Satellite radio is similar to satellite television. You sign up with a satellite radio provider, either XM or Sirius (now merged as Sirius XM), and they broadcast a radio signal to you from their satellites. Like satellite television, you will need special equipment to receive this signal. Older equipment is not cross-compatible but new hardware since the merger was announced should be. There are adapter kits that will allow you to add satellite radio to your current receiver through an FM modulator. Like all FM modulated sources, the music quality will only be as good as FM radio. The price per month is $12.95-16.99 for the most popular packages on either XM or Sirius. Satellite radio is available for both the car and home.
Digital radio is a cousin to satellite radio. Like satellite radio, it's digital in nature. Unlike satellite radio, it is a land based system. The digital signal is carried on the same frequency band as a traditional radio station. In fact the programming on both the analog and digital band would be the same. This hybrid arrangement allows traditional radios to listen to the analog broadcast and digital radios to hear the digital broadcast. Digital radio is still growing but could likely replace traditional radio in the future. Radio stations will need to make the investment in new digital transmission equipment and consumers will need to invest in new digital radio receivers. In addition to music, digital transmissions can also carry other data. Text displays can give listeners more information on their favorite song, CD title, and artist. In addition, commercial and advertising information will be delivered via this service. Breaking news, sports, weather, and traffic alerts could also be sent in text or audio format. Currently the only provider of digital radio in the US is iBiquity and their system is called HD Radio. Most of the top aftermarket head unit manufacturers offer an HD Radio module for compatible head units.
The main differences between the two are their markets. Satellite radio broadcasts cover the entire country while digital radio broadcasts only cover their local area, much like traditional radio. With satellite radio you can travel across the country and never change the station. However with digital radio you will be able to get local information on you radio receiver. They're not really competing systems other than they're both competing for your listening time. Expect them to coexist peacefully in the future.
The Car Audio Help DVD catalog includes five different videos covering many areas of car audio installation and custom fabrication. Topics range from basic system installation (head units, amplifiers, speakers, etc.) and mobile security (car alarms and remote start) to subwoofer box design and fiberglass fabrication. If you're interested in custom fabrication and car audio installation be sure to check out what we have to offer.