Friday, November 14, 2003

Getting Sirius

My new Sirius satellite radio unit arrived yesterday. We get free equipment and a deal on the service through my employer. So after enjoying Sirius in our L.A. rental car, I figured it was a deal worth getting on board with.

There's a lot to like about the Sirius lineup, including the First Wave stream (think GOOD '80s station), Left of Center (think GOOD college radio station) and ESPN Radio (think GOOD sports/talk station where the hosts talk more about sports than themselves). There's also a lot that doesn't much interest me (any of the current hit stuff, jazz, hispanic, etc.). But so far in my very brief life as a Sirius subscriber, my stream of choice is the Sirius Trucking Network.

STN is a stream created specifically for cross-country, 18-wheel truckers. I keep listening for commercials from truckstop hookers (haven't heard that yet), but the morning show features great stuff like trucker-specific news (the New York port authority has a new program to move more freight on barges, which is not good for truckers, and Pennsylvania may raise the gas tax, which also is not good for truckers), trucker traffic (nationwide interstate construction updates) and trucker weather (same deal - weather affecting interstates). Cut that in with tracks from George Jones and the Allman Brothers and you've got yourself a Trucker Channel.

The Sirius unit I got is a portable Audiovox unit that has a built-in FM transmitter to pipe the signal to your car stereo without cables. On the unit's box there's some Sirius promo that says "More than 100 streams of digital music - and it's all legal!" (Napster effect, I guess)

So I go out at lunch today to shop for a second base unit for the wife's SUV (the receiver itself pops in and out of a base unit you keep in the car). Because I already use a cassette-deck thingy to connect my Sony Clie's MP3 player to the stereo, I figure I'll buy the cheaper base unit, which doesn't have the FM receiver, and put the FM unit in the wife's ride.

I hit Best Buy. They have the home base, but not the car base. HiFi Buys has the receiver, but no bases, HH Gregg has a Sirius display but no equipment I could find. Media Play sells DishNetwork stuff but not satellite radio. And then there's Circuit City.

I get over to Circuit City and check out their Sirius display. There's a sign and price tag on the shelf for the FM-transmitter unit (henceforth known as CK-1). However, the one box that's on the shelf is the non-FM-transmitter unit (CK-2). My research suggests CK-1 sells for $49.99 and CK-2 sells for $29.99.

So I take the box up to the register and get the cashier to look up the price. $49.99. OK, maybe it's the CK-1 in a CK-2 box or something. So I find the car audio guy, explain to him the difference between CK-1 and CK-2 and ask him to see if they stock both. So he looks up the price of CK-2, and sure enough it's $49.99. So then he looks up CK-1, which comes up at $49.96.

OK ... so the FM transmitter is worth -3 cents? Needless to say, I did not purchase anything at Circuit City. I figure when we're out and about this weekend I'll shop more for an appropriately-priced CK-2.


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