Music to an Entire Family's Ears

You want to hear about the latest disruptive technology? The sound emanating from the XM satellite radio system I borrowed for this review was so loud, so powerful, and so clear that it rattled the entire household for the better part of a weekend. My wife liked the dance music, our 7-year-old liked the Top 20 station, and our 2-year-old thought it worked well as a football. A near-riot erupted when I packed it up and took it back to the office.

XM's appeal is visceral. Having spent countless hours of my life flipping through the AM and FM bands in often-fruitless searches for worthwhile music or news, XM is like an oasis in the desert. Regardless of your tastes, there is always something on. And for anyone who has ever been frustrated with the terrible reception and limited range of the typical radio, XM will provide welcome relief. For those reasons alone, it's well worth $10 a month.

None of this is to suggest that the medium is perfect. For all its range, XM lacks depth. It offers solid jazz shows, but none of it rises to the level of my favorite FM radio station, public radio jazz powerhouse WBGO in Newark, N.J. XM simply can't match the experience of WBGO's deejays.

However, it would be sheer snobbery to dismiss XM as shallow. The clarity, range, and breadth of its programming are a welcome addition to the airwaves, where WBGO is the exception and Top 20 radio with inane advertising is the rule. It's a welcome disruption.

By Steve Rosenbush in New York

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