Music players on the computer

Music players on the computer

For someone like me, a bit claustrophobic, cheap and lazy, concerts are pretty much out. Except I told one Jazz band leader that if he comes to New Brunswick or Princeton, I will be there.

So, music players on the computer are very important. I have paid versions of anything I discuss. Windows Media Player is paid because it is part of Windows. So here is a look.

The library functions in all players are very similar, and can be organized pretty much to the taste of the user. Nothing is perfect, because every player reflects the views of the people who wrote the code. It is the other functions which separate the players and make some good and some worthless. Also, I want to be able to launch one player and do everything from that player: my own library, streams as bookmarks, or Favorites, from PubRadio or Shoutcast, and streams from Live365.

Music Match: Before Yahoo got their hands on it and emasculated it for their ill-fated music store, Music Match was great. Syncing, ripping and ID-3 tagging were smooth and efficient. But that is gone. Except if you have a working copy on an XP machine. This was and still is the only software which has a utility to allow the export of a library to an Excel spread sheet. I have a working copy of the software. I put it on my brandy new Acer Aspire 1635 netbook. I immediately had a need for it. I got my hands on a huge compendium of one composer’s music. It looked like there were really two libraries, tagged differently in the file names. So, I was able to export that all to an Excel spread sheet, search on actual file names which put identical tracks in order. Thus was I able to remove the duplicates. But, that’s the end of the line for Music Match.

Real Player: This was a great player from a company that would fail to realize that it rode on Windows and needed to compete. Real Player could handle Live365 streams saved as Favorites. Real Player also had, and probably still has, a massive database of terrestrial and internet radio streams. But, something happened between version 10 and the current version 11. Real Player stopped being able to handle Live 365. Real now provides an embedded player at the Live365 site. Also, the geniuses in charge of statistical reporting by the software decided it was wise to drop reporting of bit rates on streaming audio and whether a stream was stereo or mono. This last was recently important because WPRB had an mp3 stream which normally one would think is better than their WMP stream or RealAudio stream. Not so: the stream was mono, the others were stereo. So, Real Player has become worthless.

Windows Media Player: before WMP11 in Vista, this player was an also-ran, not the best at anything. But WMP11 in Vista is a champ. Ripping and syncing, when I still did them, were slick and quick. The library views are the best of the bunch, still not perfect, but good enough. WMP will handle all streams except Live365. This is not a failure at WMP. It is a failure at Live365. How does a purveyor of niche streams not function properly on the most ubiquitous player in the world? WMP is not great on statistics. Never was, probably never will be.

Winamp: This is my player of choice. The library function is quite adequate. Winamp handles streaming audio better than any other player. Winamp not only give the data transfer rate right on the top level, it also has a crawl for what ever the station wants to communicate in text.

Zune: Only important if one has a Zune player. If you have a Zune player, then you know why this is excellent software. Zune does not really compete with WMP. On the computer and the player, it really shines for video. WMP can be problematic for video, the user might need to go out and find a codec for mp4 or whatever one is using.

iTunes: No comments. I had it for a while and decided to drop it.

Songbird: Why???