The Antex Electronics SRX-3 TriplePlay is a three-zone Sirius satellite audio receiver – the company calls it the world’s first satellite radio receiver designed for multizone audio systems.
Product CapsuleThumbs Up:
Good user manual
Poor audio quality
Retail price: $1,999
Contact: Antex in California at (310) 532-3092 or visit www.antex.com
It is, in essence, three separate receivers in one, each with outputs that can be fed to different unbalanced line-level inputs of an amplifier, or to three amplifiers in a distributed audio system.
The unit, which retails for $1,999, is relatively large. Although my evaluation unit did not include them, the company says rack ears are standard. The unit is two rack units high. Connections include the antenna port, three pair of unbalanced line-level outputs, hard-wired infrared and RS-232 control ports and an EIA power connector. The unit comes with antenna and mounting bracket; the installer is responsible for the cable.
Installation couldn’t be much easier. Simply connect the unit to power, connect one or more of the “zone” audio outputs to the line input of an amplifier, and connect the antenna with your cable.
During my evaluation, I tried several antenna locations. Interestingly, I found that there was no location inside my office near downtown Denver that I did not get a listenable signal.
The best signal, however, was obtained with the antenna on the north side of the building with a clear sky view. From that location, signal strengths were shown in the 80s (presumably out of a possible 100), and this is the antenna location used for my critical listening tests.
There is one set of controls for all three “zones.” Simply select the zone you wish to control, then select the channel. Selection can be made with channel up/down buttons, or a channel number can be entered directly with the front-panel 0-9 buttons. These also provide preset functions, 10 per zone, if used in preset mode.
A set of “category” up/down buttons is provided on the front panel. With these controls, the user can navigate to specific audio categories, such as Pop, Rock, News, Sports, Entertainment, etc. Once a category is selected, the channel up/down buttons are used to navigate the channels within the category. Execution of a selection is made with the front-panel “select” button.
(click thumbnail)Antex Electronics makes a three-zone receiver, intended for industrial installations of Sirius satellite service.
The display is a backlit blue/white LCD screen. The screen is relatively small, and I had trouble reading it unless I was directly in front of it (zero-degree viewing angle). Some of this was due to glare from room lights off the display glass, but some, too was a function of display contrast. I could find no contrast adjustment.
Each “zone” can have 10 channel presets that can be accessed via a row of front-panel preset buttons. The presets are programmed in much the same way as many auto radios, by first tuning the desired channel, pressing the “preset” button, then pressing the desired preset button.
A setup mode, entered by holding the power button for four seconds, provides password-protected parental controls for each zone. Specific channels can be blocked or unblocked as desired. Specific channels can be set to be skipped in the channel up/down selection process as well, simplifying channel scanning.
If, for example, the user had no taste for a specific music format, all the channels for that format could be set to “skip.” The TriplePlay would then behave as if the channels did not exist.
The setup mode also provides access to Sirius ID numbers and a signal-strength meter. The signal meter shows the receive signal level from two different satellites as well as any terrestrial repeaters.
An infrared remote control is provided that duplicates most of the front-panel controls. One advantage of the remote control is direct channel entry; instead of paging through channels to get to the one desired, the user can enter the three-digit channel number directly. Presets also can be selected via the remote. The disadvantage of the remote is that unless the user is standing a few feet from the unit, he will not have any visual indication of what the unit is doing.
There was no documentation provided for the RS-232 control port other than a statement that it and a hardwired IR port are available to professional installers for integrated audio systems.
During my evaluation, I connected the unit and ensured that it had a strong signal from the satellite. Again, setup was a snap, taking less than five minutes for my temporary installation.
I used a pair of near-field studio monitors for the evaluation. In the process, I sampled a few minutes on several different channels of each different music and talk format, inviting several different people to join me in the listening tests.
It was immediately apparent that the audio quality was lacking. A “slewing” was apparent, sounding like a reduced bit-rate Internet stream. Artifacts were evident in virtually every sample, but more pronounced where there was considerable high-frequency content, such as cymbals and snares. The talk formats had audible gargling, a familiar sound from Internet streams.
Judging by the reactions of the others who listened with me as well as my own reaction, I don’t believe that audiophiles and those who otherwise take sound quality seriously will be satisfied with what they hear. What is not clear is whether the poor audio quality is a function of the receiver or if it is inherent in the Sirius satellite radio technology.
Asked by Radio World to comment on the issue, a spokesman replied, “Antex has not experienced the level of audio concerns that Mr. Alexander has mentioned. The SRX-3 TriplePlay receiver draws upon the company’s 20 years of professional audio expertise, incorporating 24-bit D/A conversion, low harmonic distortion, broad frequency response and RCA analog and S/PDIF digital outputs. All have been tested to the high industry standards for which Antex has always been known.
“The focus of the SRX-3 TriplePlay receiver is simply to provide three distinct audio sources in a single box with the largest variety of passive background music content available today.”
While this receiver could be used in a home environment, it is intended for use in a restaurant, hotel, bar or other environment where multiple “zones” might be desirable. In such industrial/retail environments, the audio quality I heard would suffice.