It's been right at three months since I got a new car. And it's also been three months in which I've been able to live with XM Radio and get a good idea of what I like and what I don't like about satellite radio. And, believe me, there's not much to dislike about XM Radio.
I had been holding out getting a satellite receiver until after the merger of XM Radio and Sirius, hoping to be able to get one of the new ala carte receivers they just released earlier this month. Unfortunately, my old car didn't hold out as long as I wanted and I got a new Impala that came with XM Radio service.
Now, I've had rental cars in the past where I've been able to listen to both XM or Sirius programming. There were things I liked about both, and some things that I was upset about that you couldn't have both. Actually, I guess what I wanted was the chance to have radio broadcasts of both Major League Baseball and NFL games on one format.
Actually, other than XM Radio having more baseball and collegiate sports to offer and no NFL games, programming on both formats is about the same. Both have similar music channels featuring focused genres of music. Both have the same news, sports and weather programming. Both have comedy and entertainment channels. About the only difference is that Sirius has Howard Stern, Martha Stewart, and the NFL; while XM has Opie and Anthony, Oprah and Major League Baseball.
Earlier this month, XM Radio and Sirius announced cross programming platforms called "The Best of..." for both formats. While I had been waiting a long time for this cross programming to commense, I have to say now that I am VERY happy I have XM Radio and not Sirius. "The Best of XM" is definitely a better deal for Sirius subscribers than "The Best of Sirius" is for XM subscribers.
The Best of XM that Sirius subscribers can now get for an additonal $4 bucks a month offers up Oprah, NBA and NHL broadcasts, the PGA Tour Network and some collegiate sports programming. The Best of Sirius made available to XM listeners only offers Martha Stewart, two Howard Stern channels and the NFL games. I'm not a big Howard Stern fan and I'm usually home on Sunday's when NFL games are on. And if I am driving on a Monday night, ESPN Radio has the NFL game on their channel. I'm going to keep my subscription for XM only.
So what do I like about XM? I do enjoy the focused programming. I have a radio that has 36 presets. As the guy who sold me the car said, "I don't know anyone who would use 36 presets." Well, he didn't know me very well, because I use a lot of 'em, especially when the baseball season was on.
One of the XM channels I find myself listening to a lot is Channel 40 - Deep Tracks. This is a channel where they play some really obscure music from famous and not-so-famous rock bands and performers from the late 60's, the 70's and into the early 80's. And the music is far from bad, it's just songs that were either not in the consciousness of most people due to radio station playlists at the time, or songs from bands that didn't quite make it big. Sirius has a similar channel - The Vault. But I found it to be repetitious with a lot of Jethro Tull, Moody Blues and Rolling Stones being played on the channel. Deep Tracks on XM is all over the place with different performers and bands. It's fun to listen to.
I also find that I listen to Channel 6 - the 60's - an awful lot. This was the music I was weaned on. Having older sisters and older cousins who played a lot of music and had the latest records in the early to mid-60's, a lot of songs played on this station are sort of a time line of my growth in the 60's. I'm not ashamed to say I like to listen to some of the music, even though I do have to suffer through an occassional Archies, 1910 Fruitgum Company or any other bubblegum performer from the late 60's.
But that's what a radio with 36 presets is for - to immediately go from one station to the next. And lately I've been listening to any one of the four comedy channels on XM. Channel 150 - XM Comedy features comics doing uncensored routines. Channel 151 - Laugh USA features comedy routines and comics spanning from the golden age of radio through a roster of current comedians. And Channel 153 - Laugh Attack focuses on comics from Canada and their irreverant humor. I find that I listen to those three stations a lot as of late, especially on long trips. It really seems to make the time pass by much more quickly.
Channel 151 features a lot of comics such as Bob Newhart, Henny Youngman and Bill Cosby. In fact, we used to have a number of Bill Cosby's comedy albums while I was growing up. Listening to his routines from the 60's brings back a lot of good memories. There's also some vintage Bob and Ray, Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, and some old Smothers Brothers routines that we used to have on albums years ago, as well.
Since I first began to travel for my job in the mid-80's, I've said the most boring stretch of road that I travel is Interstate 35 between Kansas City and Des Moines. You get out of either town by about 60 miles and the selection of radio stations to listen to drops off dramatically. Those that you can pick up feature country and western music with farm reports. If I wasn't in the mood to listen to some of my CD's, I just drove down the road in silence. I always said that if I got satellite radio, it would make the trip bearable.
Well, I made the trip between KC and Des Moines recently and I have to tell you - being able to jump between a multitude of offerings on XM radio did make the time go by rather quickly. I got to about 50 miles outside of Des Moines before I realized that I had been on the road for two hours. For someone like me who travels a lot, satellite radio is the way to go. I find myself thinking outloud, "How did I live without this for so long?"