Q: We keep background music going all waking hours. We use dedicated boxes for both DirecTV (SonicTap) and Comcast (Music Choice) and send the signals from the boxes to an amplifier for a whole-house audio system. The problem is the most recent tuner boxes no longer display the tuned channels, assuming they'll be hooked to a TV that will display the channel. Do you know of any kind of app or add-on that will display the selected channel?
A: Yes, displays on the front of cable and satellite boxes are largely a thing of the past. They have been omitted to cut hardware costs, of course, and, as you noted, in most cases they are redundant, anyway.
There are no add-ons I know off that can provide a second small display with the channel number. But both DirecTV and Comcast offer apps on the iTunes Store and the Android Market that will display the selected channel on your phone or tablet. These apps also can be used to program your DVR remotely and search for content, and best of all, to watch live TV and content from your DVR.
Most pay TV services have similar apps. I am a Dish subscriber, and I use their app all the time, for many different things. When I see an interesting TV show mentioned on the Internet, I pull out my phone and use the app to program my DVR so I can watch it. I also often use it to access live TV or check the news channels. It's like having a portable TV for every room of the house. I was going to buy a TV for my kitchen and mount it on the wall, but then I remembered my app. Now I just set up my iPad, pair it to a small Bluetooth speaker (lately I have been using the Braven Balance, which I will be writing about soon) and place them both on the counter.
You should be aware of the danger of driving up your phone bill. If you have unlimited data, it's not a problem to stream live TV and DVR content wherever you are. Otherwise it is best to limit TV watching to places where you have Wi-Fi connection. It is no problem using the app with your cell data to program your DVR, search for content or check TV schedules.
If you have a tablet or smartphone, locate and download your TV service provider's app and use it. It gives you even more control of your content and viewing experience, and it's like taking a TV with you everywhere you go.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.