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What is SiriusXM? Pricing, plans and features explained

Howard Stern as seen on the new SiriusXM app on an iPhone, in front of the app on a car stereo.

Ah, yes, the spontaneous days of radio. Cruising down the highway, you’d power on the car stereo and indulge in whatever the AM/FM waves deemed fitting for your Sunday drive. Then came the dawn of a new millennium and the arrival of two cutting-edge platforms that would revolutionize the airwaves by swapping antennas for satellites: Sirius and XM. 

Introducing a major bump in audio quality and some of the most revered music, sports, and talk stations ever to grace our ears, it wouldn’t be long before both services merged and its legacy satellite streaming service evolved to form SiriusXM Internet Radio. 

Fast forward to modern times, and SiriusXM is still a fan favorite. Available on everything from our smartphones and tablets to our desktops and cars, SiriusXM has hundreds of full-time channels to indulge in and numerous subscription options. But is it worth ditching your Spotify or Apple Music membership? That’s for you to decide, and we’re here to give you all the facts!

Tunes, talk, and more

Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

In a beautiful blend of past meets the present, SiriusXM Internet Radio delivers an amazing selection of music stations, talk-radio programs, podcasts, news, sports, and even video content. All these listening options are laid out in easy-to-navigate mobile apps for iOS and Android devices and a browser-based web player. You can also enjoy offline downloads (on mobile), recommended stations based on your listening habits, and the ability to beam your tunes to nearby Bluetooth devices and Wi-Fi speakers. 

That’s all the “present” part. The “past” descriptor refers to the fact that whatever artist or genre you choose, you’re at the whim of SiriusXM’s programming. This means no individual album or track selections, as we’ve come to expect from services like Spotify and its many competitors. 

But you know what? That’s one of the best parts of the SiriusXM experience, and zero algorithms are involved. Just like the old days, all of the tracks are lined up by human beings with a serious (pun intended) love of music, and it really shows. 

SiriusXM plans and pricing

Some of the plans and pricing options for SiriusXM.

SiriusXM has a handful of monthly subscriptions to choose from, and as of the publication of this article, there’s a new subscriber promo attached to each tier. Your first three months of SiriusXM service will only cost $1, which gets billed at the end of those twelve weeks. We took advantage of the amazing offer and signed up for the sole Streaming Devices Only plan, All Access.

When the three months are up, All Access costs $10 per month, which is the average price you’ll pay for many music-streaming platforms these days. As far as features and perks go, All Access gives you access to over 400 stations, ad-free listening, as well as news, sports, comedy, and premium programming from the likes of Howard Stern, Kevin Hart, and other noteworthy DJs.

You’ll also be able to create personalized stations based on your love for specific songs, bands, and genres, on top of being able to enjoy exclusive SiriusXM in-studio video content. So why would you even bother signing up for any other plan, you may be asking? The answer is satellite service.

The All Access plan relies on an internet connection to get you your tunes, whereas the three main Car Radio + Streaming Device plans — Music Showcase ($14 per month), Music & Entertainment ($19 per month) and Platinum ($24 per month) — beams SiriusXM to your car stereo via satellite. These three service tiers also include limited to full-fledged access to SiriusXM’s app and web player features. 

And that’s not all! Beyond these four main subscription options, SiriusXM offers many other a la carte and station bundles. 

Using SiriusXM Internet Radio

Not unlike competitive music-streaming apps like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal, the SiriusXM mobile app (that got a big revamp in November of 2023) and web player share several cosmetic traits and interface elements. And like other platforms, the more you use and listen to SiriusXM, the better your artist and genre recommendations will be. 

When you boot up the iOS app and web player, you’ll automatically be on the Discover / For You page. A rotating banner at the top of the screen spotlights recently listened to stations and popular music, talk, news, and other stations of note. Scrolling down, you’ll find categories like Your Recent Channels, Channels for You, Live News, Politics & Issues, Shows & Podcasts For You, and From the SiriusXM Studios, which is where you’ll find HD video content.

Above, from left to right: The Music, Library, Search, Talk & Podcasts tabs and expanded playback controls as seen on the SiriusXM app for iOS devices. 

Everything is divided into rows of colorized tiles that are simple to navigate and easy to find. This same design crosses over to the Music, Talk & Podcasts, and Sports tabs, which you can tap or click at the top of the app and web player. Under Music, you’ll find categories like Essential New Music, Exclusive Artists and Channel Shows, and curated playlist stations that blend multiple tracks and artists, including Take it Easy, Party On, and Find Your Focus. 

Talk and Podcasts is broken down into its own bevy of scrollable categories, as is the Sports page, which also calls attention to upcoming pass-me-the-ball events with labels like Live & Upcoming NFL and NBA Games. You’ll also find numerous sports talk channels and can even break content down by teams and leagues. 

When you fire up a station, playback controls will appear at the bottom of the screen. You can tap the ribbon to make it fullscreen in the app or click the Enter Fullscreen button on the desktop web player. Commands include play/pause, track skipping, and options to add stations to your personal library. There’s also a button that will let you cast stations to compatible external speakers. 

Above, from left to right: The Discover / For You, Search and Library screens as seen on the SiriusXM desktop web player.

Conveniently, SiriusXM lets you skip up to six times between stream-ready tracks, thanks to an impressive one-hour listening buffer.

All of your favorite stations, artists, podcasts, and sports programs are housed under the Library tab. On mobile, you’ll also be able to download certain podcast episodes and other programs for offline listening. To initiate a download, just select the episode and tap the Download button (an arrow pointing down to a horizontal line). All finished downloads are stored under the Downloads tab (the final Library category). 

You can also use the iPhone’s built-in Siri to control some parts of our SiriusXM listening experience. This amounted to play and pause commands, as the assistant couldn’t do any track-skipping.

Audio quality

SiriusXM music, podcasts, and talk-radio programming sounds come in sharp and clear, and tracks buffer out very quickly. In fact, the only “buffering” we encountered was a slight uptick in volume when we first launched a station and sometimes when a new track started. This would quickly balance out to whatever our intended listening volume was, though, so it’s hard to call it a distraction. 

Green Day, The Beatles, Metallica, and a handful of other artists sounded clear and powerful. There was plenty of low-end in the mix, and we were surprised at how detailed the treble range could be at times. Unfortunately, SiriusXM doesn’t disclose its bit rates, but you can toggle between Normal, High, and Maximum track quality settings using both the app and web player. 

If you’re all about hi-res listening, we have some bad news: SiriusXM has no hi-res tracks. Discerning audiophiles and 24-bit fans may be better served by streamers like Tidal and Qobuz.

A couple of drawbacks

SiriusXM is a terrific platform, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its hitches. For starters, we had difficulty locating the SiriusXM web player. When you go to the main site, there’s no mention of a player anywhere on the landing page. When we clicked on the My Account icon (top-right corner of the page) and attempted to sign in, we kept being told that we had to manage our subscription through Apple (because we signed up for SiriusXM using an iPhone).

So here’s a pro tip: Run a Google search for “SiriusXM player.” If you already have SiriusXM (like we did), click the I Already Have SiriusXM button at the top of the page, sign into your account, and bada bing! 

Another trouble we had was signing into our SiriusXM account through Alexa. We wanted to test SiriusXM on our Echo smart speakers and displays, and for whatever reason, the Alexa app would not recognize our SiriusXM login. It’s hard to say which service (Alexa or SiriusXM) was at fault here, but it was a frustrating experience nonetheless.

The verdict

SiriusXM is an exemplary alternative to the modern-age music streaming experience. If you’re willing to let go of personalized track and album selections, the serendipity and thrill of discovering new tunes, podcasts, and other content through expert curation is where the service truly shines. 

That being said, if you’re looking for the best of hi-res playback, you should definitely take a look at our guides to both Tidal and Qobuz. We also have breakdowns of other popular music-streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, and Pandora.

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