pick up a good signal in your home.