Star Warz: XM vs. Sirius

If you haven’t heard about satellite radio, it’s time to pull your head out of the muck and tune-in. I’ve written previously about satellite radio and you can see a list of past posts here. If you have heard about satellite radio but are still trying to decide between Sirius or XM, this post might help you make your decision.

I subscribe to both Sirius and XM. I started by subscribing to Sirius back in September, 2004. Then, a couple weeks ago, my wife bought me the XM MyFi set. For a quick, crude comparison of the two services, check this out; it’s shortcoming is that it doesn’t offer any personal exeriences, it’s just a bland presentation of facts and stats. Now that I’ve been listening to both, I’m pleased to announce that I can now offer the much-awaited Samurai comparision of the two services.


In terms of the sheer number of music channels, both services are very comparable. Both have the usual decades, rock, pop, and schlop. Sirius has a strong lineup of mainstream pap (yes, I meant pap), hip-hop and rap crap accompanied by lots of latin noise. That’s all great if you are black, brown or have very urban tastes. But I’m a middle-aged white guy who lives in rural New England and I don’t want to hear urban or foreign noise aimed at malcontents, people-of-color, and losers suffering under delusions of oppression. What’s a cracker to do?

XM has two excellent channels that are engineered for the contemplative white ear: Audio Visions (ch. 77) and Fine Tuning (ch. 76). It’s refreshing to find such audible treats in an obstreperous sea of hip-hop, rap, and other aural assaults. Sirius does not have any such comparable counterparts.

Both Sirius and XM have three comparable classical channels: symphonies, operas, and pops. The biggest difference between the two services in their classical lineup is in their opera channels. Sirius calls its opera channel Classical Voices (ch. 85) and plays strictly classical operas. XM’s opera channel is called Vox! (ch. 112) and, in addition to classical opera, plays a healthy dose of Gregorian-style chant. I’m still waiting to hear Byzantine chant.

Both services carry a folk music channel (Folk Village on XM and Folk Town on Sirius–ain’t that cute?). They are very comparable and I enjoy both of them.


No contest here: Sirius wins hands-down. Both services carry the usual suspects: Fox, CNN, BBC, ABC News-Talk, C-SPAN, and The Weather Channel. XM also carries pMSNBC and CNN Headline Snooze–neither one is missed in the Sirius lineup.

This table points out the main differences between Sirius and XM in their news/talk channels:

  Sirius XM
Public Radio NPR Now, NPR Talk, Public Radio International (PRI), World Radio Network (WRN). All are first-class radio listening. XM Public Radio (lame)
Bloomberg Radio Carries the full 24-hr, seven day broadcast. Full European and Asian market coverage all night long. Only carries the live broadcast during market hours; freaky, automated weather-radio-station-sounding voice during all off-hours.
Weather Carries The Weather Channel regional reports. Only carries the one-size-fits-all Weather Channel reports.
Political Two right-wing channels: Patriot and Talk-Right. Michael Savage, Michael Reagan, Jerry Doyle, Tammy Bruce, World Net Daily Radio, Rusty Humphries…the usual neo-con clatter.
Also has two left-wing channels: the optimistically-named Air America and Talk-Left; the latter channel features unique hosts not heard on broadcast radio: Lynn Samuels, Alex Bennett, Ed Shultz, and the Young Turks. Sometimes, if you listen reeeeal hard, these hosts start to sound like libertarians…then they start talking about gun control and the sanctity of Social Security and you realize they’re still big gubmint liberals.
One right-wing and one left-wing channel. Both are the usual neo-con and liberal clap-trap with no unique hosts or points-of-view.

Neither service has a Libertarian channel, which would be very refreshing. Sirius has a Patriot channel, but it’s just more of the same neo-con, big gubmint yak. I remember when the Patriot movement I supported was synonymous with small government. How ironic when I hear all the modern “patriots” cheerleading the biggest, most destructive gubmint program of ’em all: foreign war. I wonder if these “patriots” would still be such enthusiastic cheerleaders if a Democratic administration was in charge of the Iraq war program… and if the indignant Left would be nearly as self-righteous. Seems no one operates by a consistent, fundamental set of principles anymore. It’s all what’s most expedient for the moment.

For my Libertarian fix, I tune in to Scott Horton’s excellent Weekend Interview Show. Scott also makes his interviews available as MP3 files so I can download ’em and listen on my Rio MP3 player while I’m on the job breaking, er, I mean, fixing appliances.

Bottom Line: The music channels are more diverse on XM and the news/talk is more diverse on Sirius. If you can only subscribe to one service, then choose according to your primary listening interest: for music, pick XM; for news/talk, pick Sirius. If you can afford it, subscribe to both services.


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