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Sirius Satellite Radio still sounds awful after all these years

The Audiophiliac is finally ready to ditch his Sirius subscription, and it's not just Howard Stern's fault.

I've been a Sirius Satellite Radio subscriber for ages, but I'm ready to pull the plug. I still think some of the music and talk channels are pretty good, but the sound quality has always been iffy. The treble sounds like it's underwater; it "swishes" and sounds garbled. I got around that by playing Sirius over my Tivoli PAL table radio, and since the PAL doesn't have a tweeter it softens the sound enough to make Sirius less irritating. The Tivoli is also on the other side of the room, and that helps to mitigate the worse aspects of Sirius' heavily compressed sound. You might think that over the years Sirius would have tweaked the sound to make it a little more listenable, but no, it's still pretty crude.

Steve Guttenberg

That's not just my opinion; CNET Editor at Large Brian Cooley loved the sound of the high-end Naim Audio system in the $195,000 Bentley GTsports car he tested, but he thought the satellite radio's sound over that same system was "ghastly."

I recently switched over to Sirius streaming online, and it definitely sounds better, but not good enough to listen to it over my Emotiva airmotiv 4 desktop speakers. Yes, it's much improved over the broadcast satellite signal, but listening with the Emotivas just 28 inches from my ears there's still a harshness to Sirius' sound that's impossible to ignore.

Some of the better streaming radio stations, like WBGO and KCRW, played over the same speakers sound better. They're also free, so I've decided to pull the plug on Sirius and save $12.95 a month. I used to be a big Howard Stern fan, but I rarely listen to him on Sirius anymore. He sounds totally bored with his show, but this past week they played the best of the old shows when he was at the top of his game. That's ancient history now.

Do you listen to Sirius, and are you satisfied with the service? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.