Everyone has a favourite desktop music player. For some of us, it’s the one that plays our music fast, with no fuss or hassle. For others it’s a tool that organises your playlists, syncs with your smartphone, makes your music collection easy to dig through, and looks good while doing it. This week we’re going to look at five of the best desktop music players, based on your nominations.
Title photo by audio-collage.
MediaMonkey is an impressive combination of jukebox and library organiser. Sure, you can use it to just play your tunes, organise playlists, and sync with your mobile devices, but if your music library is a mess (as mine is), you can also use MediaMonkey to clean it up without too much effort. The layout and UI is customisable, and the player is snappy and fast even with a library of thousands of songs, which is more than we can say for some of the other programs in the roundup. MediaMonkey does the basics too: It will rip CDs, download podcasts, and supports file types including OGG and FLAC as well as the expected MP3 and AAC options. It will automatically update your library based on changes to your library folder, so you can copy in new music without worrying MediaMonkey won’t see it. If you like auto-generated playlists seeded by songs you own or like, MediaMonkey can do that too. It can convert file types on the fly if you need it to, stream media via DLNA to other devices on your network. MediaMonkey is free — although $US25 gets you MediaMonkey Gold, which adds on some more features.
Winamp has been whipping the llama’s arse for over 15 years. It has since its early Nullsoft days, and remains a solid jukebox and media player that’s relatively lightweight, fast and customisable. The interface can be as minimal as a shade at the top of your display with tiny playback controls, or as blown out as a full-screen jukebox UI that features search bars, library information in multiple windows organised by artist, album, and song name, and even a full web browser. Winamp handles all the tasks you’d expect from a media player: It can rip CDs, supports obscure file types, and syncs with mobile devices either via USB, or wirelessly through its well-crafted native Android app. Winamp is definitely more bloated than it used to be, but it’s still flexible, functional, and completely free. There are a few extra features available in the $US20 Winamp Pro version, but the free version is probably enough for most people.
foobar2000 is one of the most flexible, customisable, and tweakable music players available. It’s lightweight, can play virtually anything you throw at it, and while it’s powerful and flexible, it can be a little daunting to get used to at first. More than a few people have given up on foobar because they’d rather spend more time listening to their music than tweaking their media player, but if you’re the type who wants a personalised listening experience and a player with just the tools you like (and none of the bloat you hate), foobar2000 is worth a look. It supports gapless playback, has lots of customisable hotkeys to control playback, and handles numerous file formats. foobar2000 supports ReplayGain, which does an amazing job of making sure your music is all played at the same relative volume and loudness. It’s completely free. If you’re the type of person who likes to start from scratch and build the ultimate music player that’s just right for you, foobar2000 will get you there, and you’ll be happy with the end result.
In contrast to music players that offers tons of options, tweaks and toggles at laucnch, MusicBee starts you off with a super-lightweight but still customisable utility. A little effort adds features such as song lyrics, album art, artist info, and so on. You get a wealth of built-in skins and customisation options to get you started, but none of them slow the player down or make it feel bloated or slow. MusicBee can also handle large libraries, podcasts, less-popular file types, CD ripping, and more. You can use it to organise your library, tag your songs, and download additional data about your tracks. It supports syncing to mobile devices as well, and much more, all in what’s often described as a “deceptively simple interface.” It’s completely free.
Zune Music (Windows)
Well, colour us surprised. The actual device is long gone (having never even officially arrived in Australia), and the Zune Music service is now Xbox Music, but many readers nominated for the Zune Music desktop player. Whether it’s the player’s gorgeous interface, podcast organisation and downloading options, auto-generated backgrounds, seeded and custom playlists, or unique look and feel, it’s earned a lot of love from many of you, and even though it’s possible Microsoft will pull downloads for it tomorrow, we have to agree: Just because an app isn’t in development anymore doesn’t mean people shouldn’t use it if it’s great at what it does. It’s free, and it’s still available, but we’re not sure for how long. If you want to give it a try, grab it now and save the installer in case you ever need to reinstall.
Honourable mentions this week go out to the two media players that come with every Windows or Mac machine: Windows Media Player which is very effective, and iTunes . iTunes was surprisingly distant from the top five; while it’s an essential tool for iDevice owners, as a music player it doesn’t seem to cut the mustard anymore.
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? Tell us about it in the comments.