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Satellite Radio > What Do I Need For My Car?


What Do I Need To Have Satellite Radio In My Car?

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Radio has become indispensable in our cars. Whether stuck in rush hour traffic, or traveling long distances, your car audio system can entertain you for hours. But as broadcast radio has a seemingly endless stream of commercials, satellite car radio, with its commercial-free format and enhanced channel selection can be a great alternative.

With satellite radio, you need:

  • Equipment that will allow you to access to a specific satellite radio system
  • A subscription to a satellite radio service

Each satellite radio system - XM Radio or Sirius - has car sound equipment that is exclusive for their programming. Changing to a different system requires purchasing new equipment, so it is important to select the best system to start. See our section on finding out which system is best for you.

For your automobile, your choice is to either purchase an add-on system or an integrated component.

Add-on system

An add-on system, also referred to as 'plug and play' is adding a satellite radio receiver unit to your existing car audio system. This format involves installing a connection to your car stereo system which can be used by the satellite radio receiver. Once the connection is installed, you can plug the receiver into the docking station mounted in your vehicle whenever you want to listen in your automobile on your car sound system. There are several satellite radio receivers for XM Radio (such as the Delphi SKYFi series) and for Sirius (Sirius Sportster).

The drawbacks of this format are the look of the additional equipment and the quality of sound. As with any after-market installation, you will have a piece of equipment in your car's interior that may not look as good as you would like. To use your car stereo speakers, you will also have to tune your car's radio to a certain frequency to receive the satellite reception. You may experience a loss in sound quality.

An advantage to this approach is that the radio receiver can be removed and plugged into other systems, such as in your home or in a portable unit.

Integrated Component (Head Unit)

An alternative to the add-on system, you may want to replace your current car radio with a new component that allows for satellite radio reception. As expected, this is going to be more expensive, but the unit will have more of an appearance of 'belonging' in the vehicle, and the connection with the speakers will be direct, allowing for the best quality of car audio sound.

One disadvantage to an integrated solution is that you will not be able to use your satellite radio subscription anyplace other than in your car. The add-on system does not have that drawback, as the receiver unit can be removed and used in your home as well. For more information on portable satellite radio, see our section on what you need for portable satellite radio.

Also, if you have a high-end audio system already installed in your car - such as the Mark Levinson Audio System on Lexus - you may not want to replace that system.

How to Install Car Audio Equipment?

Once you have decided on the format, you will car stereo installation. Car audio equipment can be difficult to install so that it looks good and works well. Therefore, we recommend that you have a professional car audio installation expert do the work. A good car stereo dealer installation can be worth the expense as you are investing in the stereo equipment and will be paying for a subscription.

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