This post consists of three stories I originially wrote for my publication, Car Buyer’s Notebook. It’s a rundown of the XM MyFi portable satellite radio, which functions as a walkman, home stereo receiver and car unit, all-in-one. It’s a great buy at $269 [at Amazon, $299 elsewhere], if you’re in the market for satellite.
This is My XM MyFi
The knock at the door was the FedEx lady bearing gifts — this portable XM satellite radio unit, aka the MyFi.
And I say gifts, because the MyFi is much more than a handheld, belt-clippable satellite receiver that lets you listen to over 150 channels of XM’s digital music, news and sports through a pair of headphones.
The unit ships complete with everything you need to use it in its three modes — as a portable, a home unit or an in-vehicle radio.
As I’m writing this I’ve got the MyFi in its home cradle, wired through my computer speakers and controlled by remote.
Later on, I’m going to “install” it in the Ford 500 I’m test driving. I put that in quotes because the MyFi has a truly cool feature that lets you listen to XM through your car’s existing stereo — yet without using any permanent hardware.
Known as the Wireless FM option, the Myfi has a built in transmitter that sends the signal to any FM radio. By tuning the radio to an unused frequency, then setting the MyFi to communicate with that wavelength, you’ll hear XM through your car stereo!
But, for those of you who decide to take the plunge and go XM, you can purchase an adapter that can be installed at a stereo shop. Alternately, the MyFi kit also comes with an adapter for cars with casette decks.
I’m going to fiddle around with the MyFi and will post an in-depth review. For now, though, I can report the sound on the unit, when used as a portable, is simply great.
And more than loud enough — this morning, the road crew was using a jackhammer to bust up the parking lot right outside my window. In cases like this, using the speakers just wasn’t good enough.
I was also surprised at the clarity — certainly better than any Walkman I’ve ever listened to.
The MyFi now sports a much tastier price — list is $299 for the entire kit, down $50 from when it first appeared.
And don’t forget about the “My XM” feature, that allows you to record up to five hours of programming. This is perfect for frequent flying business travelers, sports junkies who want to record specfic events or NPR-refugees who want to capture every minute of the XM-exclusive Bob Edwards show.
Installing the XM MyFi Satellite Radio Receiver in the Ford Five Hundred
In yesterday’s post, I got all happy-happy about my new MyFi portable XM radio. Having listened to bits of a couple dozen channels, I can say the happiness keeps on coming.
Last night, using a couple accessories from the MyFi kit, I installed the radio to play over the stereo of my Ford Five Hundred. It was easy — so easy, in fact, that I completed the installation in about five minutes — despite having brought the Spanish language instructions with me!
And no, “No leo a españoles!”
Not only was the experience of having XM radio in the car a quantum leap in enjoyable entertainment, I’m emphasizing the ease of installation for anyone who may have been avoiding adding satellite to their existing vehicle over fear of hassle, expense or damaging their car.
For $299, the MyFi unit delivers a triple boon — new car stereo, home reception, and obviously, the portable solution.
To install the MyFi in the Ford Five Hundred — temporarily, as it’s not my car — I used six items from the unit’s kit. I chose the vent mount to put it in the car, as it’s a temporary fixture, as opposed to the other two included pieces of hardware, that are permanent. [Scroll down for the equipment and how-to lists.]
There are also three different way to get the radio to work with your car’s existing stereo, two of which are temporary. The third method requires the purchase and installation of an additional $50 adapter.
For the Five Hundred, I chose the easiest method, using the MyFi’s internal wireless FM transmitter. By setting your car’s FM dial and the MyFi to the same station, the MyFi’s satellite channels are “magically” heard over your stereo — no wires, no hacks — nothing but digital.
I was surprised at how well the wireless option worked. After awhile, the audio experience was so tranparent, the only evidence I had of the new stereo was by looking at it mounted on the dash. At one point I did have to switch to another FM frequency when the sound fizzled a bit, something the instruction manual warns you about. And something I read about after retrieving the English language manual.
The great thing about the MyFi in the car is that you can take it with you, for personal use as well as security reasons. I left it in the car when stopping at a convenience store, and looking at it through the window I thought that it presented a too-juicy incentive for someone to bash the glass and take it with them.
And I like the way it looks, exclusive, in an aftermarket kind of way.
Now, about the experience. All I can say to anyone is don’t try it if you’re not ready to buy it. Satellite radio in the car is as different from radio as driving is to walking. You will never go back.
I loved the remote control, switching back and forth to different stations, and being able to enjoy XM’s decade-oriented music stations, my classical favorites, or the mutliple live news feeds from cable TV.
Satellite radio offers the user access to an entire universe of audio programming — I contend that even the most ardent self-programming iPod maven can’t match what’s available on satellite 24/7. Even after six months of listening, I can’t get over what a revolution this represents.
Self-Installing the XM MyFi, Equipment List
1. The MyFi receiver.
2. Vehicle power adapter.
3. Vehicle antenna.
4. Vehicle cradle.
5. Vent mount.
6. Remote control.
Self Installing the XM MyFi, Step-by-Step
1. Connect the antenna, power adapter and vent mount to the back of the cradle.
2. Plug the MyFi receiver into the cradle.
3. Snap the vent mount clips into the louvers.
4. Plug in the adapter.
5. With the MyFi unit off, tune the FM radio into one of twelve unused frequencies.
6. Turn the MyFi on.
7. Using the MyFi menu button, select “FM Frequency.”
8. Use the thumbwheel to select the FM frequency you set the FM radio on.
XM MyFi Final Thoughts
I’ve had the XM MyFi for a week now, using it as a walkman, home stereo and car accessory, and this is [probably] the last of three articles about this amazing $299 gadget.
As a piece of technology unto itself, the MyFi is not as prosaic as it looks. Weighing 6.9 ounces and with an easy to hold profile, the radio was the first portable satellite receiver and it one of those rare products that got it right in the first iteration.
Given its triple-use nature, I think it should be a first stop for anyone thinking about becoming an XM satellite radio subscriber. By functioning as a personal-home-car unit, it alleviates the need to purchase a second radio, as well as incurring the additional $6.99 a month XM charges to add additional receivers to the basic $12.99 a month subscription price.
As for using it as a personal walkman, I clipped the MyFi onto my sweatpants Sunday, listening during a three-hour bike ride to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom around the tidal basin in Washington, D.C.
Except for a few spots on the bike trail, reception was crystal clear, as I rode and strolled through the day. While this may not sound like a big deal, using it as a walkman means relying on the built-in antenna — that receives the signal from the space-bound XM satellites. The MyFi kit includes a so-called “wearable antenna” that you can clip on an article of clothing or the shoulder strap of a backpack or purse, but I didn’t fool with it and got along just fine.
During my ride, and actually most of the time, I wind up listening to channel 110, the classics station. I’ve also enjoyed listening to the two comedy stations, the eighties channel and two R&B stations, “Soul Street,” and “The Groove.”
However, I do have two complaints about the programming, one major, one minor.
The major complaint is that XM plays way too many overproduced, blaring promo spots that sound like the regular radio stations I’ve gladly left behind. Please note I don’t mind if an announcer tells me they’ve got baseball on 175, or even that I should tell my friends about how much I love XM. Every business needs to promote itself.
However, the XM programmers seem to be comepting internally to see who can create the most obnoxioius promos. I don’t want to hear the same kind of “wild” and “wacky” self-boosting that I can get on any Clear Channel or Infinity station. It’s intrusive, abusive and in my view, a violation of the compact XM has made with their audience, where they’ve promised a listening experience that’s superior to traditional radio. I’m hoping that XM’s programmers will get over themselves and tone down the volume.
The minor complaint was that one night, when I tuned into my classics station, I was greeted by the hideous noise of a Ravi Shankar Sitar Concerto. That’s right — sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?
It was as painful as getting accupuncture — in the eye. With all that bandwidth, if the XMmies want to expand someone’s consciousness, they can play Mr. Shankar’s masterpiece on the One World channel or some other obscure corner of the dial. The sitar is not a classical instrument and Mr. Shankar’s music will not be played 300 years from now, OK?