The modularity of satellite radio devices is one of their chief benefits: that they are so simple to move from car to home and back again makes them accessible to a vast array of users. It's also nice to see that the hardware manufacturers that work within a particular service are open to offering interoperable devices, such as the Delphi Premium Sound System ($179.99), which will accept players from Audiovox as well as Delphi. This flexible portable boom box unit is a good option for XM subscribers who want a way to enjoy their music in a variety of settings.
The Delphi Premium Sound System (PSS) is about the size of your standard boom box--16 inches across, 7.5 inches high, and 6.5 inches deep at its fattest point (it's shaped rather like a crescent moon, if you're looking down on it)--so it's not really suitable for air travel. But it's highly appropriate for trips by car, such as to the beach, on a picnic, or camping. A handle folds out of the top, which makes it easy to transport between rooms or outdoors (if desired). The unit can be run off wall power via the included AC adapter, or it takes eight C batteries (not included), which will power the unit for approximately six to eight hours. A switch on the back of the PSS lets you choose which source to draw from.
The Premium Sound System is short on dedicated controls: buttons for adjusting volume and turning the bass-boost function on or off reside on the front of the unit under the player dock, and that pretty much covers it. There's no remote, so if you want to change channels or navigate in any way, you need to do it on the satellite radio player itself--unless of course the player came with a remote (our SkiFi3 test model did), in which case you can use that. The PSS includes dock adapters for the SkiFi3, the Roady XT, the MyFi, and the Audiovox Xpress, and you can purchase a separate adapter for use with the Pioneer Inno or Samsung Helix. Plus, the back of the unit offers an auxiliary line input, which means you can really use it with any audio device, even a standard MP3 player. There's also a headphone jack, which could come in handy if the PSS provides your only antenna outside the car and you need to listen to something without disturbing others.
The Premium Sound System comes with an internal antenna that can be accessed via a well-built, removable panel. Its 20-foot cable almost certainly ensures that you will get a strong signal, and the user guide includes instructions for aiming the antenna if you're not getting a strong-enough signal out of the box. If you still can't get good reception after adjustment, Delphi sells a couple of accessories (the XM Signal Repeater and a 50-foot antenna extension cable) that should help.
During testing at our downtown San Francisco location, we were able to get adequate reception without messing with the antenna at all. In general, our sound-quality experience with the Premium Sound System was quite good. With the bass-boost function enabled, the PSS provides enough thumping low end to satisfy most bass addicts. Still, the mids and highs are not overshadowed: the unit sounds rich, warm, crystal clear, and generally good across all genres of music. Our one complaint is that the PSS suffers from a light background hiss, even when playing from a high-quality MP3 player. However, this is a small price to pay for an otherwise great-sounding boom box with a portable design and flexible connection options.