I stumbled on this article on CNN that takes a quick look at the slide in listener satisfaction with radio and it’s fall from the experimental and artistic heyday of the late 60s and early 70s. At the end it looks to the new satellite services like XM as a possible alternative/savior, since they offer mutliple channels programmed more like old-time freeform radio.
In fact, there’s a big article on XM and Sirius — the two competing satellite radio companies — in this month’s Sound and Vision magazine (not yet on-line). Though the reviewers seem to like the systems and the music variety, they also note that the sound quality isn’t so hot. In fact, it appears that any individual audio channel has a bitrate of less than 64kbps (more typically around 32 kpbs)– which is half the minimum acceptable bitrate for stereo music in mp3. Even if the XM and Sirius codecs are better than mp3, that’s still really low, and, in my opinion, less than FM quality. Maybe in a noisy car environment the sound ain’t so bad, but I’d have real doubts that it would be good enough at home. Though I must admit that some 128 kbps mp3s aren’t quite good enough for me.
Let’s just admit that the real solution is to break the death-grip that Clear Channel, Infinity and Bonneville have on our radio dials.