SiriusXM Satellite Radio (info for techies)

Caveat: this page contains a lot of technical information.
  1. If you live in a large urban community comprised of more than a million people then you are most likely being served from a TERRESTRIAL REPEATER. This means that 90% of the information below will be of little use to you.
  2. You do not need to know this stuff in order to use or enjoy your satellite radio. Continuing the "shortwave enthusiast" and "ham radio" traditions of yesteryear, this web page contains information targeted toward people wishing to investigate further. (Nerds + Technophiles)
Arthur C Clarke (inventor of the communications satellite)In his 1992 non-fiction book on telecommunications titled "How the World Was One" (notice the clever single word swap?), author Arthur C. Clarke wrote that radio since signals from above could not be jammed by repressive regimes and governments (as often happened in the short-wave radio spectrum), that satellite technology would promote democracy throughout the world. Clarke didn't mention "the internet" (1969) which was just trickling down to the general public at that time as the world-wide-web (1991), but some countries today are actively filtering internet content which means that satellite radio is still the preferred method for learning the truth. Satellite radio aside, North American democracy is in decline partly due to:
  • political suppression of "public broadcasters" like NPR (totally defunded by the US congress) and PBS (90% defunded by the US congress) to keep citizens uniformed. Meanwhile, right-wing interests in England (beginning with Rupert Murdoch) have managed to reduce funding for the BBC. Now both BBC America and BBC World Service pay the bills with commercial advertising (not sure about the BBC Home Service that only serves England). BREXIT is one example of what can go wrong when citizens are uninformed or misinformed
  • the consolidation of commercial news (main stream media):
    • In 1970, American news was published by ~ 45 companies (many of them family controlled); in 2012 this number has dropped to 6 (all controlled by corporations)
    • CNN seems to be the home of talking heads ("what's your opinion on FILL IN THE BLANK?" 5-non-experts give their 2-cents worth)
  • politically-biased news corporations (alternative media):
    • FOX NEWS, for example, has become the unofficial propaganda purveyor of the US Republican party; they are 10% news and 90% political commentary
    • MSNBC seems seems just as biased in the other direction
  • entertainment-news: people are dying all over the world while North America wastes time speculating about Hollywood minutia
  • internet news: here the information is generated so quickly that it is rarely checked for spelling, grammar or accuracy. The title "Internet Journalism" seems an oxymoron and I fear humanity will need another 20 years to get this information source anywhere near where newspapers were in 1960.
Since early 2006, the only factual news comes to me from international sources on my Sirius satellite radio. I think about Arthur C. Clarke every morning when I touch the power button.

 SiriusXM Links:

Canadian Sirius Signal CoverageCanadian Links:

    • Canadian snowbirds can now listen to CBC and BBC anywhere in the USA. Mexico and Caribbean
  • Optional Accessories from Canadian Sources
  • Sirius Satellite Radio - Repeater Map (Canadian cities visible on Northern US States)
    once there: click the PLUS sign to "zoom in" then left-click-hold your mouse to drag the map

American Sirius Signal CoverageAmerican Links:

 Satellite Technology

Animated Satellite Map
Three Sirius satellites loop through a figure-eight pattern over the western hemisphere, once every 24 hours. Two XM satellites are stationary over the North American equator. All satellites are considerably higher than this animation suggests.
Satellite News (2020)
Satellite News (2021)

 STARMATE-1 "Home Installation" Notes:

Siriius Starmate ST1 (Starmate 1)
  1. The following notes refer to my new (2006-02-xx) STARMATE-1 ST1C (a Canadian version of ST1).
  2. The SIGNAL STRENGTH meter did not work until after service activation (this is fixed in subsequent models)
    • Push MENU :: push DOWN ARROW four times to SIGNAL INDICATOR :: push SELECT
      • SAT - displays satellite signal strength
      • TER - displays terrestrial repeater signal strength
        • Only present in densely populated cities like Toronto, Montreal, New York, Los Angeles, etc.
        • Originally provided as an alternate signal source for vehicles driving between very tall buildings, under bridges, or through tunnels.
        • Your antenna does not require a view of the sky in Toronto because the terrestrial repeater is on the C. N. Tower
  3. As is true with all satellite equipment, antenna placement is very important and, the antenna should have an unobstructed line-of-sight path to the satellite:
    1. I started off using the Sirius Indoor-Outdoor Antenna (also known as Folding Windowsill Antenna) from the home-docking kit. Sirius documentation tells people in Southern Ontario to place the antenna into a West-facing window but, in my case, the signal strength meter never rose above level 3 bars (which I think is some sort of minimum display level because you never see 1 or 2)
    2. So I attached the antenna to then end of a 1-m (3-ft) wooden stick, then held it out of a second story window. This resulted in a level of 6 bars
    3. After that I partially inserted two hook screws side-by-side at the one third point (about 30-cm or 12-in) from the antenna end of the stick, then hung the stick (via the hook screws) from the rain gutter. The antenna was now sitting about 30-cm (12-in) above the rain gutter which resulted in a signal level of 8 bars
    4. The animated diagram above shows that an unobstructed antenna located in North East USA (or South East Canada) will receive satellite signals from the Southern Sky through to the North Western Sky. I live at the edge of a wooded lot where tall trees totally block my view of the southern sky. This means I must do everything possible to make sure my antenna has an unobstructed view of the remaining sky (West through to the North West).
    5. Technical side note: These radios operate in the frequency range of 2.32 GHz (gigahertz) which means the signal is beginning (because of its high frequency) to take on the characteristics of visible light (like not being able to going around corners or through wood; and being interfered with by atmospherics). For best reception the antenna must be able to clearly "see the satellite".
  4. I just (2006-03-xx) installed a Sirius Outdoor Home antenna which is directly compatible with my STARMATE-1 (I thought I might need an RG-58 to RG-174 conversion widget but this was not necessary). Note that all satellite radio antennas contain a built-in LNA (low noise amplifier) which are powered by your receiver so make sure that antennas without "a Sirius brand" do not overload your receiver's antenna power supply.
    "Sirius Outdoor Home" antenna with RG-6 cable
    1. This omnidirectional antenna seems to work best when:
      • Major effect: the "flat top" of the disk is parallel to the sky
      • Minor effect: the "bottom of the Sirius label" painted on the top of the antenna points toward the satellite figure-8 crossover point in Minnesota. I temporarily mounted my antenna on a pole with the disc parallel to the sky then rotated the pole until I had a rock solid signal of 10 bars. Depending upon your location in North America (see the AIM THE ANTENNA charts above) you may need to rotate your antenna to a different location.
      Quote from the installation instructions: For correct operation and best reception of the SIRIUS signal, it is important that the outdoor antenna is located in a place where it will have a clear view of the SIRIUS satellites in the sky. Obstructions such as bushes, trees, other homes or buildings, overhangs, soffits, chimneys, gables, dormers, etc., will impair or prevent the antenna from receiving the signal. The best reception is obtained if the pod (disk) portion of the antenna (where the SIRIUS logo is printed) has a clear 360 degree view of the sky within an inverted cone shaped area shown in the instructions (or imagined) here. 
    2. I did not want to drill any holes into the exterior of my residence so I used two pieces of scrap lumber to manufacture a small wooden "T". The inverted "T" is lying flat on the roof with the horizontal portion of the "T" (a 24 inch 2-by-4) positioned in the rain gutter. The antenna is fixed to the vertical end of the inverted "T" (a 36 inch 1-by-2).
      • Now I measure 10 bars 100% of the time.
      • Okay so I'm in Canada and the antenna was totally covered with snow one morning in 2014. No big deal; I just fastened a 12 inch 1-by-2 to the end of the inverted "T" so the antenna can poke through the snow.
    3. This same product in 2012 employs an RG-6 connector and cable
Partial Antenna Chart
Description Antenna
SIR3 Magnetic Roof Mount
for Cars
  36 dB 170 mA
  1. Included with STARMATE ST1 and STARMATE ST1C (Canadian)
Sirius Indoor-Outdoor
(a.k.a. Folding Windowsill)
"Sirius Indoor/Outdoor" Window antenna with RG-174 cable and SMB plug   36 dB 170 mA
  1. Included with STARMATE home kit described below
  2. comes with 20 foot (6 m) RG-174 cable and SMB plug
  3. Good enough for large communities employing a TERRESTRIAL repeater
  4. usually works on a beach
Sirius XM Universal

previously known as:
Sirius Outdoor Home
"Sirius Outdoor Home" antenna with RG-58 cable 1 dBiC 42 dB 160 mA
  1. This LNA is 4 times more powerful than 36 dB models
    • remember that each 3 dB is a doubling
    • 42 dB - 36 dB = 6 dB
    • 6 dB / 3 dB = 2 doublings or 4 times
  2. connector + cable specs for 2006 version (Sirius branding)
  3. Highly Recommended for residential use
  4. connector + cable specs for 2012 version (Sirius XM branding)
  5. I get 10 out of 10 bars 100% of the time.
SIR4 Trunk/RV Clip Mount   36 dB ?
  1. looks similar to SIR5 Marine antenna
SIR5 Marine Antenna   36 dB 170 mA
  1. looks similar to SIR4 Trunk/RV antenna
SIR6 Home 1 dBiC 42 dB 165 mA
  1. This LNA is 4 times more powerful than 36 dB models
    • remember that each 3 dB is a doubling
    • 42 dB - 36 dB = 6 dB
    • 6 dB / 3 dB = 2 doublings or 4 times
SIR-EXT50 50 foot Extension   10 dB ?
  1. Includes a 10 dB inline amplifier
Shakespeare SRA-40 Marine
? ?
  1. replaces SRA-30
Shakespeare SRA-30 Marine   36.5 dB 140 mA
  1. replaced by SRA-40
STH1C (Canadian)
STARMATE Home Kit   n/a n/a Contains:
  1. Sirius Indoor-Outdoor Home Antenna
  2. "120 Volt AC" to "12 Volt DC" power adapter
  3. bookshelf docking stand
  4. single mini-jack to dual RCA jack audio cable
  5. Highly Recommended for home use
  6. Only used with first generation receivers (e.g. Starmate-1)
SUPH1C (Canadian)
STARMATE Home Kit   n/a n/a


  1. Sirius Indoor-Outdoor Home Antenna
  2. "120 Volt AC" to "5 Volt DC" power adapter
  3. bookshelf docking stand
  4. single mini-jack to dual RCA jack audio cable
  5. Highly Recommended for home use
  6. Used with modern receivers (Starmate-2 and higher)
Splitter   n/a n/a
  1. Required to connect newer antennas to older receivers
  2. One plug is labeled SAT while the other is labeled TER
DBS Combiner/Splitter Combiner/Splitter   n/a n/a
  1. Required if you want your Sirius external antenna to share the wire used by your existing satellite TV.
  2. Contains connectors for RG-6 and RG-58.
Pixel Pro-500 Antenna Very High Gain Antenna 12 dBi 35.5  ?
  1. This high gain antenna produces 12 dBi (5 dB more than standard antennas). Since the built-in LNA provides 35.5 dB of gain, the resultant signal strength is 47.5 dB
  2. Caveat: this antenna is "highly directional" so should only be installed by professionals
Pixel Pro-600 Antenna High Gain Antenna  8.5 dBi   ?
  1. A little smaller than the Pro-500 but the up-down-rotate mounting means you will have little difficultly pointing this unit.
  2. I think the mostly metal design may survive extreme temperature swings a little better than the all-plastic "Sirius Outdoor Home" or "Sirius XM Universal" described above.
  3. The output from this device is RG-6 but an adapter is included.
    Caveat: Be sure you purchase from a reputable vendor: there are reports of "some" amazon resellers and ebay vendors opening the boxes then selling the con

  1. So for now it looks like I must operate my STARMATE from a second floor office but I've still got a problem since my stereo is on the first floor. So here are two possible options:
    1. enable the "FM transmitter" option on the STARMATE selecting an FM frequency that is relatively quiet in your community, then tune your stereo to the same spot
      • you may need to tack on a single 50 cm (20 inch) wire to the antenna screw of your FM receiver.
      • if your STARMATE is located some distance from your stereo -and- your signal is weak, you may need to buy a short external FM transmitter antenna (these cost about $6.00). In a bind, you can make one by locating an old mono earphone jack from a 1960s transistor radio. Cut off the ear piece then separate the two plastic wires (discard the wire going to the plug sheath which corresponds to ground). The ideal length is 76 cm (20 inches).

                Maximum Frequency Calc for FM   : 107 MHz
                Speed of Light (er, radio waves): 300,000,000 m/s (in a vacuum)
                Quarter wave calc for 98 MHz    : 300/107/4 = 0.70 m (27 in)

      • in rarer instances you may not find a quiet location on your FM dial so may need to purchase an external third party FM transmitter. (mandatory for college dorms)
    2. purchase SIR-EXT50 which will add a 50 foot (15 m) extension to your antenna wire. Since we're using frequencies in the neighborhood of 2.32 GHz (2,320 MHz) it is not wise to rig up a DIY (do-it-yourself) extension unless you've got prior experience in this area. Also, a short circuit on the antenna line can damage the antenna power supply in your radio.

      Starmate 4Some Common Uses Of The Radio Frequency Spectrum:
      Frequency Use
      530-1650 KHz AM Radio
      27 MHz Walkie-Talkies, Garage Door Openers, etc.
      54-72 MHz NTSC (analog) TV - VHF channels 2-4
      76-88 MHz NTSC (analog) TV - VHF channels 5-6
      88-108 MHz FM Radio
      174-216 MHz NTSC (analog) TV - VHF channels 7-13
      470-890 MHz NTSC (analog) TV - UHF channels 14-83
      2.320 GHz Sirius + XM radio
      2.450 GHz Microwave Ovens
      2.4 GHz 802.11 b
      802.11 g wireless internet (wi-fi)
      2.4 / 5.0 GHz 802.11 n wireless internet (wi-fi)
      5.0 GHz 802.11 a wireless internet (wi-fi)
      10 GHz 1010 Radar
      Satellite TV Services:
       10-18 GHz - Ku Band
       18-26 GHz - K Band
       16-40 GHz - Ka Band (a.k.a. K3 Band)
      100 GHz 1011 (microwaves)
      1 THz 1012 (far infra-red)
      10 THz 1013 (thermal infra-red)
      100 THz 1014 (infra-red)
      1 PHz 1015 (visible light)
  2. 2006-xx-xx "Sirius Outdoor Home" Info:
    1. "Sirius Outdoor Home" antenna with RG-58 cableElectrical power: 160 ma (supplied by your radio)
    2. Gain: 42 dB
    3. Antenna connector: Female SMA (tiny hex cap)
    4. Cable connector at antenna end: Male SMA (tiny hex cap)
    5. Cable Type: RG-58
    6. Cable connectors at receiver end: both SMB (required by your radio)
  3. 2012-xx-xx "Sirius XM Universal Outdoor Home" Info:
    1. Electrical power: 160 ma (supplied by your radio)
    2. Gain: 42 dB
    3. Antenna connector: Female F-connector
    4. Cable connector at antenna end: Male F-connector
    5. Cable Type: RG-6 (various lengths: 25 f, 50 f, 100 f)
    6. Cable connector at receiver end: Male F-connector
    7. Comes with model: SRS-2VB splitter (all female F-connectors)
    8. Comes with two RG-174 jumper cables: RG-6 Male to SMB (required by your radio)
      Note: you can purchase these jumpers separately for about $10.00 each
  4. More info about the STARMATE ST1 and ST1C
    1. this is a sophisticated digital computer device that can simultaneously receive signals from 2 of 3 satellites and 1 terrestrial ground station
    2. buffered audio will play for approximately 7 seconds after removing the antenna connector
    3. reinstalling the antenna connector will cause audio to return in 2 seconds
    4. It appears that the STARMATE is always trying to stuff the digital output buffer with time-tagged content from various sources so the listener never (or almost never) experiences a signal loss as happens when driving under a highway overpass.


Starmate 4I just added this second radio (for my office) to my Sirius account:

  1. Starting with STARMATE-2, all radios have a single docking port on the bottom so they can be more easily transferred between the vehicle base, home base, or boom box. All cables now mate with the docking base rather than the radio body.
  2. Larger cool-blue display can be seen at high noon
  3. Signal strength meter now works before activation
  4. Three rows of ten preset buttons (rather than five rows of six buttons). First press the Dog Button then use the ten buttons to directly enter a channel number. Note that this "random access" functionality was only possible on the STARMATE 1 via the remote control. 
  5. includes a vehicle-base for mounting in your car/boat/RV
  6. includes a mini (2.5 inch) antenna for the FM transmitter
Cons (STARMATE-2 and higher):
  1. I also purchased the optional Plug & Play Home Kit (SUPH1C) and noticed that there is no antenna jack for the FM transmitter on the home-docking base. The only way to connect it to your home stereo is by the supplied audio cables.
    (more on this in the next section labeled FCC Part-15 Devices below)
  2. So I used the power adapter from the Home Kit along with the vehicle-docking base which does have an FM transmitter antenna jack. The built-in FM transmitter in the STARTMATE-4 is five times weaker than that of the STARTMATE-1 which means that the maximum distance between your STARTMATE-4  and your FM radio has dropped from 5-m (30-ft) to 2-m (6-ft). This means that the built-in FM transmitter is virtually unusable in urban areas. This change is by design.
    (more on this in the next section labeled FCC Part-15 Devices below)
  3. The only way around this is to use the supplied audio cables to directly connect to a stereo, or purchase a third party FM radio transmitter (great for college dorms). Click here for a short list: Third Party Transmitters
  4. It might make more sense to buy a boom box rather than the Plug & Play Home Kit. The boom box comes with a folding windowsill antenna, audio cables, and A. C. power adapter.
    Caveat 1: Make sure you've got a boom box and eight fresh D-cells for the next power outage. During the Northeast Blackout of 2003, most radio, TV, and cell phone transmitters went offline but the uplinks to those Sirius satellites kept on ticking. This might be your only link to the human race.
    Caveat 2: In a pinch, you will always be able to power your radio from you car but you'll need a really long power cable to enjoy the radio closer to your fireplace

 Using a Sirius Boom Box to survive a residential power loss

Starmate 4 with universal-docking Boom BoxBack in 2008 I purchased a Sirius Boom Box for use on the beach in Cancun, Mexico. When I returned from that vacation I continued to use the Boom Box in my home office. I didn't bother removing the eight D-cells (batteries) but did use the supplied AC power adapter.

Now for some reason I don't fully understand, residential power in 2009 is way worse than when I was a kid, and a few 2009 interruptions have averaged an hour. The outage of 2009-July-11 lasted 50 minutes while the 2009-August interruption lasted 5 hours. Whenever it happens you never know if the outage is local, city wide, or across the whole system as happened in 2003 when 55 million were driven into the dark, many for more than 24 hours. In the 2003 case, local radio stations as well as CELL PHONE towers eventually depleted their emergency backup power so even listening to your car AM-FM radio or listening with a portable patio radio wouldn't help. The only thing we can rely on today is that Sirius-XM satellite system orbiting overhead.


  1. When commercial or residential power fails, you've got to unplug the AC adapter from the Boom Box in order to activate the internal D-cells
  2. When power has restored, remember to plug in your AC adapter ASAP so that your batteries will not continue to discharge
  3. Always keep a fresh pack of batteries available for the next "big one"
  4. MH-C808M 8-cell battery charger
    Thinking that fresh rechargeable D-cells may be more more environmentally friendly than traditional batteries (and perhaps cheaper in the long run), I decided to purchase a recharger from eBay. Make sure you look for deals because I found this brand new 8-cell model for only $80. The model name is MH-808M and it is capable of simultaneously recharging any combination of 8 cells. AAA, AA, A, C, D.
  5. Make sure sure you are careful when shopping for rechargeable batteries. I saw prices as high as "two for $35" but as low as "eight for $48". The power rating is important as well. They are all 1.5 volts but have different current-over-time specs. For example, I saw low numbers like 2500 mAh (2500 milliamps per hour -OR- 1 milliamp for 2500 hours) and higher numbers like 10,000 and 12,000. Higher is better.

Newer Radio Anomalies (2020)

Sirius Stratus-5 in older boom box
Sirius Stratus-5
(in older boom box)
Sirius Stratus-7
SiriusXM Stratus-7
(blue illuminated buttons)
"I think" I have just stumbled onto a compatibility problem.
  • "I believe" the older boom box pictured above has slowly damaged two new-style all-black-plastic radios
    Sirius Starmate-5 Model SV5C Power but is RED (on or off)
    All other buttons are WHITE
    SiriusXM Stratus-7 Model SV72C Power button in RED when on; WHITE when off)
    All other buttons are blue when on; WHITE when off
  • Both radios still appear to work but the SIGNAL INDICATOR shows zero on both the SAT and TER displays.
  • The Starmate-5 worked for several months then just stopped receiving signals.
  • So I purchased a replacement Stratus-7 from but it failed the same way within ~ 6-weeks.
    • comment: I told the agent I was using a boom box but I did not know that there were newer models (and if I did I would have assumed they all had similar electrical specs)
  • Then I purchased a replacement Starmate-4 from and it is working perfectly
"Sirius Outdoor Home" antenna with RG-6 cable


  • I have always used a higher-gain outdoor antenna (pictured to the right). At first I suspected that I was overloading the RF input stage of these newer radios but why would that affect the signal from the TERESTRIAL repeater (unless they share the some common components).
    BWT, I usually see 3-bars on my TER display so have no idea why 0-bars were visible when I took this photo. Also, the antenna was replace last year after more than a decade of service.
  • So is the older boom box sending a slightly hotter power to the radio than the internal power regulator can deal with? Not Sure. But if you buy a newer radio then you might wish to consider a newer boom box or docking station (I just noticed a cool blue-tooth docking station that I might order sometime soon)

Update (2020-05-12)

  • I swear to you that the Stratus-5 appeared dead when I replaced it with the Stratus-7 which worked immediately (so my problem has nothing to do with the antenna or RG-6 cable). But I just tried the Stratus-5 (which has been sitting in a drawer for ~ 6-weeks) and it now appears to be working. I wonder what the hell is happening here.

 Sirius Synergi Internet Radio (Canadian)
 Sirius Tabletop Internet Radio (American)

Oops. As of February-12, 2013, SiriusXM Canada will charge you an additional $48 per year for this "once-free" benefit. To make matters worse, they terminated this service in the middle of my paid-up annual subscription.

Sirius Internet RadioIf you are tired transporting your portable Sirius radio between your car and home (or car and office) then consider buying a Sirius Internet Radio

Product Name Product Number Notes
Sirius Synergi Internet Radio TTR1C only works with Canadian Sirius accounts
Sirius Tabletop Internet Radio
SiriusXM Tabletop Internet Radio
TTR1 only works with American Sirius accounts


  • Comes with a remote control (not shown)
    •  to ease initial setup
    • to change channels or volume from across the room
  • Two Front Dials
    • Large = VOLUME
    • Small = TUNE (Push = menu SELECT)
  • Dimensions: 18.50 cm high x 28.25 cm wide (7 1/4 inches high x 11 1/4 inches wide)
  • Weight: 2.85 Kg (6.3 pounds)
  • A.C. powered (a real A.C. plug, not a junkie-looking wall-wart like you see with computer peripherals)
  • requires a high-speed (not dialup) internet connection. Connect via either "Ethernet Cable" or "Wi-Fi"
    • Ethernet Cable (old-school internet connection)
    • Wi-Fi (good if you've got a Wi-Fi source in your home or office; many people will have one built into their DSL router, cable router, or internet access point)
  • works in conjunction with a paid-up active Sirius subscription
    • if you already have a radio subscription, then one streaming internet access is already enabled for you at no extra charge
    • if you do not have a radio subscription and don't want one, you can still purchase a subscription, use internet streaming now, then add a free satellite radio whenever you change your mind
  • Other features:
    • Lineout jack allows a connection to a stereo or home theatre
    • Headphone jacks on the left-hand side
    • When used as a bed-side clock radio:
      • two ALARM buttons on the front.
      • press the recessed button on the top surface to choose when the radio will auto-shut off (in mostly 15 minute increments) while you drop off to sleep.
      • when set to auto, the display will dim when when the room light drops (e.g. turning off a lamp)
    • This Sirius Internet Radio may solve other problems. Why? Consider this: If you live in a city with no TERRESTRIAL REPEATER (usually communities with a population below one million), then you may have some difficulty using your satellite radio from within an apartment or condo. Condo units where the Satellite Radio Antenna has a direct line-of-sight view to the Sirius satellites (see the first three charts on this page) will have no problems. But if you live on the opposite side of the building, or if your building is in the satellite shadow of a nearby building, you will have problems.

First-time set-up is child's play (and only takes a few minutes):

  1.  Choose "Network Wizard" or "Wired" or "Wireless" from the setup menu
    • If Wired: choose DHCP or manual
    • If Wireless: input your Wi-Fi security codes (only required if Wi-Fi security is enabled which it usually is not)
    • If Wizard: just follow the prompted instructions
  2. Wait for your unit to go online (it will autoset the clock; you need to set the timezone)
  3. At this point my unit asked for permission to do a firmware upgrade. I agreed which took 30 seconds.
    I'm not sure what was downloaded by the logo in the display changed from Sirius to SiriusXM :-)
  4. Input your Sirius account username and password
  5. Sit back and enjoy (Big Dial is VOLUME; Small Dial is TUNE; Push the Small Dial to SELECT a menu item)
  6. Optionally, program your presets

 "FCC Part-15 Devices" and the "NAB Report to the FCC"

The NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) is a Washington DC based lobby group attempting to protect the business interests of terrestrial radio and television broadcasters. These businesses were (understandably) upset by competition from next-gen devices like iPods, MP3 Players, and Satellite Radios which are able to rebroadcast the their content to nearby FM radios. In 2006, the NAB commissioned a study of these devices and determined that 85% of them violate what the FCC has labeled "Part 15" devices. On average, the radios produced signals 5 times hotter than the legal limit. The NAB turned over this report to the FCC who, in turn, notified radio manufacturers that they needed to reduce the output power of their FM signals. This is why the Starmate-1 (ST1) FM Transmitter is 5 times hotter than the Starmate-4 (ST4).

Sportster Replay"
Sirius "Sportster Replay" (old)
Notice the built-in FM transmitter antenna (20 gauge wire) which travels around the outside then is soldered to a point on the upper right just beside the silver crystal.
Sirius "Sportster Replay" (new) Notice that the FM transmitter antenna wire is missing. Also, this is a slightly different circuit board (ignore component color but notice components size and position at lower right) so there could be other differences not visible in this photo like resistor values or firmware parameter settings. I wonder what the red dot on the CPU means?
Sirius "Sportster Replay" (old) Sirius "Sportster Replay" (new)

So what should you do?

Location Possible Solutions
Vehicle Satellite Radio companies and the FCC do not want you driving down the road with an over-powered FM transmitter which could annoy FM listeners in other cars.
  1. get a car kit which will allow you to directly connect to your car radio audio input (best quality)
  2. get a car relay kit which will allow you to directly connect to your car radio antenna
  3. listen to your satellite radio on cheap PC speakers (plug them into the head phone jack) or boom box
  4. buy an after-market FM Transmitter (you will annoy others up to 150 ft)
  5. use the built-in FM Transmitter (probably not realistic in urban areas)
Satellite Radio companies and the FCC do not want you blasting an over-powered FM signal to other near-by radios.
  1. listen to your satellite radio on cheap PC speakers, or head phones, or a boom box
  2. use audio cables to directly connect to a stereo (best quality)
  3. buy an after-market FM Transmitter (you will annoy others up to 150 ft)
  4. use the built-in FM Transmitter
Home Since it is unlikely that you will radiate a signal over 46 m (150 ft) you can do just about anything you want
  1. use audio cables to directly connect to a stereo (best quality)
  2. buy an after-market FM Transmitter (can broadcast up to 150 ft)
  3. use the built-in FM Transmitter
College Dorm Since it is likely that your college buddies will want to listen to your radio, take up a collection then...
  1. buy the most powerful after-market FM Transmitter (you will probably please others)
  2. use audio cables to directly connect to a stereo (best quality)
  3. listen to your satellite radio on cheap PC computer speakers, or head phones, or a boom box
  4. use the built-in FM Transmitter

 Third Party FM Transmitters

caveat: these widgets seem to have fallen out of favor in 2020 as Bluetooth interfaces become more popular

  • Important Notes:
    • When considering transmitters outside of the FM band, these are the legal power limits:
      • USA   : 025 mW (0.025 Watts)
      • Canada: 100 mW (0.100 Watts)
    • But since field strength can be changed by antenna geometry, the FCC regulates the FM band by measuring field strength at a distance of three meters making sure the signal doesn't exceed 250 uV (microvolts) per meter
    • Do not be tempted by lure of illegal high-powered transmitters. The main reason why low-powered models sometimes disappoint is because the volume control driving the transmitter is set too low (which means the carrier wave receives low, or no, modulation). In the STARMATE-1, the internal FM transmitter is modulated by the much larger audio signal connected ahead of the volume control. 
    • this HLLY transmitter features a 500mw (0.5 watt) FM transmitter which probably is not legal under FCC Part-15
    • features a metal case (will reduce hum and feedback) and digital display
    • this website is in Texas but the product is manufactured in China
    • these HLLY transmitters feature transmitter powers of: 0.2W, 0.5W, 1.0W, 5.0W, etc.
    • despite the website hype, I don't see how anything over 0.025W is legal under FCC Part-15
    • this website is in Texas but the product is manufactured in China
    • The FM25B features a 25mW transmitter and is FCC Part-15 Compliant
    • Supports all even and odd frequencies from 88.1 to 107.9 MHz via 12 DIP switches
    • I own this product and can tell you that it makes the useful distance of a Starmate-4 equal to that of a Starmate-1
    • this is a kit requiring soldering skills.
      • Manual without schematic:
        (the paper manual inside the kit does contain a complete schematic on page 34)
      • Since HeathKit is now just an educational products company, it is nice to know that some companies still sell kits just for the fun of doing-it-yourself. Do any of you hardware hackers from the 1960s remember building a HeathKit Color TV, signal generator, oscilloscope, or Heathkit H8 Computer?
      • Some companies (like HobbyTron on the next hyperlink) are selling preassembled units. Many smaller proprietors are selling preassembled transmitters on eBay.
    • - more AM and FM kits
    • The FM25B features a 25mW transmitter and is FCC Part-15 Compliant
    • Supports all even and odd frequencies from 88.1 to 107.9 MHz via 12-DIP switches
    • this is not a kit
  • (Do It Yourself)
    • lots of kits and plans
    • links to other locations if you don't want to build a transmitter from scratch
    • this is a radio kit supplier located in Bradford, United Kingdom.
      (Visit their website to hear a very enticing background audio)
  • - V6000 FM Transmitter
    • is FCC Part-15 Compliant
    • can be used in a car or house
    • features a cool looking LCD display
    • is FCC Part-15 Compliant
    • can be used in a car or house
    • features a cool looking LCD display
  • - Whole House Transmitter
    • is FCC Part-15 Compliant
    • can be used in a car or house
    • only supports six FM frequencies from 106.7 MHz to 107.9 MHz which are set by 3-DIP switches

 Using "Sirius Satellite Radio" in Cancun, Mexico. (2006-05-xx)

(click here for the much shorter text associated with my 2008 visit)

I just returned from a vacation on the Mayan Riviera (Playa del Carmen) with my wife and our Sirius "STARMATE STC1 radio". We brought along the radio as an alternative to late-night and early-morning TV viewing but ended up using it 90% of the time. Here are some amusing things that happened to me and hopefully will help you.

  • Applying power
    • You should not see 220 volt receptacles in Mexico but since the power supply that came with my "STARMATE Home Kit" is rated for an input range of "110 to 240 Volts AC", you probably do not need to worry about a blow out.
    • FOREIGN TRAVEL ADAPTER - 2738027Even though Mexican power in Cancun is 110 volts AC, many of the hotels are wired with the European-style wall sockets (plugs require "two round electrodes" rather than "two flat electrodes" which is standard in Canada and the USA). Fortunately, I had purchased a flat-to-round adapter from "The Source by Circuit City" for $10.00 before we left Canada. Here is their online catalog information should you decide to do the same:
              FOREIGN TRAVEL ADAPTER - CONTINENTAL EUROPE - 2738027 Note that Radio Shack sells the same product at the same price but with Catalog Number: 273-1447
    • Note: Some hotel sockets will accept both round and flat electrodes but are recessed into a pocket which is too small to physically accept the already-small power adapter (could this be a hotel safety precaution?). You will need some kind of mechanical extension to get around this so it is a good idea to pay the 10 bucks and be better prepared
  • Connecting the antenna
    • We were placed in suite with a beautiful view of the Caribbean sea (click here to see the location). Unfortunately this "East by South East" view only allows our antenna to "see" one satellite at a time, and then only when it is approaching Mexico from South America (see the animated satellite map above for details). It was the worst possible satellite-radio location since Sirius instructions said we should be pointing the antenna to the North-West. Using an el-cheapo "Sirius Indoor-Outdoor antenna" I was not able to detect any signal from the the balcony of our suite. However, there were at least two other options immediately available:
      1. The wooden top (where the braches come together) of a palm tree was parallel to our balcony railing and was only 3 m (10 ft) away. The  "Sirius Indoor-Outdoor antenna" comes with a 6 m (20 ft) cable and I knew I could probably throw the antenna module into the tree and have at least 3 m (10 ft) remaining to get inside the room. I didn't want to annoy anyone with my antics at this time so I decided to keep the "palm tree option" as my option of last resort.
      2. We also happened to be located on the top floor of a 3 floor resort with a stone-tile-roof overhang (if this tile was laid over a metal base than this was probably part of my reception problem). I flipped the antenna up onto the stone-tile-overhang and a solid signal immediately snapped in. I left the antenna on the tile roof for the next 7 days and the plastic never melted despite maximum air temperatures of 33 C (92 F) and direct sunlight.
        Humorous postscript: prior to our Saturday check out, I discovered that the antenna wire was snagged between two pieces of stone-tiles. I didn't want to take the chance of either breaking the wire or loosening a tile so I borrowed a broom from the maid and had the wire un-snagged in less than 2 seconds.
  • External Speaker Required :-)
    • I had mistakenly assumed that each room would be equipped with an FM Radio through which I could play my STARMATE-1 (which everyone knows was designed for use inside an automobile, truck or RV). Well, there was no in-room radio, and we didn't bring one along, so there were only three options remaining:
      1. only use headphones (not cool when sharing a room with another person)
      2. purchase a cheap FM radio for use in the room (we arrived late so I couldn't try this immediately)
      3. use the TV (this procedure is for techies only)
        • remembering that the video portion of NTSC television employs AM (amplitude modulation) while the audio portion of television employs FM (frequency modulation), all I needed to do was get the Sirius signal into the TV.
        • also remembering that a mid-band gap exists between channel 6 and 7 (channel 6 ends with 88 MHz while channel 7 starts with 174 MHz) I realized that channel 6 would be my only hope.
          For Techies Only: Most techies already know that the video (AM) portion of channel 6 starts at 80 MHz while the audio (FM) portion ends closer to 88 MHz. Also, there is a lot of slack engineered into these analog tuners so we should be able to directly use the Sirius signal without resorting to using some harmonic approach to get these lower frequencies into the higher TV channel.
        • this newer style TV did not have a tuner but was sitting on a thin plastic hardware base connected to a LodgeNet free/pay-per-view hotel system. Since the "remote control" changes the channel of the LodgeNet black box, I needed to run a wire from the antenna jack of my STARMATE-1 directly to the input of the LodgeNet and then use the remote control to set the channel to 6. If you can't see what you are doing then just locate the coaxial cable coming from the wall and disconnect it.
        • I had brought a home-made dipole antenna which is nothing more than two 1.5 m (5 ft) wires connected to an old 3/16 inch earphone plug. I decided to break off one of the wires in order to extend the other one so it would conveniently reach the LodgeNet black box.
        • I set the "FM Transmitter Frequency" of the STARMATE to 88.1 MHz, turned on the TV then changed the channel to 6 (you need to do this every time you power-up the TV). Bingo! Sirius radio playing through the TV.
    • Note: this is going to be too much of a pain every time so we'll definitely take a portable FM radio with us on our next trip.
  • Enjoying the Signals
    • now we had daily access to our favorite channels:
      CBC Radio One, BBC World Service, NPR Now, BBC Radio 1, Howard-100, Bubba
      I'll go mental if I don't hear "Quirks and Quarks" on CBC or "Science Friday" on NPR
  • Summary
    • avoid all this audio-output hassle by making sure you take an FM Radio with you
    • alternatively, travel with a cheap set of computer speakers. All STARMATE radios can drive PC speakers directly from the AUDIO OUT Jack.
    • ask the hotel for a room with a balcony opening to the North (or North-East), or a top floor, or both. For other locations, check the animated map above.
    • buy a portable Sirius boom-box for the balcony or beach

 Using "Sirius Satellite Radio" in Cancun, Mexico. (2008-10-xx)

I just returned from a vacation on the Mayan Riviera (Playa del Carmen) with my wife and our Sirius "STARMATE ST4 radio". We brought along the radio as an alternative to late-night and early-morning TV viewing but ended up using it 90% of the time.

  • General Use
    • This time I was better prepared and so brought along a Sirius boom box (purchased online for half price) for use on the beach (the STARMATE ST4 just docks in a little receptacle).
    • The boom box can be powered by eight batteries (D-cells) or domestic power in the range of 110-220 Volts AC
    • Bring along headphones if you don't want to disturb others.
    • The TV in our room had audio jacks in the front so we could play the STARMATE through the TV or just use the Boom Box.
  • Connecting the antenna
    • Same as before, I just through the window-sill antenna onto the roof for a constant 7-bars signal. I brought along a second antenna for the boom box.
  • Enjoying the Signals
    • It was raining after the Saturday afternoon check-in so we listened to Randy Bachman's "Vinyl Tap" on CBC Radio One
    • Six day later I didn't miss "Science Friday" on NPR Now. I wonder if they realize that people hear their program on the beach.

Using "Sirius Satellite Radio" in Toronto, Canada. (2008-11-xx)

Great news for Toronto subscribers. For the past week I was driving around downtown Toronto and never experienced a single signal interruption. I stayed in an East-facing hotel room (supposedly the worst possible location for Ontario subscribers) and everything worked perfectly. Switching to my SIGNAL STRENGTH display revealed a whopping 10 bars of TERRESTRIAL signal. On Friday night I drove from downtown Toronto back to Kitchener with my display sitting on SIGNAL STRENGTH. Here is a list of my signal readings:

Toronto Locations
Location Terrestrial Signal Satellite Signal
Young Street and College Street 10 bars 3 intermittent
Young Street and Gardiner Expressway 10 bars 3 intermittent
Gardiner Expressway and Islington Avenue  6 bars 1 10 bars 3
Gardiner Expressway and Highway 407 10 bars 10 bars 3
Highway 407 and Highway 5  6 bars 1 10 bars 3
Highway 407 and Highway 401 10 bars 10 bars 3
Highway 401 by the Toronto Airport  3 bars 1 10 bars 3
Highway 401 and Highway 410 (Brampton/Mississauga) 10 bars 10 bars 3
Highway 401 and Winston Churchill Blvd  6 bars 2 10 bars 3
Highway 401 and Highway 407  6 bars 2 10 bars 3
Highway 401 and Highway 25 (Milton)  3 bars 2 10 bars 3
Highway 401 and Kelso Park  0 bars 10 bars 3


  1. These are low-lying areas and I am guessing that the Sirius terrestrial repeater is sitting on top of the C. N. Tower (near the intersection of John St. and Front St. in Toronto)
  2. Out this far, the terrestrial signal always increased whenever I was under an overpass. Since I never noticed any hardware mounted under the overpass, I am assuming that the concrete walls were acting as a terrestrial radio reflector/collector.
  3. During  this driving experiment I always has access to usable TERRESTRIAL or SATELLITE signals, and the radio seamlessly switched from source-to-source. The only real-world compliant I noticed was caused when I passed the odd 18-wheeler. Some of these truckers were using really powerful third-party FM transmitters (while I was only using the transmitter built into my STARMATE 1) which meant I would get a 10 second blast of country music while I passed them. One way to get around this is to purchase one of the direct connect solutions or a more powerful third-party FM transmitter.

 Using "Sirius Satellite Radio" in Cancun, Mexico (2010-01-xx)

  • The bad news is that we could only get a west-facing room. This means that our radio only worked for 4 out of every 8 hours (see the animated map at the top of the page).

  • The good news is that my radio worked 100% of the time on the beach.

 Satellite Radio Companies

  • Europe + Africa + Asia + Central America + South America
    • WorldSpace @ Wikipedia
      • 1.467 - 1.492 GHz (L Band)
  • Western Hemisphere Only
    • SIRIUS Satellite Radio @ Wikipedia
      • 2.3200 - 2.3325 GHz (S Band)
        • 4 MHz wide band (Satellite)
          • 100 channels spread across 1000 frequencies
        • 4 MHz wide band (Ground Repeater)
          • 100 channels spread across 1000 frequencies
        • 4 MHz wide band (Satellite)
          • 100 channels spread across 1000 frequencies
    • XM Satellite Radio @ Wikipedia
      • 2.3325 - 2.3450 GHz (S Band)
        • 4 MHz wide band (Satellite)
        • 4 MHz wide band (Ground Repeater)
        • 4 MHz wide band (Satellite)
    • For a little more technical information please refer to Page 84 of the February-2006 issue of Scientific American
      Partial Excerpt:
      Working Knowledge: Song Beams; February 2007; Scientific American Magazine; by Mark Fischetti; Satellite radio can send the same 100 channels of music, talk and sports to you at any street corner in the nation. Yet someone next to you may receive a different set of channels, and a third person who does not subscribe cannot pick up a thing. How can the service blanket the country yet be so discriminating? Three companies provide the world's satellite radio: XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio for the U.S.; and WorldSpace for Africa, Asia and Europe. XM uses two geostationary satellites and about 800 low-power ground repeaters scattered around cities where tall structures can block the satellites' line of sight [see upper illustration]. Sirius has three birds in highly inclined, elliptical orbits and about 100 high-power repeaters, each bathing a metropolitan area. Both architectures provide equally reliable service, says Dan Goebel, a senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., who previously designed amplifiers for ground repeaters.

 Unofficial History of Sirius + XM

  • American Mobile Radio/XM co-founder Lon Levin joins American Mobile Satellite Corp.
  • Satellite CD Radio, Inc. successfully petitioned the FCC and Congress into creating Digital Audio Radio Service (DARS) in the United States.
  • Satellite CD Radio, Inc. changes its name to CD Radio, Inc.
  • American Mobile Satellite Corp. spins off a new division known as American Mobile Radio Corp. who would go on and join three other applicants as potential licensees. Later that year, American Mobile brings in WorldSpace as a 20% investor into the new venture with the intention of using their technology.
  • the FCC divides the S-Band spectrum already set aside for Satellite CD Radio, Inc. then gives half of it to XM
  • CD Radio, Inc. changes its name to Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc. in 1999.
  • General Motors merges their OnStar product with XM (and agrees to only install XM radios in GM cars until 2013)
  • American Mobile Satellite Corp changes its name to Motient
  • XM satellite service goes online in September-2001
  • Sirius satellite services goes online in September-2002
  • Howard Stern begins Sirius broadcasting starting 9-January-2006
  • In February, Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin announces that Sirius and XM intend to merge. They also intend to drop the subscription price by allowing people to only pay for channels they want.
  • XM-Sirius Merger @ Wikipedia
  • Because XM and Sirius occupy neighboring spectrum in the S-Band, only a small software change is required to allow existing receivers to access all channels (provided the radios were designed with typical engineering margins). This software change will be downloaded into the radios over the satellite network. Existing residential antennas and amplifiers will work without modification
    • Sirius 2.3200 - 2.3325 GHz
    • XM     2.3325 - 2.3450 GHz
  • The main opposition to the merger is the National Association of Broadcasters (a.k.a. Terrestrial Radio).  NAB representatives have been present at both Congressional hearings, and have produced many advertisements regarding the merger.

    p.s. oil companies and banks merge with little opposition so why is this merger being delayed???
  • In the Spring of 2008, the US government announced that they will allow the merger of these two companies.
  • In August of 2008, the two American companies merged and are now known Sirius XM Radio
  • As of September 2008, the new company boasts 19 million paying subscriptions
  •  XM-Sirius Merger @ Wikipedia
  • The Canadian versions of these companies has not merged and there are no discussions on the horizon
  • After the sub-prime triggered economic crisis of 2008, Siriux-XM announced some difficulty in borrowing money to cover bond obligations. As usually happens these days, the "bankruptcy" word begins to be used by financial commentators/entertainers which then introduces uncertainty.
  • First off, Sirius-XM has the second largest number of subscribers after Comcast.
  • Secondly, Sirius-XM has the fastest growing subscriber base.
  • What would happen during bankruptcy? Under chapter 11, a company uses the courts to obtain protection from creditors.
    1. If new lines of credit are found, the crisis is averted and business resumes.
    2. If new lines of credit are not found, the business is auctioned or sold with the proceeds first going to the bond holders. Any remaining money goes to the preferred shareholders with the balance, if any, going to common shareholders.
    Under either one of theses scenarios the subscribers would not loose service.
    Under scenario #2 the company would be reformed with zero debt.
  • By early February, Sirius-XM found new lines of credit so bankruptcy was avoided.

I'm not sure why people bother to steal them

Executive Summary
  • These radios are part of a subscription service.
  • You pay (subscribe) to have the content delivered to them.
  • Once stolen, the the original owner will:
    • report the radio stolen to police so the owner can collect insurance
    • report the radio stolen to Sirius so the subscription can be cancelled or moved to a replacement device. Either action will render the stolen radio useless.
  • Starting a subscription with a stolen radio will immediately flag the black-market customer as an owner of stolen property. An investigation will lead back to the thief

Satellite Radios

  • Like Satellite TV, every Satellite radio has its own unique ID
  • Sirius calls their number "SID" (Sirius Identification number)
  • The SID is associated with your account during the subscription process.
  • When your account is started, Sirius will continually broadcast ENABLE signals to a pool of just enabled SIDs. This signal will allow the radio to operate as designed
  • When your account expires, Sirius will continually broadcast DISABLE signals which will block every subscription channel except for the local weather channel (this same channel is the only one enabled after a hard reset)
  • If someone steals your satellite radio:
    • Contact Sirius and report it stolen
    • Sirius will send out DISABLE messages for years (they have a complete private channel to do this)
    • The same thing happens when you allow your subscription to expire
    • You would need to do this anyway if you wanted to enable a replacement radio
    • When the thief sells the satellite radio to an unsuspecting third party, the third party will need to report the SID to Sirius in order to start a new subscription. That is when Sirius will tell the customer that the radio is stolen.

Internet Ratios

  • Internet radios need to log onto the Sirius Streaming website using your Sirius account name and password
  • If someone steals your internet radio:
    • log onto your Sirius account and change the password ASAP. This will disable the internet radio immediately.
    • Now contact Sirius and report it stolen
    • Every time it had previously connected to Sirius using your account name, it would have also reported its associated SID (Sirius Identification number)
    • When the thief sells the internet radio to an unsuspecting third party, the third party will need to input their own SIRIUS username and password to start it working. When the radio connects to the Sirius server, the new customer's I/P address (internet address) will be visible to the people at Sirius. Since the radio is stolen, the I/P address is passed over to the police who are now able to use ISP (internet service provider) records to trace it back to the third party customer. The police will visit the customer who would be pressured to tell the police where they bought the radio.

Marketing Controversies

Before the merger of Sirius and XM, both companies competed with each other in both the US and Canada. Competition brought with it competitive pricing and improved content. Since the merger, SiriusXM in both the US and Canada (where the US company owns 25% of the Canadian company) have become monopolies in their respective countries and this has led to higher prices, automatic renewals (without notification), and lower customer service. So I guess it is no surprise that we are now seeing complaints hit the courts.

Remember that all this is going on while billions are being allocated for a corporate stock-buy-back

It appears that SiriusXM in both countries seem to be ignoring the free streaming services offered by most radio stations. While streaming will not affect customers using mobile radios it will impact customers using radios in offices and residences where broadband internet is ubiquitous

Terrestrial Repeaters


Internal FM modulator is disabled?

I was preparing for a party on 2016.08.15 where my Starmate 4 would be sending output to a nearby stereo tuner (this was one of those situations where I needed background music in a room with no access to my Sirius external antenna). That is when I noticed that the "FM Transmitter" option is no longer on the main menu. Thankfully my Ramsey FM modulator served me well (I used an audio cable to connect the modulator to my Boom Box)

Update: The FM Transmitter option is removed from the menu only when the Starmate 4 is docked in a Boom Box (a.k.a. human error)

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Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.