There are a lot of great music players for Windows, and it’s next to impossible to make a broad “best” statement that applies to everyone, but that doesn’t stop the powerful, yet easy-to-use Winamp from winning our hearts for the best music player on Windows.
NOTE: This App Directory entry has been updated. Click here for the most recent version.
Note that, while Winamp is taking the place of “best music player” for this app directory, we know that a lot of you are fiercely loyal to your favourite music player, and with good reason — there are a lot of fantastic players for Windows. This is an app category that is very subject to personal taste and needs, and we get that. Check out the Competition section below for more info on some of our other favourite players for Windows.
Price: Free, $US20 for Pro version
- Manages all your media and supports a ridiculous amount of formats.
- Create and manage playlists, and “smart” playlists that update based on custom filters
- Enqueue songs into a “Now Playing” pane for on-the-go playlist creation.
- Watch folders on your hard drive for changes and automatically adjust your library accordingly
- Import libraries from iTunes
- Sync iPod, Android, and many other portable music devices with your library
- Limited CD burning and ripping support, unhindered in $US20 pro version
- Remotely access and share your music from any web browser
- Auto-tag your music using the Gracenote music database
- View detailed artist and track information as you play music
- Subscribe, download, and listen to podcasts, either by searching Winamp’s podcast directory or by adding feeds yourself
- A plugin architecture that lets you add lots of functionality to the player, like extra supported formats, skins, library organisation tools, and other features.
- An integrated browser that allows you to browse for just about anything in-player (useful for browsing plug-ins, skins, and so on)
Where it Excels
Winamp is heavily customisable without being too difficult to use, which means that the majority of users can easily tweak the interface, install extra plugins, and generally get the player working exactly how they want it to. It also supports tons of different file formats and syncs with nearly any USB device out there. The bottom line is that anyone can use this player and get it to suit their needs, which makes it a great go-to program when you’re looking for a media player.
Where it Needs Work
If there weren’t other media players out there, we’d say Winamp is damn near perfect. But, when it comes down to it, it isn’t quite as customisable as foobar2000, nor is it as great for tagging and organising your music as MediaMonkey. That said, it still excels greatly in both of these areas, while not going so far as to make the player confusing and difficult to use, which is a good thing.
Also, Winamp has some slightly annoying installation practices, like trying to add extra software or a toolbar to your machine, as well as make itself the default player for nearly every media file type out there. As long as you don’t skip through the installation, though, you should be able to avoid these pretty easily.
Winamp is great, but that’s not to say it’s the only option on Windows. If we could, we’d probably have a list of five “best” media players here, but our goal is to only choose one, so we don’t. However, there are quite a few other players that we’d highly recommend looking at:
MediaMonkey: If you are a true music junkie with a humungous library, MediaMonkey is a great program to keep it all sorted. It has more options than we even know what to do with when it comes to tagging, organising and managing your library, and it also has the same syncing, folder watching, podcasting, and customising features we love so much in Winamp. These organisation features also make it great for those who currently have very messy libraries, or are just really, really obsessive about organisation.
Foobar2000: Foobar2000 is extremely lightweight and insanely customisable. It won’t do much but play and tag music out of the box, but it also has a lot of plugins that let you customise its features. It’s a bit more difficult to use than Winamp or MediaMonkey, though, so it’s really a better player for advanced users that want to tweak every dark corner of the player (unless you don’t care what it looks like and only need a few basic features).
iTunes: We aren’t huge fans of iTunes on Windows, but if you’re an iPhone user, it’s certainly the easiest way to sync your music, apps, playlists and other info to your phone (since it was made for it). That’s pretty much the only reason to use it in our opinion, though, and even then, other players can still sync to iDevices quite nicely, so we’d shop around first.
These are some of the biggest ones, but there are still a ton of others, like Windows Media Player, MusicBee, Clementine, and even VLC (though we’d be hard pressed to call that a full-featured music library program). The best thing you can do when looking for a music player on Windows is try a few out. If you don’t feel like sifting through a ton of players, though, I’ll eat my hat if you can’t make Winamp work the way you want it to.
Lifehacker’s App Directory recommends the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.