Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Terrific trend in home theater receivers:
XM readiness, with surround sound

I recently went shopping for a medium-price A-V receiver for my den. The Panasonic unit I was replacing had lost one channel, and was so old it had an input labeled "VCR."

I settled on a really nice Yamaha, that does everything I need, and had an unexpected feature -- XM satellite radio integration, what XM calls "XM Ready."

XM Ready doesn't mean the receiver is actually ready to receive XM broadcasts. It's really just almost ready. To make it completely ready, you have to spend another 60 bucks to get two more packages of hardware: an XM "mini tuner," plus a "home dock," which includes an antenna and cable. The pieces snap together quickly, and should be working shortly after you activate your XM service. The receiver treats XM like just another input, and allows remote control, and presets of favorite channels.

While it's semi-annoying to have to spend extra money for the dock and tuner, there is a potential advantage. If you don't need to use the tuner in one receiver all the time, you can snap it out and then snap it into another receiver in another part of your home, or in your office, or even into a future car stereo or portable -- and save the $7 monthly fee for another XM radio. The mini tuner is tiny and weighs almost nothing, and comes with a keychain holder, like a USB thumb drive.

There are now about 50 XM Ready receivers, radios and home theater systems to choose from, from Yamaha, Sony, Denon, Onkyo, Harman-Kardon, Pioneer and others. Some even provide XM HD Surround Sound with 5.1 discrete channels. A few XM music channels and programs are now available in surround sound, using Neural Audio technology; and compatible components have a Neural logo on their front panels.

You can hear XM HD Surround Sound on the free-form music channel Fine Tuning - XM 76 and the classical pops music channel, XM Pops - XM 113. XM will also broadcast a variety of future shows and live performances in surround, which enriches the listening experience with envelopment and detail not available in traditional broadcasts. CLICK for the XM website.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When will I be able to get a car stereo that uses the mini tuner?