Radio Reception in the Mercedes

My Mercedes Benz continues to be an excellent purchase. However, all is not perfect. The radio reception in the Mercedes tends to be very poor when I get near the Sonoita area. Now, I am a good distance from the nearest town and thus radio tower, but every previous car (4) I have owned while living in Sonoita, has had no problem picking up the radio stations. The Mercedes Benz struggles though. I think its a function of the radio receiver used in the audio system, but cant be sure. I am pretty sure its not a defect issue.

So now I am trying to figure out the best way around this dilemma in order to enjoy music on the drives to work, Tucson or Sierra Vista. The easiest solution is probably just to switch to CDs. The car has a six CD changer so I can load up a fair amount of music. The problem for me is remembering to take a CD case in and out of the car everytime I go somewhere. Or, to keep the CD case fresh with music. Plus, I dont own a large number of CDs. I think I would end up listening to the same music over and over. The taking of the CD case in and out is an issue because in the Arizona heat of 100+ degrees, the inside of the car gets very hot when sitting outside for any length of time. That cant be very good for them.

The next obvious solution is to get satellite radio. That shouldnt be limited by my proximity to towns. Mercedes Benz offers an XM satellite radio solution but it must have been installed in the factory. There is no dealer add-on or third party capability for it to be integrated into the audio system. This sounds hard to believe and reall stupid, but I have verified this from multiple sources. That leaves me with a standalone satellite radio solution. These standalone systems work by receiving the satellite radio signal and then retransmitting the signal on a very low power FM radio frequency that you car radio picks up. Thus you listen to the satellite radio on your FM radio.

Thats not normally as a bad as it sounds and many people have really good results with that kind of setup. My concern with it is our past experience with the Ipod FM transmitter for listening to your Ipod in the car. Our results with that have not been good in our area and on the way into Tucson. We tend to get a lot of interference from the very unregulated Mexican radio stations across the border. As we go through the pass, these FM frequencies seem to be “tunneled” together and caused pretty poor reception on the Ipod system. I am fearful of similar results with the satellite radio solution. I have talked with a couple of companies about the satellite radio and they think I could have similar difficulties.

The satellite radio solution is reasonably priced – about $300 including the custom installation. The question is do I take a chance on unknown FM transmission quality of the satellite solution? Do I suck it up and try to make the CD solution work? That may be even more expensive in the long run if it has me now buying CDs. Of course, I can just deal with the static and poor reception.

Anyone have any other ideas or thoughts?