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Satellite Radio Making Quality Sound For Consumers

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RALEIGH, N.C. — XM Satellite Radio promises all-digital sound and coast-to-coast reception without static or endless commercial interuptions. It is the first satellite radio service offered nationally.

Rick Gaudy, an XM Satellite Radio owner, likes what it offers.

"Selection, lots of channels to choose from, limited commercials. Most channels don't have any commercials at all," he said.

Consumer Reports

tested XM Satellite Radio, which offers 100 channels in areas such as sports, talk and music for $10 a month. Testers tallied up more than 100 hours on the road listening to it.

Testers found that the signal was good. It generally had a few signal dropouts that were less than a few seconds here and there. As

Consumer Reports

expected, there were dropouts in tunnels.

Testers found the sound quality was good at best, comparable to high-quality, static-free FM stations.

Consumers need a special unit to receive the XM signal. One model tested cost around $600 and replaces regular radio.

Consumer Reports

also tested two portable units from Sony.

The $400 device tested by

Consumer Reports

plugs into an existing radio, but the model had some interference from FM stations. The $300 portable unit tested by

Consumer Reports

plugs into a cassette player, which can limit the quality of the sound.

Prices include a special antenna that is needed to pick up the satellite signal.

Consumer Reports

said satellite radio is a good option for people who travel frequently or want more choices. Portable units can also be used at home, but require a special kit.

General Motors installed XM satellite radio in some Cadillacs this year, and it will add it to other models next year.

©2002 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. All rights reserved.