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What are dock & play satellite radios?

Satellite radio to go

By

Matt Holliday

Matt Holliday was one of Crutchfield's ace car enthusiasts for several years. He brought a lifetime of knowledge and experience to our team. He has since left the company to join the family business and pursue other interests.

More from Matt Holliday

Compact, lightweight, and versatile, Dock & Play satellite radios are the most popular options on the market for getting SiriusXM programming. With the help of accessory kits, they plug into and play through your car or home stereo. The biggest advantage of Dock & Play: you only have to pay one subscription fee to listen in both locations.

The Basics

A Dock & Play radio is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, so it's easy to carry it around. You can play it through your car stereo, then take it inside and play it through your home stereo. In either location, the radio sits in a cradle, sometimes called a docking station; it's at the cradle that all connections, including power and signal, are made. The radio receives the satellite signal from an external antenna that plugs into the cradle. You use the controls on the radio to change channels, set up the system, etc.

When you buy a Dock & Play satellite radio, you have to make sure you have at least one of the following:

  • a car kit to play the radio in the car (many Dock & Play radios these days come with car kits);
  • a home kit to use it indoors;
  • a boombox to use either in home or outdoors (not all Dock & Play radios are compatible with boomboxes);

When you buy a Dock & Play satellite radio, you'll most likely pick up a car kit and a home kit, to take full advantage of the radio's capabilities. Boomboxes, when available, are great if you'd like to bring satellite radio along when you go outdoors; they're especially fun at places like the beach, or at tailgate parties.

siriusxm onyx plus kit

This kit has everything you need for in-car use. Home kits are also available.

What should I look for in a Dock & Play radio?

Display size
Not surprisingly, the bigger a Dock & Play radio's display is, the easier it is to see. Also, the number of lines in a display determine the amount of information it can show you.

Size and design
The amount of dash or console space you have available might help determine the size of the satellite radio you get. Some are designed to use as little space as possible, giving you more installation options. Aesthetics certainly play a role, too — you'll probably want your radio to look good in your car, and to blend well with your home stereo components.

Wireless FM transmitter
As mentioned above, a wireless FM transmitter helps you use a Dock & Play radio with any in-dash stereo. The more frequencies on which an FM transmitter can broadcast, the better. More choices mean you're more likely to find an unused FM frequency. This is especially helpful in large cities with high FM station density.

Channel presets
The more channels you can save as presets, the easier surfing and finding your favorites will be, especially in the car.

Internal memory
Some Dock & Play radios will automatically and continually store whatever you're listening to, which can be quite handy. This means you can pause live broadcasts, rewind, and fast forward. The memory buffer replaces the oldest content as it gets filled up. Usually, this memory is erased whenever you turn the power off.

Song memory
Many Dock & Play radios let you save the names of either song titles or artists , then will alert you whenever they're playing, no matter what channel you're currently listening to. You'll have the option to switch over to it from your current channel by pressing a single button.

Info extras
Some Dock & Play radios are able to show scrolling, customizable information on their displays. Usually, these are either sports scores or a stock ticker. In most cases, you can select the teams you'd like to see updated, and the stock symbols you'd like to follow.

Wireless remote
Most Dock & Play radios come with wireless remotes. They make controlling the radio in the house (or from the backseat of a car) much easier.

  • Patrick Rwehumbiza from Tanzania

    Posted on 6/28/2015 2:49:23 PM

    If I buy Dock & Pay radio,how am I going to pay subscription?

  • Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/29/2015 9:57:59 AM

    Patrick, Subscriptions are handled directly by SiriusXM. They'll take care of activation, billing, etc.

  • Amy

    Posted on 11/26/2015 1:29:55 PM

    Can the Dock and Play radio be transferred between vehicles (home and work)?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/27/2015 10:21:17 AM

    Amy, yes, that's the fun of dock and play radios. As long as you have compatible kits for your home and vehicle, you should be able to use your satellite radio receiver in both places.

  • Ashley Schroeder from Gibsonburg

    Posted on 12/5/2015 8:37:43 PM

    I purchased a radio for my husband's work truck because they do not have a radio in them at all but I'm wondering what speaker i should get for it? Thanks!

  • Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/7/2015 8:56:06 AM

    Ashley, I've forwarded your question to our sales team for the best answer. They'll be contacting you via email soon. For immediate help, you can contact them via phone or chat.

  • joe from cambridge

    Posted on 1/30/2016 6:59:38 PM

    Does anyone know of a power convertor to allow my starmate 8 car kit to play in my workshop....(12 to 110v)

  • Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/1/2016 9:39:35 AM

    Joe, Not sure about converters, but the SiriusXM SXDH3 home kit is another way to enjoy satellite radio programming in your office.

  • Matt Sauer

    Posted on 2/1/2016 12:25:49 PM

    Are the dock and play radios suitable for a marine application? I would like to transfer between truck and boat.

  • Jon Paulette from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/2/2016 9:08:26 AM

    Matt, While they're not technically marine-rated, dock and play radios are frequently moved from truck to boat and back. You'll want to make sure you dock it in a location that's protected from the elements. And if you spend a lot of time at speed, you'll want to make sure it's mounted securely.


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