If you've decided to ditch AM and FM once and for all, sign up for satellite radio, and get the necessary gear, you still have some choices to make. Aside from the obvious decision--XM or Sirius--you must decide between an installed, car-only head unit or one of the transportable receivers that can be moved from car to home. That's where devices such as the Audiovox SIRPNP2 shuttle ($99.95 list) come in. This little pod requires a car or home docking kit or the boombox attachment before you can use it; we set up the home version for this review. The SIRPNP2 may not blend into your dashboard like a standard car stereo, but you don't need to pay an additional subscription fee to take it into the house.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.The podlike Audiovox SIRPNP2 module doesn't resemble a typical home audio component in the slightest, measuring just 5.2 inches wide, 3.4 inches high, and 1.9 inches deep. A large, easy-to-read, pale-orange display dominates the front panel, simultaneously showing the name, number, and category of the Sirius channel, as well as the current artist, song title, and time of day. The display is flanked by a channel selector knob and a rectangular category button that selects from a group of Sirius channels, or streams: Rock, Pop, Country, Hip-Hop, News, Entertainment, and so on. Ten preset buttons can be programmed for quick access to 30 streams. We found the controls intuitive and easy to use.
You can't do much with the Audiovox SIRPNP2 all by itself. It's designed to work in conjunction with the Audiovox boombox, the SIRCK1/SIRCK2 car audio kit, or the SIRHK1 home audio docking unit (each retails for $49.99). The home kit we used for this review included the SIRHK1 countertop docking station, which comes with an indoor/outdoor Sirius antenna, an AC power supply, and a stereo hookup cable. Like every other satellite tuner we've tested, the SIRPNP2 runs warm to the touch.
The SIRPNP2 and the SIRHK1 are sold in clear-plastic blister-pack cases that proved nearly impervious to ordinary scissors. We needed a solid five minutes to rip open each package. Audiovox could sell these things as workout devices.
The standard Sirius subscription rate is $12.95 per month, though the company offers lower-priced plans. Existing customers can add receivers to their accounts for a reduced rate. There's also a one-time activation fee. The SIRPNP2 features a satellite-updated real-time clock with an alarm, a sleep mode, and automatic shutdown. When we popped the Audiovox SIRPNP2 into the SIRBB1 boombox, we appreciated the SIRPNP2's automatic brightness control for the display; there's also a 10-level manual brightness and contrast control. The parental lockout option might come in handy for users who want to block the uncensored comedy and rap streams.
Connectivity options are bare-bones basic; a stereo 1/8-inch minijack analog output, a Sirius antenna jack, and a DC power jack are located on the docking station. A tiny but full-function remote control duplicates most of the SIRPNP2's front-panel controls. Before we could tune in any of the music or talk streams at home, we had to experiment to find the best spot for the small (2.5-by-3-inch) Sirius antenna. Optimal reception and antenna orientation will vary with your geography. For our Brooklyn, New York, listening room, we used a west window. Reception is a go/no-go event, but once you've found it, you'll never experience the noise or multipath distortion that so often plays havoc with FM radio reception.
We next ran a sound quality shoot-out with Kenwood's full-size home Sirius tuner, which, not surprisingly, trounced the Audiovox SIRPNP2. The home unit's sound is more detailed, with higher-definition bass. So if you don't need the SIRPNP2's portability or you care about sound quality, we recommend spending the extra $150 for the DT-7000S.
We also compared the SIRPNP2 with an XM Radio satellite receiver, the shuttle unit, mated to a home docking kit. Since both XM and Sirius offer Radio Disney, we used those streams to judge relative sound quality. Delph SkyFi's sound seemed slightly less digital--less like a low-bit-rate MP3 file. The XM receiver's stereo separation was also superior to that of the SIRPNP2.