When dealing with audio players, there are considerations to be had. The file formats available, the ease-of-use, organizational capabilities, and any extra functionalities play a large part in helping you choose between one or another. Here are 8 of the best right now.
Songbird plays your music just like any other program on this list, and provides a simple-to-use interface for arranging your music. However, Mozilla (the creator of Firefox) has done something no other audio player has done so far: allowed the use of elaborate extensions, just like Firefox. There are loads of add-ins available, from Last.FM functionality to an extra that shows the Wikipedia page of the band that’s playing.
This feature (that provides so many features) allows you to expand the player into something far bigger than you would previously have imagined. A must-have.
If you like llamas, and like highly varied program skins, then WinAmp is for you. It gives you a benefit that most other audio players don’t: you can sync music to your iPod, so there’s no need to feel excluded if you’re an Apple fan. It’s open-source, so updates and bug fixes are frequent and regular. The design is catchy and the logo is offbeat. WinAmp provides a host of audio effects, allowing you to tweak your sound the way you like it.
The Cons: Occasional crashes, and you have to upgrade to the Pro package for mp3 encoding and full-speed CD burning.
iTunes is considered by many to be the be-all and end-all of the audio player world. It has a sleek look, a simple interface, and great features, like the Genius tool, which plays you songs it thinks you’ll like. The more you use it, the more uncannily accurate it gets (think StumbleUpon). iTunes is, of course, integrated perfectly with the iTunes store, so you don’t have to worry about gallivanting off into the faraway interwebs to buy music.
Cons: Updates are not small patches – you are required to download full iTunes installer every time. They also come packaged with required QuickTime software, too.
4. VLC media player
If you want a player that can handle any format, this is it. It can decode any and every video and audio file, so you never have to worry about what will or won’t play. Newer versions have a much easier to use interface – there were complaints that it was a little too complex, but everything has now been sorted into a simple, effective player. One of the key features is granular playback – this allows you to control the speed of your audio in real time, upsampling or downsampling it as you please.
It is updated very frequently – being as it is, an open-source program with a lot of public interest.
5. Media Monkey
Geared towards managing extensive collections, Media Monkey places emphasis on clear, concise organisation. It can sync music to your iPod, and has an ‘Auto DJ’ feature, whereby tracks are played at random, or following a specified playlist of requests. It has full CD and DVD burning capabilities, as well as a host of encoding options. Third-party plugins are available for any additional audio processing or encoding you may require (EQs, .ogg encoders, etc.).
For such a comprehensive audio player/manager, it manages to keep to a stunningly simple and efficient interface.
The Universal Media player is the layman’s VLC. It can handle any format you throw at it, and has a number of slight differences to its functionality that give it an edge above most other players. It features YouTube integration – adding a search bar for streaming, and plays downloaded YT videos as well. Its interface is big, bold, and exceedingly simple. If you want a minimalist player with maximum usability and function, look no further.
RealPlayer has evolved from being a mere audio player. It is now one of the easiest, handiest tools available for downloading videos from the internet. All it takes is a single click start downloading any unprotected video. This functionality extends to your own videos; only one or two clicks to share it to FaceBook, Twitter, or convert to a mobile-ready format. You can even slice and dice videos before sharing – making it easy to send your friend only the part you actually want them to see.
For sheer ease of use, RealPlayer is a must-have.
8. Windows Media Player 12
I know, most people groan at the oh-so-generic software, and have since Windows XP. WMP 12 brings with it increased functionality, fixes numerous bugs and prevents glitches while changing to fullscreen. On the video side, it’s also added hardware support, allowing your GPU to render videos, instead of having your CPU lag behind in HD movies.
The cons: WMP requires a stack of codecs to play the more popular formats of today.