MarksFriggin Review of Ramsey Electronics FM25B - 10/13/2005
(or How To Fill Your House With SIRIUS For Under $200)
UPDATE: 11/19/05 - After writing this review, I was informed by a couple of people that the FM modulator built into many portable SIRIUS satellite tuners can do virtually the same thing that the FM25B can do. Before you run out to do what I've done, try using the built in FM modulator in your tuner to see if it's strong enough to send the signal around your home to the selected FM frequency that you would tune into in your vehicle.
About 11 months before writing this I purchased my first SIRIUS satellite tuner after Howard Stern announced he was moving there in 2006. After writing my review of the Audiovox SIRPNP2 I got an email from someone who had a suggestion for me. After reading that I was planning on buying more tuners for use in different rooms of my house, that e-mailer, whose name I can't remember, suggested that I look into getting an FM transmitter kit from Ramsey Electronics. That would make it possible to rebroadcast the signal from the tuner around my home on an FM frequency of my choice. I could send the signal to every radio in my house! Brilliant! The only problem is that most of Ramsey's tuners are 'hobby kits' and have to be assembled. That means that I'd have to do some soldering and I have zero experience with soldering anything but a copper pipe. Copper pipes and tiny electronic parts are a world apart. I thought about buying one of the kits on a few occasions but I didn't want to fry a $139 purchase (there are cheaper ones) because of my lack of soldering skills so I put that idea on the back burner.
Sometime during the summer (2005) I was dicking around on eBay.com when it struck me that maybe someone would be selling one of these Ramsey FM tuners that I was thinking about building at a reduced price. That's when I found a guy out in California who builds the kits and sells them at a pretty reasonable price considering the amount of work that he has to put into them. He also said that he tests the units and his feedback was 100 percent positive. I put off the purchase until I heard that Howard's SIRIUS channels were going live on September 29, 2005. I made the plunge and bought one of the pre-built Ramsey Electronics FM25Bs from the guy on eBay.com for about $170 including shipping. It's not exactly cheap but I won't have to buy more tuners to fill my house with Howard Stern.
The FM25B is smaller than it looks so you can shove it in a corner somewhere and never even notice it. There are a couple of minor adjustments you have to make to set it up before your first use. The most important one is setting a frequency to broadcast on (Between 88 and 108 MHz). You need to do some research to make sure you're not going to step on a frequency that your neighbors might be listening to, that can get you into some trouble with the FCC. I spent a good hour checking every frequency in my area by going out to my car and changing every channel one by one. I'll tell you what, there are a lot more stations in my area than I thought there would be. I expected to find a bunch of open frequencies to mess around with. That wasn't the case. I did find a couple of pretty dead areas on the dial and decided to go with a frequency that shouldn't cause problems with my neighbors.
I connected my SIRIUS tuner, using a 1/8'' Stereo to 1/8'' Stereo cable (not supplied), to the FM25B and turned on a couple of radios around the house. I then spent about 5 minutes setting the power output of the FM25B. I ended up turning the power all the way down to keep the signal as close to home as possible. I also left the whip antenna all the way down since I was getting a great signal all over the house anyway. So for under $200, not including the SIRIUS tuner, I can now tune in any radio in the house and get my SIRIUS signal. Within a couple of days of getting my FM25B, Howard had his first day of content on Howard Stern 100 which turned out to be nothing but farts and queefs. With the help of my new setup, I was able to listen to the farts anywhere in my house. The FM25B isn't just limited to the tuner either. You can hook it up to any audio source, computer, CD player, etc., and broadcast the signal around your house/property.
This type of setup has great as long as you have convenient access to your SIRIUS tuner. If you plan on listening to just one channel, it's no big deal. If you want to change SIRIUS channels, you still have to do so on the SIRIUS tuner itself. If the tuner is on the other side of your house, that could be a bit of a pain in the ass. There are options though. If you want to be able to change channels from across your house, you could add an remote control extender, like the Terk Technologies LF-IRX Leapfrog Remote Control Extender, which would send your infrared remote signal via a long range RF signal to your tuner. The Terk works up to 120 feet away, through walls and floors. Then there's the option of buying a SIRIUS radio for every room in the house. I'm sure SIRIUS would prefer that...