Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


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

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

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

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

“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].”