You’ve collected hundreds of thousands of megabytes (and maybe even gigabytes) of digital music and video in the past 10 years, and as your media library has grown, so has the necessity for finding the perfect desktop media player. Not only must the perfect player be capable of playing back your media, but it also needs to be able to help you search through and find any song or movie you’re looking for at a moment’s notice. Hit the jump for a glimpse at the five best desktop media players according to Lifehacker readers.
foobar2000 is the most customisable digital audio player on the block. It’s also one of the most lightweight players we’re featuring. Out of the box foobar2000 is a little bland, but if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves, you can make it into almost anything you want. Check out our primer for customising foobar2000 foobar2000 has plug-ins for iPod support, album art, lyrics, and it’s even portable.
If you were a fan of digital music in the ’90s, the only thing you were into as much as Napster was Winamp. Despite the fact that Winamp isn’t as much at the forefront as it once was, it’s still in active development and still maintains a thriving community of users contributing skins and plug-ins. It’s also got iPod and other MP3 player support (naturally), remote streaming through your browser and game consoles, and an auto-tagging feature that automatically updates your music’s metadata. It’s also added video support for managing your ever-growing video library.
iTunes has gained massive popularity as the official media player of the iPod, but iTunes is also a powerful media management tool in its own right. Despite its detractors, iTunes has secured much of its popularity with a dead-simple yet powerful interface. It also bundles up the most successful digital music store on the planet, having sold over 5 billion songs—though it also comes with all that sticky, iPod-only DRM. Perhaps the biggest downside to iTunes: It can have a massive memory footprint.
VLC (All Platforms)
VLC is the cross-platform Swiss Army knife of media players. It’s lightweight, open source, and can play virtually any file—audio or video—that you throw at it. VLC has no media library tools, but you can create and save playlists. Either way, the slim, no-nonsense player has found a home on countless Windows, Mac, and Linux installs.
This weeks honorable mentions go to Media Monkey (Windows freeware and shareware) and Windows Media Player. Whether or not your media player of choice made the Hive Five, let’s hear more about the player you love and why in the comments.
Adam Pash is a senior editor for Lifehacker who has a polyamorous love for media players. His Hive Five feature appears every week on Lifehacker.