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Antex XM3000 Triple Play Receiver

by March 19, 2006
  • Product Name: XM3000 Triple Play Receiver
  • Manufacturer: Antex
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStar
  • Review Date: March 19, 2006 19:00
  • MSRP: $ 1999

Size: 17.75” W x 3.5” H x 12”D
Front Panel

  • Main Display 160x240 graphical LCD, backlit

  • Display indication for all 3 zones

  • Power On/Off button

  • Channel Up/Down buttons (buttons repeat if held down)

  • Category Left/Right buttons

  • Select button

  • Zone button

  • Preset button

  • 0-9 direct entry buttons

  • Infrared receiver eye


  • Physical: Single SMA to Antenna

  • Input Frequency: S band

  • Input Level: -65dBm to -20dBm

  • Input Impedance: 50 ohms

  • Demod/ Descrambling: SIRIUS Proprietary

Analog Performance/Connectors

  • Compression: ePAC

  • Conversion: 24 bit D/A

  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20kHz ± 3dB

  • Harmonic Distortion: < 0.02%

  • Output Level: 2VRMS maximum

Rear Connectors

  • RF Input: Female SMA

  • Audio Line Out Connectors: 3 pairs RCA : Left, Right

  • Digital Audio: 3X S/PDIF TOSLink

  • IR: Hard wired IR input via a 3.5mm tip jack connector

  • Data Control Port: DB9 RS232: data rate:19,200 baud, no parity, 8 data bits, 1stop bit.,3 wire (Rx, Tx & Gnd) interface

  • AC input: 3 wire cord


  • LNA Supply: 7.5 volts, 250mA

  • Power Input: 85-140VAC, 50-60Hz

  • Certifications: UL, FCC Part 15 Class B

  • Operating Environment: 0-40C, 0-95%

  • Relative Humidity non-condensing


  • Input Frequency: Min: 2.32GHz, Max: 2.33GHz

  • LNA Noise: 0.7 dB at 25 °C typical

  • LNA Gain : 42dB typical

  • Operating Temperature: -40°C to +85°C

  • VSWR, Antenna Module Output: 2:1 at Zo = 50 ohms

  • Power Requirements: 5.3-8Vdc

  • Cable Type: RG58U

  • Output Connector Type: SMA female plug


  • Three zones capable of tuning three different channels
  • Elegant solution for custom installers looking for 3 zones of XM-Radio


  • Freakin’ expensive
  • No Coaxial out – only TOSLink
  • Substandard remote
  • Difficult to read display


Antex XM3000 First Impressions

clip_image004_120.jpgHonestly, I didn't know what to expect. Being a guy, I'm all about the toys - but spending money on radio (which the old man in me says should be free ) has always kept me from investing in a receiver for one of the satellite radio providers. Not that I think paying for the ability to hear music unedited and commercial free is a bad investment - to the contrary, it makes perfect sense to me. Unfortunately it does NOT make perfect sense to my wife - and therein lays the rub. Dejected, I was relegated to catching a moment or two of commercial free radio when in a friend's car. Unfortunately for me, my only friend with satellite is a big fan of bluegrass (not that there is anything wrong with that) so I never really got a chance to explore the myriad of stations available.

When I received word that I would be reviewing the Antex TriplePlay XM-3000 receiver I thought, "WhooHoo! Score, baby!" finally, a chance to play with satellite radio and perhaps convince both of us that the benefits outweighed the costs. Now, the purpose of this review is to evaluate the hardware, not XM radio as a whole - so this is the last I will speak of the service. I'll leave it up to each of you to decide if the monthly charge is worth the return.

Custom Installers Rejoice

It quickly became apparent to me that this unit is geared for the custom install market. As I was setting up and testing the unit, I had no idea what the price was. Once I learned that the unit cost $1999, I was taken aback. Clearly, the average user could purchase three individual XM units for less. From an installer's perspective however, this unit is a dream. Installation is easy and quick, the unit is setup to be controlled by a Creston or similar system out of the box, and it is easy enough to operate that even a technophobe could be walked through it over the phone. Therefore, this review is geared more toward the custom installer rather than the average consumer.

First Impressions

The box was surprisingly undamaged compared to my last few arrivals. Clint has informed me that I need to suck up to my delivery drivers more. Apparently, this will increase my ability to receive boxes undamaged and get some help lifting heavy objects into the house (more thoughts on this in an upcoming editorial.) Inside, I found the unit well paced and immobilized by foam at each side. The unit was centered in the box and seemed like it would be immune to all but the most egregious abuses.

Antex XM3000 Build Quality and Performance

The unit itself is a flat black - good for blending into a dark room. Unfortunately, it also has a large silver strip at the bottom of the face with buttons labeled 0-9. These are primarily for selecting presets but can also be used to enter channels (though the line configuration makes it more intuitive for presets). There is a blue backlit LED panel on the front that displays the channels selected for all three zones at the same time. Above the power button on the left there is a blue LED that never seemed to go off. The remote is small and plastic but felt good in the hand.

Set up - General

clip_image002_221.jpgThe XM-3000 has one input (from the antenna), six outputs (1 RCA pair and one TOSLink connection per channel) and a rear RS-232 control port for integration into distributed audio systems. I connected the XM-3000 to three different inputs on my receiver using a TOSLink cable from Impact Acoustics for the first zone and RCA cables from Blue Jeans Cable for Zones 2 and 3. I didn't expect to hear a difference between the two but I did want to give the unit a chance. I was hoping to catch some 5.1 XM, but that is just coming out this March and will only be available to those who own select receivers which are capable of decoding it (so far Yamaha, Pioneer, Denon and possibly one or two other companies have products that will decode it.)

The provided antenna was the typical satellite radio fare, a black square that can be tilted up or laid down flat. A provided bracket makes wall mounting a possibility and the cable is long enough (~20' ) that you could literally fish it into your attic if you had too. At first I had a hard time receiving a signal but, after finally breaking down and reading the manual, I figured out why (no, I'm not going to tell you, I have my pride after all) and setup was a breeze. Honestly, after seeing all the troubles the installer had with my Dish Network setup, I was skeptical that I would be able to receive a signal at all. But once I got the antenna set up, it seemed I could only really find one place in my room that WOULDN'T receive a signal (behind the entertainment center, where it would have been the least intrusive). As it was, I ended up setting it on top of the unit where it did just fine. I don't care what my wife says, I think the antenna looks cool. Plus, it is nice that the TriplePlay receiver only requires one for all three zones.

Once you hook the unit up, everything else is a breeze. I'm not a big fan of the number of DVD players requiring that you enable the digital out manually. Why? The XM-3000 has all outputs enabled out of the box - no manual configuration required. My beef, of course, is why only TOSLink? Why not add coaxial? I know that TOSLink cables are less susceptible to interference but coaxial cables are so much cheaper. Of course, as I say this, my Denon 3805 sports 5 optical and only 2 coaxial S/PDIF inputs so I can appreciate that typically there are more available TOSlink inputs. If I wanted to go all digital, it'd have to be TOSLink for at least one of the three connections - and that's assuming I didn't already have one position filled. Options are still nice - especially at $1999.

Setup - Features


Entering the setup menu was as easy as holding down the power button on the unit for a few seconds. From the setup menu, you can add or skip channels, engage the parental control option, display the ID numbers (needed when activating the service) and test signal strength. Adding and skipping channels was pretty straightforward and probably doesn't need much explanation. What I was most interested in were the Parental Controls and Signal Strength screens.

When setting up the unit, you first want to find it a home, then you want to find the best place to locate the antenna. As I mentioned earlier, the cord for the antenna is plenty long, but you can order extenders if you need them. The signal strength screen is nice in that it helps you calibrate exactly how strong that signal is coming in. If not, you'd never really know if you could have placed the antenna better

clip_image006_084.jpgOn an XM unit, I can't imagine NOT having parental controls. With OTA TV and radio becoming more and more racy by the day, parents are sure to want to shield their children from some of the content available. Blocking channels is simple once you set the 4 digit password (using the last 4 digits of your phone number probably won't keep your kids out for long). All you need to do is scroll through the channels either with the remote or using the controls on the unit and hit Select for each channel you want to block. Then, when that channel is selected, the unit will prompt you for a password. Nice. My only beef was that there was no "back" button, if you didn't enter the code correctly, you had to exit and start over. Of course, this also helps deter any little "safe cracker" who might be living in your house.


clip_image008_058.jpgMy first concern was checking the multi-zone capability. Was the unit really capable of doing all it said? Obviously the answer was yes. Each zone functioned just like its own tuner, completely independent of each other. Basically, it functioned like three separate tuners running off of one antenna. Subjective listening tests indicated that it made no difference if you used the RCA or TOSLink connection.

The front LCD panel seemed fairly large until you powered the unit and see that each zone was represented at all times. This was nice in that it allowed you to see what is going on in each zone but it also forced the font to be so small that from a distance (over 5 feet or so) all you could really make out was the channel number. While it is likely that the TriplePlay XM-3000 will be tucked away in a rack somewhere and rarely see the light of day, it would be nice to have the option of zooming in on a channel so that the artist and station information was visible from a distance.

But, in direct contrast to what is written above, I don't recommend ever putting this unit in front of a customer without some sort of shading. The LED power light (which is always on unless the unit is unplugged) and the screen (which is only on when the unit is on) is without a doubt the brightest I've ever seen on a piece of audio equipment. In my room, it was like a beacon cutting through the dark, guiding me home. I kept expecting to find moths circling it. Personally, I found it more than a little annoying and really wanted some sort of dimmer option for the LED and backlight.

So, I've established that the screen is too small (or too much information is on it at once) to be useful and that you really don't want the unit in front of you as you use it anyways. My next suggestion is that there should be some sort of video out. There is really no way to program this unit without sitting right in front of it. With a video out (even if it was just a composite or s-video) you could pipe it to a screen and program it from farther away. This may be moot to someone taking advantage of the RS-232 port but for those that don't, it would be a nice option.


clip_image010_041.jpgThe remote could be considered utilitarian - if it was all that useful. Since you have to be sitting within a few feet of the screen to see it, the remote usefulness really extends to allowing the installer to sit in a chair in front of the unit rather than having to kneel there. Not to mention that from six feet away, the IR sensitivity was so limited and narrow that I literally had to have the remote directly perpendicular to the unit on the same plane to get it to work. Not the most useful of remotes. Granted, it will probably be used once by the installer then replaced with something else so this doesn't really make it a deal breaker - but dang, this remote stinks.

Antex XM3000 Listening Tests and Conclusion

While I don't have another unit upon which to make an adequate comparison, I feel compelled to run through a few stations and give some quick impressions. The important thing to remember is that the unit works; it passes XM radio to three separate zones using one antenna. You can be listening to light jazz in the kitchen while your better half is listening to 80's retro in the den and the little on can be listening to punk in their room. Very nice. All from one unit.

For this test, I set my receiver to 2.1 using my Axiom m22ti's as fronts and the famous EP500 as the sub. I've found that these speakers mate together flawlessly creating a full soundstage that is both revealing and involving. Imperfections in the source material are quickly uncovered, sometimes to painful effect. If you want accuracy in source reproduction, Axiom is a good way to go.

Given the tenor of Gene's recent editorial , I decided to start on channel 50, The Loft (Acoustic Rock). I was hoping to hear a good amount of dynamic range and to see how accurately the guitar was conveyed. Unfortunately, the first song that played was Fleetwood Mac's "I don't know to." I just couldn't get past the compressed vocals. It sounded like she was singing at the bottom of an empty grain silo. Fortunately, I found this particular song to be and abnormality as many of the other tracks I heard had a much better sound than this.

Joni Mitchell's "Harry's House" started off a bit forward (putting it lightly) but the vocals were very warm and lifelike. There were moments of compression but the only time it really got annoying was during the trumpet section. At the higher notes, the trumpet would compress audibly completely losing its normal, full sound and being reduced to a bad imitation of a kazoo. One oddity that I noticed was that during the station identification, the sub would sustain a really low note that I almost felt more than heard.

Next, I wanted to test the low-end response. First I tried the underground dance station (channel 80) - which is odd because I thought dancing underground would be like being buried alive. Anyhow, that music is already so compressed I could only take a minute or two before I had to turn it. I can report that the EP500 did a fairly nice job of making me think I had to "pop" my ears. Biting the bullet, I switched to Snoop Dog's Classic (classic?) Hip Hop station (channel 65). There was quite a bit of compression evident but much of it I would expect given the age of the music. Giving up, I prepared to move on when Public Enemy came on. Come on, talk about old school! Sounded terrible but I couldn't help myself. Flavor of Love aside, Public Enemy had something going for them back in the day.

Last, I switched to traditional Jazz (channel 70). The first track I heard was Chaka Khan's rendition of "I love you Porgy." Wow, what a difference from some of the other stations. While I would have liked to have heard a bit more dynamic range, overall, the experience was entirely pleasant and involving. Apparently not all XM stations are created equal. Once again, I found as I listened that the source material played a big part. Some of the older music had reduced audio quality. The most consistent "problem" area was audience applause which generally sounded like someone crumpling wax paper. Overall, I found this station to be one of the more pleasant to listen to.

Conclusions and Overall Perceptions

As a consumer-direct product, the Antex TriplePlay XM-3000 may not make much sense. It's expensive and is really designed and intended for use in a custom install application. It simply doesn't offer the kind of flexibility in customization a consumer is likely to want (it is meant to be set up once and rarely changed). However, as a custom install product, it is great in that it simplifies three zone installations to the point of being ridiculously easy. Once the installer sets up whichever touch screen remote the consumer wants, almost all of my "suggestions" are moot. A quick scan of the Internet gave me absolutely NO credible competitors to this product. That alone is a testament to the innovation of the TriplePlay. As a custom installer, I'd view the TriplePlay XM-3000 as a Godsend. Setup is a breeze; and once it is done, you are unlikely to have to make many changes. On the other hand, if a customer wants to do something minor (like change a password) the setup menu is easy enough to navigate that a user could be talked through it over the phone.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStarStar
Ease of SetupStarStarStar
Remote ControlStarStar
Audio PerformanceStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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