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      10-24-2012, 04:11 PM   #1
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Sirius : Poor audio quality

I activated my 1 year subscription yesterday, and I'm surprised at how bad the audio quality is.

All of the stations have obvious aliasing and warble -- in other words it sounds like a high compression / low bit-rate codec is being used. Cymbals sound swimmy and voices sound somewhat garbly.

I wonder if it's the particular head unit we have installed? A friend who has a Ford Fusion tells me his sounds great, and he can't tolerate *any* form of compressed audio (hates MP3s). I saw another forum where everyone with a certain model of car with a pre-installed system said it sounded bad, but that it sounded fine in other make/models.

Either that, or maybe it has to do with the buffering that's happening. As I understand it, we can "rewind", which I imagine means it's being stored/cached to the car's hard drive. I wonder if the BMW is dumbing it down (compressing it) so that it takes up less space?

I have sent Sirius tech support an email; I'll let you know what they say.
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      10-24-2012, 06:19 PM   #2
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Talked to Sirius tech support. Two reps said they had no idea why it would sound like that.

The tech rep said he was inclined to agree with the theory that the BMW's system is manipulating the data size/rate so that it can store and playback quickly.

I have a feeling this will be one of those "it is what it is" deals...

So that was a wasted $600 feature of the Premium Package

I'll keep looking for some magic setting.
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      10-24-2012, 06:49 PM   #3
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sirius sucks in the cars. always has for me
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      10-24-2012, 11:58 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by c.cash View Post

The tech rep said he was inclined to agree with the theory that the BMW's system is manipulating the data size/rate so that it can store and playback quickly.
It's Sirius who determines the transmission bitrate, the receiver's job is only to decode wht's given. I doubt it's being compressed further cos the hardware requirement for on-the-fly compression is quite demanding.

Last edited by clarence; 10-25-2012 at 12:05 AM.
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      10-25-2012, 12:40 AM   #5
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Satellite radio sounded decent when it first hit the market. Then XM and Sirus got into a war of channels. They over-expanded and were forced to compress further. Its gotten so bad it almost sounds like AM.

Even though Sirus and XM have merged the new company continues to operate the competing satellites and technology. Only the programming has merged up till now.

So, all those channels are sent over 12.5Mhz of airways.

Unless you fall in love with Sat programming, you're better off with a streaming service such as Pandora, Spotify, etc.
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      10-25-2012, 06:59 PM   #6
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Thanks for the replies, but something doesn't make sense. A co-worker of mine can't stand any MP3s (I have no problem with anything 192kbps and up), so if anyone would have an issue with poor fidelity, it would be him... yet he says his SiriusXM has none of these low-quality issues. (I would just go listen to it but it's his wife's car.)

Over the last few years I've had Lexus loaners with Sirius and it sounded fine to me -- at least I didn't notice any of the issues I'm hearing in the BMW.

I'll have to find out if the dealer can let me hear another system to compare. It's a shame to have so much great content sounding so bad.

Last edited by c.cash; 10-26-2012 at 12:23 AM.
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      10-25-2012, 10:27 PM   #7
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Agree with comments about poor satellite sound quality. I have a 2012 Odyssey with XM and it sounds pretty much the same as my HK. Generally listen to satellite when I am out of FM range and for news talk (my impression is that the talk channels have even more compression than the music channels)
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      10-25-2012, 10:49 PM   #8
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best thing you can do is download HQ music and save it on a USB drive. Just today i converted some of my flac songs to MP3 and they sound fan-fucking-tastic
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      10-26-2012, 12:21 AM   #9
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Good to know.

And I agree, the talk stations' data compression is even more apparent. Some stations seem worse than others, and the content definitely has something to do with it too (voice vs. dense music).

Tonight I listened to SiriusXM in a Toyota Sienna. It sounded better than the BMW, but I think that's because its overall fidelity isn't as good (which makes the low quality less noticeable). I could still hear the aliasing and artifacts, especially on some talk channels. It was acceptable on some music channels.

I guess that's just the way it is. I'm a recording engineer, so of course I'm going to be picky, but I'm not an audio snob. Like I said, I can deal just fine with MP3s at 192 and above, and I think the compression that the BMW uses to store/rip CDs onto the hard drive is well done. But this Sirius crap is... crap.
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      10-26-2012, 03:06 PM   #10
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Sirius will never sound as as good as a 192kbps MP3. It never has, and it never will.. in any car. With that being said, it shouldn't sound TERRIBLE, though.
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      10-27-2012, 06:43 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by c.cash
I activated my 1 year subscription yesterday, and I'm surprised at how bad the audio quality is.

All of the stations have obvious aliasing and warble -- in other words it sounds like a high compression / low bit-rate codec is being used. Cymbals sound swimmy and voices sound somewhat garbly.

I wonder if it's the particular head unit we have installed? A friend who has a Ford Fusion tells me his sounds great, and he can't tolerate *any* form of compressed audio (hates MP3s). I saw another forum where everyone with a certain model of car with a pre-installed system said it sounded bad, but that it sounded fine in other make/models.

Either that, or maybe it has to do with the buffering that's happening. As I understand it, we can "rewind", which I imagine means it's being stored/cached to the car's hard drive. I wonder if the BMW is dumbing it down (compressing it) so that it takes up less space?

I have sent Sirius tech support an email; I'll let you know what they say.
Which model year is your car? Do you have HK audio?
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      10-27-2012, 02:26 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbaird View Post
Sirius will never sound as as good as a 192kbps MP3. It never has, and it never will.. in any car. With that being said, it shouldn't sound TERRIBLE, though.
I have Sirius in my 2006 M3 with HK and now in the 335i. Both sound pretty mediocre. You can definitely hear the compression.

In the old days of ripping to iTunes, I settled on 192kbps rate as a pretty decent sound for the iPod. Even that is tons better than Sirius.
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      10-28-2012, 01:23 AM   #13
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It's a 2013, no HK. I think I'm getting the picture... It's just not that good. Bummer.
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      11-21-2012, 11:07 AM   #14
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I have a 2013 with HK and hold the same impressions: The satellite radio comes in at a decidedly low bitrate. Coming from my "renting when i need a car" experience, I have heard satellite radio in an endless number of high and low quality vehicles, yet none struck me as so terrible as the BMW's.

Initially thought it was due to my being in Manhattan, but that theory was soon eliminated as I drove upstate.

I'm going to call Sirius to see what they suggest (likely a fruitless endeavor, I know).
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      11-21-2012, 11:19 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by claykin View Post
Satellite radio sounded decent when it first hit the market. Then XM and Sirus got into a war of channels. They over-expanded and were forced to compress further. Its gotten so bad it almost sounds like AM.

Even though Sirus and XM have merged the new company continues to operate the competing satellites and technology. Only the programming has merged up till now.

So, all those channels are sent over 12.5Mhz of airways.

Unless you fall in love with Sat programming, you're better off with a streaming service such as Pandora, Spotify, etc.

This, x1000.

Sirius sounds terrible and is not getting any better. Calling Sirius to complain is the equivalent of poking yourself in the eye. If it is unacceptable (it is to me) then just don't renew. You gotta vote with your dollar.
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      11-21-2012, 11:32 AM   #16
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I noticed this as well - I'm not an audiophile by any means.

In my previous Acura, and my Wife's Nissan Rogue, both which had XM the sound quality was fine. I would crank it up and never had an issue.

If you do some Googling, it sounds like even though they are effectively the same company, XM is still broadcasting a higher quality signal than Sirius and I would tend to agree. I rarely complain or notice sound but the audio distortion is clear and ear fatiguing with the Sirius tuner, and with XM I can spend 8 hours in the car and not have any issues.

Prior to this I would've said I couldn't live without Sat radio...now I find myself not being able to listen to it for more than a song without getting a migraine, which sucks because streaming audio in the car sucks the crap out of a limited bandwidth data plan.
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      11-21-2012, 03:21 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyberdemon View Post
If you do some Googling, it sounds like even though they are effectively the same company, XM is still broadcasting a higher quality signal than Sirius and I would tend to agree.
That's interesting... Maybe my buddy's system is XM, and that's why it sounds fine to him.
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      11-21-2012, 03:23 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrManhattan View Post
I'm going to call Sirius to see what they suggest (likely a fruitless endeavor, I know).
Please let us know what they tell you.
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      11-21-2012, 08:20 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by c.cash
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrManhattan View Post
I'm going to call Sirius to see what they suggest (likely a fruitless endeavor, I know).
Please let us know what they tell you.
I would enjoy hearing their response as well. I only keep satellite because of travel frequently outside of radio station signals and to lesser extent for talk radio. There are definitely much better modes for listening to music.
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      11-23-2012, 12:59 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justinnum1 View Post
best thing you can do is download HQ music and save it on a USB drive. Just today i converted some of my flac songs to MP3 and they sound fan-fucking-tastic
Is there an option that an F30 needs in order to play audio files from a USB?
I only have the HK option, no Nav, no apps, no HDD, etc...

Will the HK system decode the files, is it built into the system?
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      11-23-2012, 01:03 AM   #21
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As others have said, sat radio SUCKS in terms of audio quality.
It's great how much music and variety there is. But none of it actually sounds good.
It's acceptable as there is more music than my local FM, but FM sounds better, and
HD FM sounds even better. But, FM reception is very poor in my car. It won't hold
HD FM very well and it's constantly switching back and forth making for an unpleasant listening experience. So I even have to turn HD FM off. It really blows for a $900 option to be so poorly executed.

CD's though sound fantastic. It's a source that will show you how good the HK can sound.
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      11-23-2012, 06:33 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RPM90 View Post
Is there an option that an F30 needs in order to play audio files from a USB?
I only have the HK option, no Nav, no apps, no HDD, etc...

Will the HK system decode the files, is it built into the system?
you will be able to play them. it only plays certain formats. mainly mp3. it lists them in the manual
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