In April 2009, I did what I thought I would never do, namely walk out of an auto dealer’s lot with a brand new vehicle. With the economy being more like a depression, and the automakers desperate to make a deal, I thought this was an excellent opportunity to get what I wanted. In this case, it was a new Chevy Silverado Crew Cab Pickup. The new truck is simply great and I must admit that driving a new vehicle does give you a certain smugness, which took me a month to get over. I will try to post something in the near future about the new truck, but this post is about XM Satellite Radio and why I ended up keeping it. Most new GM vehicles come with a 90 day trial of XM Radio and the Silverado was no different.
The GM Factory Deck
First up is the GM deck. In my case, the GM deck acts as both a regular AM/FM receiver and XM satellite receiver. It also performs a third function, which is to perform some OnStar functionality, such as Turn By Turn directions and display messages for your built-in satellite phone. After a while, you will notice that the deck is pretty simple to operate. The main features are that it has a built-in equalizer for sound adjustment and six menus of favorite stations (you can designate both XM and regular radio stations within the same favorite menu list). The deck does not have an LCD display and so is not stunningly hi-tech in appearance.
Unlike regular radio, XM has no commercials for most of its stations and interruptions are very minimal. The disc jockeys are not annoying either and are for the most part fans of the music they play. My all time favorite channel is The Boneyard, which plays classic rock music including some metal bands like Metallica, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden. In the past three months, I’ve listened to some songs I have never heard before. The variety is amazing, but even classic rock stations will run into some repeats from Billy Squire and Judas. Overall though The Boneyard tries not to repeat the same songs.
Moving on, there are other stations like Hair Nation channel 41 which plays hairband rock music from the 80’s, Liquid Metal channel 42 which is home to heavy metal only, and variety stations like Classic Rewind and Rock@Random. Hair Nation plays a little too much White Snake for my tastes, but hey, you gotta love some Cinderella and Motley Crew, right?
For non-rockers, there are other genres too, like Country, Classical Music, Soul, Disco, and Alternative 90’s rock which I still don’t consider to be real rock music. Music wise XM has pretty much everyone covered. The one glaring problem I see with XM is the lack of Latino music. There is Caliente, but that is just one station and so there seems to be a lack of serious Spanish music variety on XM. You would think they would have at least three Spanish stations, but nope they just have one.
Other than music, XM covers Sports, Weather, News, Political Commentary, and Comedy. If you have kids or just want to block certain channels from your receiver, you can do that by going to XM’s website and setting up filters for your account.
Is it Worth Paying For?
Right now the price is pretty reasonable. The cost starts at around $15 a month for a basic lineup. Reception in my GM vehicle is also excellent unless I am in a parking garage or in a drive-thru that happens to block reception. In Iowa, my experience is that XM reception is better than FM radio. Note that on extremely cloudy days you might run into reception issues, but even with Iowa’s mostly cloudy days, this does not seem to be a problem very often.
It is quite hard to go back to regular FM radio. With XM, I don’t feel the need to plug-in my iPod or carry CDs anymore. I can just sit back and turn on XM and rock out whenever I feel like it, and now isn’t that why you have a radio in your car in the first place!