Sirius XM Launches Universal Tuner



The price of buying a professionally installed hide-away satellite-radio tuner for the car will drop by as much as half with the launch by Sirius XM at International CES of a new universal tuner.

The tuner is also designed to simplify installation and streamline inventory management throughout the supply chain, the company said.

Alpine, Audiovox and Sony plan this year to launch head units compatible with the universal tuner, which receives broadcasts from XM satellites.

The new tuner, which is controlled from select in-dash aftermarket head units, will also deliver features not previously available in hide-away aftermarket tuners, including song alerts, artist alerts, sports-game alerts, iTunes tagging, and embedded memory to pause and rewind a program up to 30 minutes. These features appear in select transportable plug-and-play tuners, and only a handful of OEM satellite radios from automakers offer some of these features, Sirius XM said.

The new tuner, shipping right after CES, will retail for a suggested $70, including antenna. The tuner, which is about the size of a pack of cigarettes, connects directly to new aftermarket head units that incorporate a new universal satellite-radio DIN connector and a new Sirius XM control and communications protocol.

Previous Sirius and XM hide-away tuners required the installation of a separate protocol-translator box to talk to most satellite-ready aftermarket head units.

To complicate inventory management, hide-away Sirius tuners usually required different translator boxes for different head-unit brands.

For previous-generation XM tuners, a software-programmable translator box talked to multiple head-unit brands, but different adapter cables were needed to connect the translator box to different head-unit brands.

The cost of the additional SKUs drove up the consumer’s price of adding installed satellite radio to anywhere from $100 to $140, excluding installation costs, said Sean Gibbons, consumer electronics product marketing VP with Sirius XM.

The cost of adding satellite radio will be more in line with the cost of purchasing the average $130 satelliteready aftermarket in-dash CD-receiver, he added.

With the universal tuner, Gibbons expects install costs to drop as well. Hide-away tuners and translator boxes previously cost anywhere from $60 to $100 to install, excluding the price of the hardware, he said. Installation of the new universal tuner will be simpler and faster not only because no translator box is needed but also because installers don’t have to run a separate power cable to the tuner. The universal cable delivers power from the head unit to the new XM tuner, he explained.

With their current satellite-radio options, Gibbons noted, retailers had to stock more than 20 SKUs to ensure they could add satellite radio to all of the head-unit brands they offered.

To eliminate installation and stock-keeping complexity, Alpine, Audiovox and Sony have committed to 2011 launches of new head units compatible with the universal tuner.

Alpine plans to be the first supplier in the market with two head units ready for March delivery and a third soon after.

The tuner is capable of receiving Best of Sirius programming but doesn’t receive a la carte subscriptions. The tuner also receives all of the data services delivered by XM, including traffic flow, movie listings, fuel prices, location of speed cameras and the like. Previously, consumers who wanted to add those features to an aftermarket navigation system had to purchase a $200 aftermarket tuner, Gibbons said.

Here at CES, Alpine is displaying the connector in two CD receivers, both due in March, and in an all-inone A/V-navigation unit due sometime after March. One of the models, the CDE-124SXM, will be hard bundled with the new outboard SXV100 XM tuner. (Pricing was not available at press time.)

For its part, Sony plans to show an unfinished version of a head unit with universal connector for shipment sometime later this year.

Audiovox won’t show a compatible head unit at CES but plans to offer the universal connector on an unspecified number of Jensen-brand head units sometime in 2011, a spokesman told TWICE.

Although suppliers such as Clarion, JVC and Kenwood said they currently have no plans in 2011 to adopt the universal connector, Sirius XM’s Gibbons said he expects more suppliers to hop on board in 2012 because of retailer excitement about the solution.

Alpine VP/GM Steve Crawford hailed the new connector and tuner as a “big breakthrough in ease of purchasing and installation.” The solution, added Sony mobile electronics director Mike Kahn, is “more cost-efficient for the consumer and installation-efficient.”

“It’s truly plug-and-play,” Crawford added. “A DIN cable to the head unit provides power, signal and control and works with any brand [of head unit equipped with the universal connector].”


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