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Thumbs UpOver the past month I've immersed myself in satellite radio. I've been a fan of Internet radio, because you can choose the kind of music you like and listen to it without commercials. But Internet radio cuts out annoyingly and it is too distracting when this happens. After months of thinking about paying for yet another subscription service I finally decided to take the plunge.

So off I went to the mall. I chose XM because it is the one that didn't hire Howard Stern. I'm not fond of Mr. Stern, and don't want to encourage him. And I chose the $45 Roady 2 radio because 1) it's cheap 2) I had read good reviews of it and 3) I wanted a radio I could easily tote from my car to my home office.

XM Roady 2XM Roady 2The Roady 2 comes with a car kit including everything you need to hook up and mount the radio in your car. I also sprang for the optional Home Kit so I could listen in my office. I immediately hooked up the Home Kit, stringing the antenna out my office window and discovering it would not quite reach to the South side of the building. XM requires that you point the antenna Southward. So I just left it on a bench in the yard and plugged in the radio.

Next I had to create an account and activate my radio. XM costs nearly $12.95 per month, but you can get that down to $9.95 per month if you pay ahead for three or more years. If you don't like it you can get the prorated balance back, so it is worth it if you can afford the lump sum. I subscribed over the web, following the simple instructions for getting my radio's ID number, and should have been up and running within an hour.

But I didn't realize that you have to leave the radio on so it can download the activation software. I turned it off, went out for a while, and when I got home the radio wasn't activated. A quick call to XM's 800 number solved the problem, and within another fifteen minutes I had over 150 channels. I plugged the Roady into my computer, which has a medium-OK speaker system and was surprised at the rich quality of the sound. Between my benched antenna and thunder storms the signal cut out occasionally. A week later, after purchasing an extension wire I mounted the antenna on the roof facing South and have not lost the signal since.

The next day I went back to Best Buy to get the car kit installed. I had considered installing it myself, but didn't want wires hanging everywhere and figured it would be worth the approximately $55. It was. The whole process took about an hour and a quarter and I was very pleased with the work. I get a good signal everywhere in Lansing, except when I drove under the covered entrance to the Marriott Cortyard near the airport. As soon as I drove out from under the signal was back.

I am enjoying the programming very much. Channels 4 through 9 are the "Decades" channels. 4 is the 1940s, 5, the 1950s and so on. Pick the era you love and the channel doesn't disappoint. I also like "The Loft," an acoustic rock station that often broadcasts live concerts. Choices include country, pop, Christian, rock, hip-hop, jazz, blues, dance, Latin, world and classical stations. In addition the major news network stations are represented along with a couple of kids stations, comedy, talk and entertainment. More than 20 instant traffic and weather stations are available for large cities, though they won't do Lansingites much good unless you are traveling.

All in all I've been very pleased. I've been listening to music quite a bit more since getting the Roady. Though it is the bottom of the line radio that XM offers, it has more than enough features and the quality of the sound is outstanding. The Roady 2 and XM get a resounding thumbs up.


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