The Top 10 Home Theater Applications For Your HDTV, Blu-ray and Other Components

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DirecTV Sunday Ticket
This one is specifically for DirecTV's superfans, and you know who you are. You've paid more than a pretty penny for the NFL Sunday Ticket package that allows you to watch every game, all season long. That's great, but what if you have to travel or, you know, actually go out with the family on a Sunday afternoon? Not only are you missing the games, but your precious dollars are being wasted. Now, much to the chagrin of loved ones, you can take all of the games with you through the Sunday Ticket app. Although the app is free, you have to pay $50 for the NFL Sunday Ticket To Go service (which also allows you to watch HD-quality streaming on a computer).

You can find more information by reading our DirecTV HR23 receiver and HD DVR review.

Music Apps

Pandora
Pandora is the offspring of the Music Genome Project, in which musicians and music lovers do in-depth analysis of songs to help classify them beyond simple genres like pop, rock, hip-hop, etc. Like its online counterpart, the free Pandora app is designed to help you find artists that are similar to those you already like. Create a U2 channel, for instance, and Pandora will stream U2 songs, as well as tracks from other artists that meet similar criteria. You can help shape the upcoming selections by pressing "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" for each track, plus you have the option of bookmarking songs/artists, purchasing songs directly through iTunes, and emailing your channels to others who might enjoy them. Pandora also has preset "genre" stations that perform more like typical Internet-radio stations.

An affordable television that runs its own Pandora app is the Vizio M550NV RazorLED LCD HDTV.

Last.fm
The free Last.fm app is similar to Pandora in its general functionality--allowing you to create stations based on artists, flag songs you like to help refine the selection process, and buy tracks directly from iTunes. It goes further than Pandora by adding the ability to make playlists, share songs with other Last.fm users or via email, get artist tour schedules, and add tags to songs to aid in the classification process. You can also listen to stations created by other Last.fm users. Last.fm's "social tagging" system can result in a very different playlist than the one Pandora would create for the same artist; in my experience, it goes a little further outside the box in its song selections, which can expose you to a wider range of artists. The jazz lover in my house prefers Last.fm because of its greater diversity. Of course, you might also find yourself skipping more tracks that you feel miss the mark, but isn't that worth it to discover a few new gems along the way?

Shazam
We've all had that moment when we hear a song on the radio or TV that grabs us, and we immediately want to know the song and artist information. Or how about those times when you find yourself humming a song but can't remember its name or who sang it? Enter Shazam, the instantly addictive app that helps you identity a song just by holding up the mobile's device microphone to the audio source. In a few seconds, voila: Artist and song title are at your fingertip, along with the option to hear a portion of the song, purchase it from iTunes, see the lyrics, get artist tour info, view YouTube videos, and more. The free Shazam app is limited to five "tags" (or song identifications) per month; for unlimited monthly tags, you can purchase the $5 Shazam Encore app instead.

NPR Music
The NPR Music app is the perfect choice for people who not only love to hear music but also love to hear about music. The free app provides easy access to the same type of programming that's available at the NPR Music website, such as streaming music channels, live performances, and full-length previews of new albums. You can also listen to popular music-related NPR programs like All Songs Considered, Song of the Day, and World Caf´┐Ż. The app allows you to make playlists and search the archives for content from your favorite artists; through "Tiny Desk Concerts," you can even watch video of in-studio performances. To say that NPR's musical tastes are eclectic is a serious understatement, so be prepared to have your horizons broadened when you download this app.

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