Transmissions From The Satellite (Radio) Heart

Often the hardest thing to do in pop culture is to keep up with music. You can always catch up with new movies and TV shows, but finding new music is tough, which is why most people tend to settle in with a particular decade, leaving new music for "the kids."

Where do you find new music, especially if you like listening to the radio? Your local radio station is terrible — Top 40 is painful to listen to, DJs are annoying, the ads endless. Even in a city like Toronto, there are many stations, but little choice. Soft rock, classic rock, dance, country, meh. Unfortunately, I still love the format, the chance of discovering a new song, or hearing a new band.

When satellite radio was introduced I was intrigued — multiple, ad-free channels in all kinds of styles. It sounded ideal, but it was pricey and you'd only have it in your car or house, neither of which was enough play time for me to justify.

So when I was approached by Matchstick to review XM satellite's XMp3 player, I jumped at the chance. Portable satellite radio seemed like the answer to a lot of my concerns. For the most part, it has been.

The unit itself is small and lightweight, just slightly larger than an iPod Nano. Its reception has been great - I've only last contact while in the grocery store and in the subway (of course), but you need to get a separate adaptor for the car, which is a pain. The upside of downtime is the record function. Anytime you're listing to a song, there is a one-click button that will record it for playback later — like a PVR for the radio. I'm already collecting a nice mix in there.

The winner for me has been the station, Sirius XMU, which I think is a shared station with the merging (but not really in Canada) XM and Sirius satellite outfits. It is described as North America's indie rock station and I've picked up a couple of artists I'd never heard before (The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, The Virgins) and some I had but had never really listened to (MGMT, LCD Soundsystem). Not too shabby for a month of sporadic usage. In fact this has mostly replaced my iPod for that time, mostly because I was hankering to hear something new. Now if they would only add CBC Radio 3 to their lineup, we'd have a winner. Of course they do have 130 other channels, so there is bound to be something for everyone. If I had a remote interest in sports this would be a gold mine, or so I gathered when I showed it to a hockey-mad friend.

Anyway, it's a fun toy, but like any tech it comes at a price. The player is going for $199 and a month's subscription is another $14.99. Not cheap, but not horrific either. Depends on how much you want it.

As this was a marketing company that approached me, they of course have a survey. Knock yourself out.

More Canadian blogger reviews:
Toronto Mike
Sens Army Blog
NASCAR Ranting and Raving Blog
Nunc Scio
Top Cheddar
if the music's loud enough
Cloud9 Sports Blog


  1. I highly recommend channel 87, The Verge. All emerging Canadian artists, programmed here in the city by Kelowna Vincent and co.

    When you're in a retro mood, you also can't go wrong with 1st Wave (44). They pale in comparison to the older stations Fred, Ethel and Lucy that did the same thing with specific subgenre/era focus, but it's a solid option when you're looking for comfort food instead of a discovery engine...

  2. Thanks for the recommendations - I've been listening to The Verge. Not bad.