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A-Spec Fan
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently purchased a Pioneer GEX-FM903XM universal digital tuner system. I suspect that XM-ready radios will be installed in Honda/Acura cars soon because American Honda is an investor, along with GM and several other companies, in XM Radio. I won't post pictures of the installation because SwampGas on recently posted pictures of the antenna and the remote location. I've had it a few weeks and am posting a detailed review.

I purchased the unit at Circuit City for $185, with the SRP $240. I also purchased a Terk SR-1 glass-mounted antenna for $75 (SRP $99). It looks a little funny, but I wanted to preserve my beautiful black paint--the other option was the Terk SR-2 roof-mounted antenna. The main advantages of the Pioneer unit are price and the fact that the unit is compatible with both our stock head unit and an IP-Bus-compatible unit (meaning 44 kHz, true digital sound if I upgrade the HU/stereo). The disadvantages of the unit are that the remote unit is wired rather than remote--it is therefore difficult to hide the unit, unlike the $299 Alpine XMA-T200RF Universal XM Satellite Radio, which has a wireless remote that can be hidden from crack addicts looking in your car, and that by using the FM modulation mode, we have 22 kHz sound. Don't get me wrong, 22 kHz is excellent, see below.

I had the unit installed at Circuit City, taking advantage of XM Radio's free install offer. I'm not sure whether the special is still present. Our TL's dash is a bit complicated to take apart, and I had to use the instructions on this site, and sent it to the installer. Installation proceeded smoothly from that point. Just to compare, my Acura dealer wanted $509 for equipment and installation of exactly the same setup I purchased--in fact, seeing the equipment at the dealer was what gave me the idea to put XM in my car.

After the unit is installed, it must be activated. There are two ways to do this: by the web site ($9.95 to activate) and by phone ($14.95). I used the web site. After activation, a signal is sent out every ten minutes for 2 days, and your unit must be on to receive the signal. It took me only 15 minutes after entering the info via the website to activate my radio.

I keep the remote unit velcro'ed to the bottom of the stock radio. The uninitiated (e.g. crack addicts) might think it's part of the stock radio. There are 6 preset buttons with which you can program up to 18 preset favorites. The main problem with this is choosing which 18 of the 116 channels to make your favorites. By pressing on the "display" button, you can see which channel, the channel number, the artist, and the name of the song you are listening to. You can use the arrow keys on the unit to choose a genre of music (e.g. "decades", "urban", "jazz", "news", etc.) or the actual channel number. It's best simply to choose some favorites so you don't have to continuously surf to get to your selected music. The unit is very easy to use if you do this.

The 22 kHz sound I have with the FM modulation mode is excellent, at least as good as a regular FM radio. I live in an area with XM repeaters, so I can listen to XM whether I'm downtown around tall buildings, or in underpasses. I recently traveled to Buffalo, NY and Niagara Falls, ON. Buffalo probably has no repeaters--even though there are very few tall buildings as compared to Cleveland, there were multiple dead spots leading to brief pauses in the music. On I-90 outside of urban areas, the signal was consistently strong and I had no interruptions in service. I was able to get service well into southern Ontario--I drove from Niagara Falls to Niagara-on-the-Lake without any loss in signal. I suspect I would be able to have a signal in Toronto. (Sorry Canadians--XM is not officially available in Canada yet, but I'm sure that will change soon.)

So was this unit worth it? Some days, I think I should have spent another $100 for the Alpine unit so I could hide the remote. Otherwise, I'm very happy so far both with the receiver and the service. Even in a top-20 metro like Cleveland, the choice of music is very limited. For example, there is no jazz station. Our public radio station plays jazz late at night, but that's about it. I can now listen to CNN while I'm in the car. There are comedy channels I can listen to when I need a laugh. In other words, the variety is wonderful and I think it's worth the $9.95/month is well worth it.

Hope you enjoyed the review!
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