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XM and Sirius: A brotherly discussion

By Todd Leopold
CNN

(CNN) -- I have XM. My brother Erik Leopold, a Chicago real estate photographer, has Sirius. (Incidentally, I'm 41 and he's 40, and though our tastes differ, we grew up on the same radio diet.) I called him up to talk about the pros and cons of each service.

Q: Why did you subscribe to the service you have?

TODD: I'm a huge baseball fan, and XM has baseball, so that was a big selling point. I'm also partial to Hondas, and XM has an exclusive deal with Honda, so when I purchased a new car last year it came with XM. And I was looking forward to the music.

ERIK: I bought Sirius because of Howard Stern. I purchased a [mobile] system for my car in January, just before he went on the air.

Q: What are your favorite channels?

TODD: I enjoy the '60s channel because I'm fascinated by the golden age of Top 40 radio, and [XM's] DJs do a fine job of recreating that sound -- right down to the playing of obscurities I've never heard in my life. I also listen to a bit of the '70s, XMU [the college-style radio channel] to hear new bands, Fred ['70s-'80s alternative] to relive my college years and Frank's Place for a Sinatra fix. And lots of baseball.

ERIK: I listen to a lot of Howard Stern, usually in the morning. When he's finished, I'll turn it over to ESPN Radio and listen to Dan Patrick, and "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN News. I'll also listen to The Big '80s [Sirius' '80s channel], which has four of the original MTV VJs, and their classic rock stations. And you know I'm a big football fan, so I love that Sirius has the NFL.

Q: What do you dislike about the services?

TODD: Most of my quibbles are with specific music programming. The Fred channel plays too much '80s Europop, not enough American indie bands. (I'd love to hear Salem 66 again.) I'd like to see XM introduce a free-form channel with a good flow and intelligence, that can go from a girl group to Blondie to rockabilly to Wilson Pickett to Emitt Rhodes. (Deep Tracks [album-oriented progressive rock] doesn't cut it.) I wish Bob Dylan and Tom Petty's shows were on at more convenient times -- I'm always missing them -- and I wish the MLB Home Plate had a regular ticker of scores. That's actually more a Honda problem than XM; Sarah [Todd's wife] has a portable unit and she gets much more information on her screen than I do on mine.

ERIK: The problem for me is with the DJs. On Sirius, when they play a record, they talk about it, and then they play something else. That goes for most of the stations. I just want to hear music. Also, during the NFL playoffs, the broadcast was delayed -- it seemed like there was a two-minute delay or more.

Q: Has it been worth it?

TODD: Absolutely. I was sick of commercial radio in Atlanta years ago. Before I got XM, I listened to CDs or connected my iPod to the cassette deck in my old car. If my new car had an iPod jack, I'd be completely set. (Hey Honda, would it have killed you to put in a 1/8-inch jack? I have the patch cords.)

ERIK: Yes. Stern is great. He hasn't gone crazy -- he just has the freedom now not to worry about somebody pushing a button on him. And besides Stern, there's a wrap-up show with Jon Hein [of "Jump the Shark" fame]. I don't listen to regular radio anymore.

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