App Directory: The Best Music Player Application For Windows

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.

Winamp

Platform: Windows Price: Free, $US20 for Pro version Download Page

Features:

  • 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.

The Competition

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.


Comments

    Have to agree. Ive been a WinAmp user for about ten years. Ive tried many other players but always come back to WinAmp.

    Nothing is as lightweight and quick and clean as Foobar... simple. oh and its free..

    WinAmp was great before verson 3 onwards, where it started to incur bloat. I still use v2.91, which is light weight, works with Windows 7 and still awesome!!!

    WinAmp will always be my player of choice, but after a brief (and very frustrating) go with iTunes I am firmly in Team MediaMonkey as a library organiser and sync-er-of-iPods.

    Have been a fan for winamp since version 2.0 when i believe Justin was still coding it, before he sold it to AOL and then later quit, oh the speed and the performance, there was nothing like it, now its a little bit big, but nothing I can't handle since i have been a fan for ages, can't remember how long I have been using it for, but still my favourite.

    I've been using Winamp for years. It really does whip the llama's ass.

      HAHA true

    One of my biggest reluctances to leave WinAmp is Milkdrop.
    F'n Awesome!

      Fair call, but with a bit of work Milkdrop 2.0 can run on Foobar and (possibly) MM. But yeah, life without Milkdrop is life not worth living.

    I too used Winamp during it's early, early versions. Then I dual booted with linux and fell in love with Amarok. With no decent Windows build I went with MediaMonkey and now I have an exclusive Win7 machine and it is everything I need. Paid for the Gold version and loving it.

    Strange that this article should come up the day after I researched the very same question!

    Winamp has been terribly bloated for a few years now, which, prompted a swap to Songbird sometime ago. The reason for switching away from SB is that the newer versions of SB don't support media flow. I really like the ability to pick what I want to hear by flicking through album covers. Perhaps it's a sign of getting old, but choosing songs from a vinyl/CD collection is done the same way and I like it!

    I've gone with MediaMonkey for now, which after one day of use seems reasonable, but doesn't feel superior. The autotag from filename strikes me as being weaker than SB's auto-organise that rearranged the actual file structure of my library. I also think the cover artwork handling isn't as good as it is in SB.

    I'm considering a look @ foobar as this was the other alternative I had in mind.

      The media flow in Songbird is just an add-on and it has been updated for the new version.

      I vote for Songbird. It looks great, has add-ons, and plays and manages both video and audio.

        OMG! You are right, after months of checking I'd given up and since your post I have been and checked the add-ons site and Mediaflow was updated for the latest version of Songbird 12 days ago.

        Back to Songbird for me then! <3

      I agree, Songbird was amazing at sorting an organizing my collections file structure, but other than that it does have crashes and other ridiculous oddities that cause me to question it sometimes.

      Another basic but quite good media player is
      XMPlay, http://www.un4seen.com/.

      its a good player, lightweight, plays most files :)

    I love MediaMonkey for it's tagging ability (currently up to H in my library of 180Gb), but I find tagging an extremely tedious process with any software.

    Anyone got any suggestions for better tagging apps? Considering all my media is in /Artist/Album/track.mp3 you think there would be a mass tagging app that is intelligent enough to autotag just from that information.

      Chris, I'm going through a tag jungle at the moment after having a hard disk fail leaving me to use recovery software on an even older hard drive I was able to recover much of my music collection, though huge numbers of files with no tags. Back to square one.
      I use mp3tag.de and in some instances mptagthat. They are both for tagging only. No one program is the be all and end all of tagging. mptag that can do a lot on it's own from the "identify file" process whereas mp3tag is better when you need to more manual work.
      Enjoy

        Thanks - I'll check them out.

        Musicbrainz Picard - it is very good for automatically identifying and tagging your tunes, renaming the songs using whatever name format you want, plus can move them them into whatever folder strcuture you define.

        It's great.

    Foobar is the greatest! Takes a bit of effort to customise it to your liking, but considering that it's capable of basically replicating any of the other players via this process it has to be the winner!

    Itunes for Windows is an unholy monster and the worst example of PC software ever devised.

    I used to swear by Winamp, but since Windows 7, I find windows media player does everything I need, and things like streaming between macines is just so easy.

    Having said that, I still keep Winamp to sync my iPod.

      +1 WMP12.

      1) Light.

      2) Win7 monitored libraries are indispensable.

      3) Embedding of star ratings into the tracks is also an excellent feature.. actually makes rating music worth the invested time. (rather than losing the work whenever you move your collection)

      3.5) Autoplaylists + Star ratings = Awesome.

      4) Will sync to anything.

      5) You can pin playlists (incl. autoplaylist) files or streams to WMP on your taskbar. So Right-Click > Select. Done. The fastest way bar none to fill the room with music.

      6) It's also media server if you turn streaming on.

    I think VLC has a library option somewhere doesn' it?

    doesn't anyone else like aimp?
    http://www.aimp.ru/index.php (then click the english EN box)

    lightweight and very customizable

    i left winamp for it

    Jetaudio should be included in the list

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