The best desktop audio players organise your playlists, ensure your massive music collection is easily searchable, and sync with mobile players. But which ones excel in all of these areas? This week we're going to take a look at five of the best desktop audio players.
Foobar2000 is probably the most customisable and flexible music player in this roundup. It's completely free, plays just about anything you throw at it, supports gapless playback, features tons of customisable keyboard shortcuts so you can keep the music playing without taking your hands off the keyboard, and keeps your music library neatly organised. Foobar2000 also allows developers to build plug-ins and add-ons for it, so there are dozens of components you can download to extend its feature set further. Even with those components installed, Foobar2000 is super-lightweight and easy on system resources.
If you're looking for a jukebox that plays your audio files but also helps keep your music and media organised, MediaMonkey is for you. MediaMonkey is a podcast manager, CD ripper, music player, tag-and-rename organiser, audiobook player and portable device syncing tool all rolled into one. The app will look up tags, album art and other song information for you automatically and seek out duplicate songs and tags, all for the low price of absolutely free (there's a $US25 "Gold" version, but the free version is enough for most users). It's not the prettiest app, but if you're obsessive about the cleanliness of your music collection, you can't go wrong here.
Winamp has been "whipping the llama's ass" for over 15 years now, and while much of its recent emphasis has been on its excellent Android player, the Windows desktop player still rocks. It's completely skinnable, incredibly customisable, pretty fast and completely free (there's a $US20 pro version, but the free version will suffice for most people). You can use Winamp to rip CDs, play video as well as music, and sync your music with your mobile device (wirelessly, if you use Android). It also features its own podcast and music directory. That said, Winamp's basics are where it shines: it's simply a killer music player. Mac users can get in on the action with Winamp for Mac Sync, which allows you to sync and listen to the music on your Android device and import iTunes playlists.
iTunes is one of the most popular music players in the world for good reason -- it offers a great music store, the best syncing options for Apple-branded mobile devices, a podcast manager and a fully featured jukebox. Mac users are essentially stuck with iTunes -- it's easily the most functional music player in OS X. It's a less clear choice on Windows, where iTunes is notoriously greedy for system resources, but it's an essential requirement if you are rocking an iPhone. Combined with iCloud and iTunes Match, you have a desktop player with powerful wireless cloud features that help you keep your music playing on the go.
Fast, lightweight and free, MusicBee is easy on your Windows resources, well-designed and a great tool to not just listen to your music but also tag, organise and download information about your songs. Add your own tags and organise your collection, use the app to find duplicate tracks and tags. MusicBee also wins points for supporting lots of different file types and formats, making it easy to rip CDs and sync playlists with your mobile devices.
Honourable mentions this week go out to Spotify, which is as great desktop a music player as it is a solid streaming service. Also worth mentioning is the Zune player, which many praise for its great-looking interface, access to the Zune Marketplace and a Smart DJ feature that blows other apps out of the water.
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favourite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Have your say in the comments below.