|Antex XM-3000 Triple Play Satellite Receiver|
|Home Theater Accessories Accessories|
|Written by Matthew Evert|
|Wednesday, 01 February 2006|
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Satellite radio has been gaining lots of attention the past few years, as millions upon millions of consumers continue to discover its benefits over traditional radio broadcasts. Nationwide availability, commercial-free music stations and vast amounts of talk shows are just part of satellite radio’s attraction. XM and Sirius are the two major companies providing satellite radio content for a combined population of nearly nine million subscribers in the United States and Canada. Many of the satellite radio products have been focused on portable and car deployments of the technology until recently, when Polk introduced one of the first home audio systems. Antex Electronics saw this vacancy in the growing satellite radio portfolio and produced a high fidelity XM radio receiver of its own.
Based in Torrance, CA, Antex is no stranger to the audio industry, boasting over 20 years of experience. In fact, Antex introduced the world’s first PC soundcard with 16-bit stereo CD quality sound back in 1987. Using this experience and today’s technology, Antex has delivered the world’s first multi-zone satellite receiver called the XM-3000 at a MSRP of $1,999.
What is the difference between the XM-3000 and other XM tuners like the Polk XRT12, you ask? For one, the Antex has three XM tuners instead of just a single one. Each of the tuners’ XM channel information can be separately displayed on the large LED screen and all three can be controlled from the included remote. This allows the XM-3000 to feed three unique XM channels to three different rooms or zones in your home. The kids can be listening to Disney, your spouse can be listening to CNN in the kitchen, and you can be jamming to speed metal in the living room. Second, Antex took great care to enable this tuner to be easily integrated into a distributed audio system, such as Crestron. Using the RS-232 serial port on the back of the XM-3000 and the programming codes provided on the Antex web site, this tuner quickly integrates into a home audio system of any degree of complexity.
About the Tuner
At first glance, the XM-3000 resembles your typical home audio component. At 18 inches wide, 12 inches deep and only three-and-half inches tall, the XM-3000 has little trouble merging with your existing system. Easy rack mounting for a component like this is key, since the primary usage for this product will be with higher-end distributed audio systems employing Creston controllers, etc. Unlike the contending Polk XRT12, this receiver is hefty at 16.5 pounds. A heavy black steel chassis encloses all the vital electronics, while a black-brushed aluminum face plate houses all the user controls and display. Black is the only finish available for the XM-3000; the Sirius radio version (SRX-3 TriplePlay) of the XM-3000 is only available in a shimmering silver finish.
Silver finished control buttons feel sturdy and are snugly housed in the black-brushed aluminum faceplate of the XM-3000. The flat circular buttons are comfortable to touch and don’t give you the feeling like you are bruising the tips of your fingers like those employed by the rounded hard buttons of the Sherwood receiver I reviewed a few months ago. The Polk XM tuner used plastic rocker switches, which are very functional but do not have the refined look of the XM-3000 controls. This may seem a silly comment, but wait ‘til you start using this baby; changing channels will be a common activity for you and it better be comfortable. The top section of buttons control features such as navigating channels, channel categories and selecting the active zone you are trying to change. A silver bar at the bottom of the faceplate houses the preset and number keys used to directly navigate to a specific channel or to a preset channel. The power button can be held for several seconds to enter the set-up menu, where the user can access features such as parental controls and configuration controls.
The front faceplate utilizes a bright blue LCD display for presenting all the vital XM channel information for each of the three zones. Each partition of the display shows the category name (like country or news), channel name, channel number, title of the track and artist for each of the three zones. The three-inch display looks large at first glance, but when you power the tuner on, it quickly fills up with white text to display all the aforementioned information for each of the three zones. The screen is unmistakably bright, so much so that I have been fortunate not to have jets from the nearby airport making their final approach on my house.
The back panel of the XM-3000 has both a set of RCA analog audio outputs and an optical digital output for each of the three zones. Again, this Triple Play tuner was intended to be treated like it was three separate tuners, each with its own outputs. A RS-232 connection is provided to interface with your home audio distribution system. A detachable power cord, a hardwired IR input and an output for the included 20-foot XM antenna are also present. The remote is ergonomically designed, with contoured housing and soft rubber buttons, a simple unit that still allows the user the same capabilities that the front panel buttons provide.
Venturing inside the XM-3000, we find three separate XM tuners, each with its own high fidelity Cirrus Logic digital to analog converters for the analog outputs. The optical digital outputs use the well-respected Burr Brown converters. These two components are the most significant in terms of replicating the most pleasing audio experience. As pointed out by one of the knowledgeable engineers at Antex, satellite radio uses compressed audio due to the limited bandwidth of the satellites they employ. The result is that there are practical limits to the audio performance attainable by XM and Sirius. CDs do not compress audio and therefore are not subject to the same restrictions on audio quality as XM is. This said, both satellite providers are continually improving compression algorithms and Antex is committed to optimizing their tuners to take full advantage of these changes. I would be really impressed if XM and Sirius provide multi-channel audio at some juncture in the future. Today, that is a rather large “if.”