March 4, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Pyrcast App Removes Pandora Ads for $5

Pyrcast plays Pandora through a modified interface, removing commercials.

Pyrcast 2.0 plays Pandora through a modified interface, removing commercials.

Alerting music fans who use Macs: Pandora has company.

The Pyrcast Mac App integrates the Pandora streaming radio service with the Mac desktop and eliminates its audio advertisements. Released last month with a new version 2.0 on Thursday, Pyrcast is available in the Mac App Store for $5.

To the disappointment of some app developers, Pandora has yet to release an official API — an Application Programming Interface with which other developers could build their own Pandora players. This is understandable, as removing the lid on that particular box might allow ad revenue to escape.

But the game appears to be up, for now anyway. Pyrcast serves up Pandora’s music in a customized, multitasker-friendly format with none of the usual advertisements, audio or otherwise — a feature we verified with a day of testing and checking with developer Alex Winston, who confirmed that his app strips audio commercials from Pandora.

“We can choose not to include ads in the stream, and Pyrcast is currently commercial free,” wrote Winston.

A Pandora spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the quiet period before the company’s IPO.

The minimalist, multitasker-friendly Pyrcast packs global keyboard commands for playing, pausing, and skipping, which can be modified in case of conflicts with other programs, such as the popular CoverSutra.

But the Pyrcast Mac App really shines if you install Growl and enable Growl notifications within Pyrcast (pictured to the right), so that new songs show up in the corner of the screen. You can even close the Pyrcast window completely to get it out of your way, if you so desire, keeping tabs on things with Growl notifications and keyboard controls.

Pyrcast includes most of the functions in the web version of Pandora: currently-playing and previous songs; up or down ratings; adding artist stations; buying songs on iTunes; accessing all of your stations; and pausing and skipping playback. However, we missed Pandora’s usual bookmarking and station sharing on Facebook, Twitter, email, and within Pandora. Don’t screw up your ratings, either, because the app doesn’t let you change your mind if you rate a song wrong by mistake.

Pyrcast, a Mac desktop player for Pandora, has a simple design leaves a lot to be desired, but performs very well for what it is.

The old 1.0 version of Pyrcast, pictured here, played within the Mac menu bar, a feature we liked that is replicated in the current version 2.0 by Growl notifications and modifiable keyboard shortcuts.

Still, Pyrcast excels for what it is: Pandora for people who multitask while they listen. If you just want to play some music without fussing with playlists or putting up with ads, Pyrcast is a wonder.

Pyrcast veterans should know that the new version 2.0 cannot be controlled in the menu bar, as the previous version 1.0 could be (pictured to the right). Winston told that he left menu-bar playback out of this version due to user complaints about its operation, but that he hopes to reintroduce it as an option in a future version.

Overall, $5 might seem like a lot to pay for such a minimal app, especially when its ad-skipping feature could disappear if it becomes too popular — and Pyrcast is currently number seven in the Mac App Store’s music category, down from number six. Besides, ad-free Pandora costs $3/month.

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