Heaven Sent | Boating Magazine

Heaven Sent

Sirius Satellite Radio System

If there's anything I like as much as horsepower, it's wattage. And when I cranked up Clarion's new XMD3 Sirius Satellite Radio-ready marine AM/FM/CD radio ($500) for the first time, 208 watts of brain-soothing harmony washed over my Twin Vee Baycat with the force of a supercharged V-6 engine. But the song wasn't my style, so I changed the station - again and again and again. Sirius provides an astonishing variety of selections, with 61 music and 40 sports, news, and entertainment stations.

To get the commercial-free ear candy, you need a Sirius receiver and antenna. I opted for the Clarion DSH920S Tuner ($160) and the 1 1/3"-by-3 1/2" Shakespeare Galaxy SRA-30 antenna ($140). Then there's a $13-per-month subscription fee - a promotional $500 lifetime fee ends August 31-and a one-time activation fee of $15 ($5 online). Is it worth the price? Silly question. While testing the watertight, sealed-circuit XMD3 with an LCD display, I discovered the Sirius programming to be so diverse and comprehensive that for the first month I didn't touch the CD player or AM/FM radio. Those tunes are available 24/7, no matter where you are, too, be it in the bay or 60 miles offshore at the canyons.

Of course, eventually, you'll want to hear a particular tune - immediately. That's when the XMD3's silicon-oil-dampened antiskip system comes in handy. Most marine CD players I've tested will start skipping in a small chop, but the XMD3 holds tight until you're wave jumping. One gripe: The CD player is loaded into an upper section of the unit, which makes the face of the XMD3 larger than others. It still fits standard cutouts, but it protrudes.

The test system had a Clarion M301RC remote ($175), which allowed me to mount the XMD3 in the cabin but retain control at the helm. Of course, on an open boat like the Baycat, this means the remote regularly gets soaked. No problem ther e- the M301RC is waterproof, and many close encounters with salty spray and direct hose pressure didn't affect it.

The final piece of the Clarion/Sirius system was a pair of 6.5" Clarion CM1622 marine coaxial speakers ($160/each). These puppies have titanium dome tweeters. Sound quality was excellent, and they pumped out enough volume to make my neighbors complain when I tried to jam while doing a washdown in the driveway.

Installation of the entire system wasn't as hard as it might have been, thanks to the plug-and-play units. Still, there are so many pieces involved that I needed nine hours to complete the task. Unless you're a die-hard do-it-yourselfer, leave this job to a pro. When choosing a spot for the gear, don't forget that you need a space to hard mount the receiver. Luckily, the Shakespeare antenna will work under canvas and other light T-top materials.

After testing this system, I must say that the Clarion XMD3 has sound quality that can't be beat, more musical choices than any boater could make in one day, and enough throbbing power to stun nearby fish-this one's a winner. Contacts Clarion; 800/462-5274; www.clarion.com Shakespeare; 800/800-9008; www.shakespeare-marine.com Sirius Satellite Radio; 888/539-7474; www.sirius.com

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