|Antex XM-3000 Triple Play Satellite Receiver|
|Home Theater Accessories Accessories|
|Written by Matthew Evert|
|Wednesday, 01 February 2006|
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Numerous players populate the satellite radio tuner category today, where there were really only one or two products a year ago. This would make sense, seeing that the subscriber base for both XM and Sirius has doubled from last year. ADA Tune Suite, Crestron C2M-TXM and the Krell Trio all make multi-zone XM tuners today, ranging in price from $1,100 to $4,000. I felt the Elan XM-R3 Triple Satellite Audio Receiver was the closest competition to the XM-3000. It has all the same features and has the added benefit of seamless integration into Elan audio distribution systems. Touch panels, which can be installed in each room, can display the track and title information for the current song playing. This would definitely impress anyone lucky enough to stay in the room. Although I have not had the opportunity to listen to the Elan model, it might be worth checking out given that its MSRP is $1,550 versus $1,999 for the Antex.
Surprisingly, there are some basic features missing from the XM-3000. There is no video output on this unit to display the three tuners currently playing tracks or to view the configuration options. This means the only real way to see what station you are enjoying is by reading the front panel display of the unit. The display is not readable beyond about four feet and if it is mounted in a cabinet in the back room (remember, this is supposed to be hooked into an audio distribution system), there is no easy way to see information on what you are hearing. They need to add an S-Video or composite out to display the basic information that is currently only visible on the front panel of the XM-3000. The other thing they could do is add a scrolling text option and allow the user to enlarge the text for the active zone where you are changing channels. This zoom feature would allow a user from six to 10 feet away to see the channel if the unit is located in the same room as the listener. The remote would be more useful if it had backlit buttons and an LCD display on it for night viewing. The remote LCD would also solve the issue of not being about to see what is playing on each zone when you are not close to the XM-3000’s front panel display. Speaking of the front panel display, it is so bright that a dimmer option is completely necessary unless you want to have a permanent night light in your home theater rack. The frustrating part of these complaints is that the Polk XRT12 XM tuner implemented all the missing features above and is less than one fourth the cost of the XM-3000.
Other welcome improvements include the ability to cache the recently played tracks and artist names so that you can review what you heard for the past hour. I like the idea of being able to find out what the name of an unfamiliar track is just in case I want to go buy the album. Instead of having to hurry to the display to read the track name while it is still playing, you can finish chopping the carrots, then review the track history later. Lastly, it would be swell to not have to fork out an additional $14 per month just to add the extra two zones. I guess XM is in no danger of running out of money soon if Antex sells a lot of the Triple Play tuners.
Other distributed audio systems like ones from Crestron allow for easy integration of both XM and Sirius in the same system. While you could always drop $4,000 on two Antex tuners, which would allow for six discrete channels of satellite radio throughout your house, even to me, that seems like overkill. With the Crestron distributed audio system, you can have the best of both worlds, but that of course is part of a more elaborate home automation system, as opposed to the Antex which can be plugged right into many more diverse systems.
Satellite radio is here to stay, with its numerous advantages over FM radio. Vast amounts of commercial-free music, talk shows and sports coverage expand the current coverage of FM in most metropolitan centers. If you are in Boondock, Alabama, then XM is your only chance at getting comprehensive listening content at home or in the car. While in the home, why not spend a little extra money on a quality tuner that will easily integrate into your existing audio distribution system? The ability to have three different channels playing in different rooms throughout the house makes sure that the entire family stays happy.