Jewish World Review August 29, 2002 / 21 Elul, 5762

Satellite radio gets favorable reception

By Mark Kellner | Here in Los Angeles, on what may be the most traffic-laden highways in the United States, I'm finding a bit of solace. A new piece of radio technology is making life easier and more informed.

Last week, a portable Sony satellite radio receiver arrived, and with it the opportunity to test out District-based XM Satellite Radio, a service that is, frankly, one of the most transforming technologies in a long time.

Because of the clarity of the signal, in song after song, genre after genre, I'm hearing notes and elements I'd never heard before.

According to the firm, XM's programming lineup features 100 coast-to-coast digital channels: 71 music channels, ranging in format from hip-hop to opera, classical to country, and bluegrass to blues; as well as 29 channels of sports, talk, children's programming and other entertainment. XM also brings to the car, for the first time on radio, news sources such as the Fox News Channel and the BBC's World Service.

General Motors recently announced it will offer XM in 25 different models across its lines this year, while Isuzu dealers began offering XM radios to their customers in May. XM is due to be available as an option this fall in six Infiniti and Nissan 2003 models, as well as in future Audi and Volkswagen models, the firm said.

The service itself costs $9.99 per month, with a $15 activation fee. Receivers range in price between $199 and $299 for the Sony model, which connects to a car stereo via a cassette adapter.

You'd think this might mean a sound problem, but, believe me, the sound is abundantly clear and crisp. I'm testing the Sony receiver in a 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV, whose stereo is more than adequate for most needs. Add the XM system, and each of the Hyundai's six stereo speakers comes alive with trills and bass notes.

And while XM officials won't say this publicly, it should be noted that each XM receiver is individually addressable. In other words, a service could be set up to beam e-mail or voice-mail messages to your vehicle, which could be a breakthrough for mobile workers. If you're on the road a lot - which is more and more the norm in and around most cities these days - this is a product extremely worth consideration. The product is available at several retail chains, and details can be found online at

Another sound idea: BIAS Peak 3, a program from Berkley Integrated Audio Software, is the latest version of an award-winning digital audio-editing application, now available for Mac OS X. A copy arrived here recently, and I'm using it to prepare items for use on, and perhaps other uses.

The full program is $499, while an "LE" version is available for $99. In the full version, you can mix tracks and bring in background music, up to four tracks, as well as edit audio tracks for QuickTime movies. You can export tracks in several formats, including MP3 and WAV, as well as burn audio CDs.

Not every Mac user will need such a program, but with the continuing interest in digital media by many users, it will appeal to many people and is worth investigating. Details on the software can be found at

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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