I have been seeing many issues with sound quality of satellite radio in vehicles, and people's associated complaints. Some come from the fact that sat radio was installed by a dealer or electronics shop, while others come from the fact that most satellite radios these days are equipped with internal FM modulators so that initial installation is quick and easy, requires no car disassembly, and needs the fewest wires. Unfortunately, just like most other things, this is in the 'can't get something for nothing' category, and will put you squarely in sound quality hell.
For those of you that are unable, for whatever reason, or otherwise unwilling, to do a direct-wired satellite radio install (using RCAs and some combination of aux input/adapter or harness), I offer the following advice:
There has been some debate over whether the sound quality of FM modulator is better than cassette aux input adapter. After living with both for a while, the answer is unequivocally NO
. The cassette adapter sounds much better than both the wired FM modulator and wireless modulation into unused FM frequency, no question.
The wireless version of FM modulation, where your receiver is basically doing a local broadcast into your car radio, is pretty pathetic. I've heard the stories, but after trying it recently in both an RX300 and a 4Runner with factory radios and windshield antennas, it's obvious that it is horrendous. Vocal quality is poor, music sounds horrible and undefined, loads of interference, etc. It actually sounds quite a bit worse than other regularly broadcast FM stations on the rest of the dial, and I didn't think this was possible until I did these experiments.
I recommend the cassette solution to anyone that is currently using this method and actually has a cassette player in the headunit. It isn't the best either, but it is a LOT closer to the direct wired solution than the FM is. It is not subject to the same kinds of interference, so it is relatively quiet and less distorted. These days, the frequency response of a cassette deck tape head & electronics is not too bad. Try to use a good quality cassette adapter though, like Sony or Maxell. (Yeah, I know, I hate the wire coming out of the cassette deck, but.....)
Preference should be as follows, in sound quality order:
Best!!!: Direct-Wired audio input (RCA) - no modulation
Better!: Cassette-wired aux input adapter
OK: Wired FM modulator, direct into antenna line
Sucks: Wireless FM modulator, transmission thru air
Having said that, if you happen to already be using the wireless FM modulator, are having few or no problems, enjoy what you are listening to, and aren't willing to do any additional wiring, then by all means stick with it. Can also be OK if you listen to mostly talk radio.
The other thing that happens when only using the wireless FM modulator is that as you drive away from or into metro areas, a stronger station that appears on the previously-unused radio frequency that you were using will take over the airwaves, Sat radio will go away, and you'll then hear the new, usually unwanted (i.e. country
I have been hearing many (too many!) complaints about the Lexus dealer-installed Sirius systems. Most, if not all, are regarding the reception quality and muting. Here's the primary story:
When you go to a Lexus dealer to have Sirius installed, they will install a custom kit for Lexus vehicles in your car. This kit includes a triangular antenna that was made specifically for Lexus/Toyota, and it fits up next to your rear-view mirror, at the top of the windshield glass, on the INSIDE of your car. This antenna is not mounted in an optimum location to receive both satellites at all times, as a roof-mounted antenna can do. Due to the inherent geometry involved, the roof tends to block one or both signals at many angles and at many times of the day. This usually causes poor performance and more-than-average muting.
The solution to this problem is to have the installer use a roof-mounted antenna instead of the inside, windshield mount one. If it has already been installed, you can disconnect the existing triangular antenna from the receiver unit, then install a roof-mount one and plug it right in.
The roof-mount antenna is available at any Sirius dealer, including Best Buy & Circuit City, or on the Sirius website, www.sirius.com
, or on ebay. Price is about $30 to 40. The "dot" antenna works especially well.
That addresses the antenna problems with standard dealer installs. If your dealer, not being an electronics aficionado, also screws up the wire runs, grounding, or other parts of the install, that can also cause noise or other problems. Best thing to do is take it back, have them go over it again, or better yet, have an experienced installer check their work.