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Drew's Sirius One (SV1) Satellite Radio Receiver Review

Review By: Andrew B. Davidson - andrewdavidson/at\andrewdavidson/dom\com
Copyright © 2006 Andrew B. Davidson. All Rights Reserved.
Review Written: September 2006
Sirius One

I've had a Sirius One Satellite Radio Receiver (Model SV1) since January of 2006. I got it at Radio Shack for about $49.99. As of October 2006, it is available on Amazon.com for that same price Update Nov 2006: I've seen it at Amazon at the previous link for about $29.99.

The Sirius One is the most inexpensive Sirius satellite radio receiver. It is designed to be a car unit, and the kit I bought included everything necessary to start using it immediately in your car. It contains a head unit, antenna, and cigarette lighter power adapter, and a remote. The head unit is shaped similarly to a radar detector, with a small 12-character screen and a few buttons on the unit.

There are lots of full-fledged reviews of Sirius and the Sirius One on various review sites out there, so I won't go through the basic features and specs that are listed on dozens of sites. I just wanted to list my pros and cons to offer a different viewpoint, and to give the opinions of someone who actually used it. You may also want to read my review of Howard Stern and the Sirius satellite service itself. I cannot compare it to XM, which I have not tried. I wanted Sirius because of Howard Stern, and I suspect many more people will want Sirius in 2007 because they will be adding NASCAR.

Even though this is a car unit, I bought it to use in the house, so I cannot comment on using this unit in the car. You can use this unit in your house as long as you have a power adapter for plugging into regular AC wall power, because the power adapter that comes with the unit has a DC style cigarette lighter plug. As of October 2006, you can find these adapters for $5 at AllElectronics.com as Model PS-1205 Wall Charger For Cigar Plug Devices, 12V 500MA. This is the one I use and it works fine.

You may need to experiment to get good reception. I tried putting the antenna inside, in a window, but I was disappointed with the reception. I ran the wire through the window crack and mounted the antenna on the roof, facing skyward, and reception improved dramatically. I've had 6 bars (the maximum) 99% of the time. I think once or twice I had 4 bars out of 6.

When you first get the unit, you will likely experiment with getting good reception while listening to the one free Sirius channel 184, which is a combination weather and a Sirius preview channel. Sirius allows you this one free channel while you set up your radio prior to activation. When you get good reception, you can activate the radio over the web and it will download all of the channel information and then let you listen to any channel. Periodically, as channel updates occur, the radio will automatically download them, saying "Updating channels" as it does so.

The Sirius One has an FM transmitter in it that allows you to listen to the audio through the FM receiver in your car. I have used this to transmit audio throughout my apartment. However, it is not really suitable for anything more than very casual listening. I am not a big fan of this type of transmitter system because audio quality inevitably suffers. It's not really designed to transmit throughout an apartment so even someone walking between your radio and the transmitter can affect the reception. For maximum audio quality you will need a wire. The Sirius One has a standard 1/8" stereo audio output jack that can be routed to your stereo system or into your computer. Audio quality using this method is excellent. You may need to adjust your input levels if you run the signal into your computer.

The main feature I like about the unit is the channel preset buttons. I wanted a unit that I could get all set up, and then never have to fiddle with it again except to choose one of a few presets. There 5 main preset buttons on the unit, and those channels are accessible with one button press. I find that 5 presets are enough for me, and if I feel like variety I'll just channel surf. But there is a "band" system allows an additional 25 presets if you need more. Or you can just type in a number on the remote if you know the channel number.

I have had my unit on pretty much 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since January 2006. I think I turned it off a couple of weekends when I was out of town, but it has been on the rest of the time. I have never had any problems with reception, audio quality, or any other glitches with this unit. It does seem to run a little hot, so I mounted it so that it has airflow all around it just in case. It can be mounted upside down, with the buttons on the bottom, and simple configuration change flips the display.

You should check out the Sirius One SV1 User Manual / Documentation (PDF) for complete info. Many thanks to Sirius.com for posting these valuable documents.

Pros:

Small unit and small remote control. It is about the size of a radar detector.

Five preset buttons let you access your 5 favorite channels instantly without using the remote. And with the "Band" button, you have access to 5 more "bands" of 5 preset channels each, for a total of 30 presets.

You can surf for a new channel while continuing to listen to your current channel.

You can change the display so that while you are surfing, you can see the song playing, the artist, or the channel name. But since the display is only one line, you can't see all three at the same time.

Lots of buttons on the main unit so you usually don't need the remote. However I think that the remote is still necessary for certain configuration changes.

Uses its small screen to maximum effectiveness.

Cons:

Doesn't show the entire name of the channel, song title, artist, etc, so it has to scroll them. The display is only 12 characters. Unfortunately scrolling speed cannot be adjusted.

Runs a little hot. I have not had any heat issues that affect stability, but it is very warm to the touch.

Battery ran out on the remote pretty quickly. I didn't even bother replacing it because I used the remote so rarely.

If you used this unit in your car, you may want to have it professionally installed because there are a lot of wires that would be best hidden away somehow. Connected to the unit are the power cable, the antenna cable, and a wire that goes to your stereo system.

Hard-wired into your stereo is pretty much a requirement if you want decent audio quality.

Slight delay (about 1-2 seconds) for the audio to start when surfing to a new channel. I don't know if this is a general problem with satellite radio, but it makes channel surfing a little more irritating. Instant response would be better.

Conclusion

The Sirius One is a nice inexpensive Sirius satellite receiver. It can be used in your car, or in your home with a cheap AC/DC car adapter. If you plan on channel surfing often, you may be better off with a different unit that shows the entire artist/song title/channel name or that responds a little faster to channel changes. But if you are just using it to listen to a few different channels, it's a good choice. I recommend it for those just getting into Sirius who don't want to spend a lot of money on a higher-end radio.

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