Saturday, 24 January 2009

Songbird 1.0 Review - An Awesome Release!

Not long ago I reviewed Songbird 0.7.0, and in the meantime version 1.0.0 was released. What are the new features Songbird comes with and what improvements over the previous releases features 1.0? Well, to begin with, I was extremely impressed in a pleasant way with this Songbird release, so let me tell you why.

Songbird is an audio player and music collection manager built using XUL, the same language used by Firefox. Songbird is available on all the three major platforms: Linux, Mac and Windows.

To start with, I must say I was very impressed to see how many improvements and how much work was put into this player in the last couple of months only, since my last review of version 0.7.0.

When Songbird starts, it will prompt you with the license agreement, and then it will let you choose your media directory so it can scan your music collection. Scanning is pretty fast, and it took around 1:30 minutes on a collection of aproximately 5000 Ogg Vorbis and FLAC files, using my Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz.

Scanning the music collection for the first time

Next, you will be able to choose what plugins you want to enable by default. Songbird comes with an iTunes plugin, Last.fm support and song submission, Shoutcast support, and a plugin which I strongly recommend, mashTape. mashTape is a configurable add-on which will fetch detailed information about the currently playing song from various websites. For example, it will show the artist's biography using the Last.fm wiki, album reviews from Amazon.com, artist news from Google News, photos, and the most wonderful thing, it will even embed YouTube videos related to the artist. It's just great, isn't it? And all these features are possible due to the fact that Songbird is practically not only an audio player, but a web browser too. It embeds most of the Firefox browser into it, so you will be able to search for lyrics or read artist info (other than that provided by mashTape) directly from it just by opening a new tab inside Songbird.

The Preferences window is similar to the one of the Mozilla browser

The interface is clean and intuitive, and the playlist allows you to sort it by any information possible: from title, artist, album or year, up to bands' tour dates, genre or file location. And these are just a few. You will be able to search the playlist using the Ctrl+F shortcut.

I also love the tabbed approach, which lets you open more than one playlist in each tab, and eventually browsing the artist info in another one. Also, this release includes several new keyboard shortcuts to improve Songbird's functionality, and you can see them from the Help -> Keyboard Shortcuts menu. You can install new add-ons directly from Songbird, or from the official add-ons website, in which case you will have to install them manually in ~/.songbird2/RANDOM.default/extensions (they are ZIP archives). There are plenty add-ons to choose from, which allow you to change the appearance, customise the web browser, get further information about your music and even more.

Another thing to mention: Songbird will automatically detect album covers inside the song's directory, and will display in the lower-left corner (I tried it for cover.png and cover.jpg). You will be able to right-click on a cover and save it under a different name if you like.

Songbird in action - notice how useful the mashTape add-on is

The official page provides a package which contains the binaries, so you won't have to compile anything yourself. Just copy the directory Songbird in a location of your choice (I use ~/apps for example), then make a launcher to the songbird binary. The configuration files are kept inside the ~/.songbird2 directory.

One of the few minuses is that Songbird does not start very fast and the interface is a little bit too slow, but this should not be such a big deal. Once in action, Songbird is beautiful!

Regarding stability, for the couple of hours I tested it Songbird never crashed and I could not catch any bug at first sight. It seems pretty solid.

Conclusion
Well, Songbird definitely became a major player with this release. With plenty of features and a wonderful approach, I can say I warmly recommend Songbird as the primary audio player to anyone, and at least a try if you haven't used it yet. It's powerful and it practically acts like a music centre for an audiophile.

More screenshots

Tick and untick the add-ons you want Songbird to use - I strongly recommend Last.fm and mashTape

Importing media when Songbird is started for the first time

Artist information from Last.fm

About

Official website

6 comments:

Down8ve said...

For the Mandy users out there, I found the install solution on the Mandriva Forums.

Install the Mandrake 2008 version, works perfectly on 2009.

Find the RPM here: http://rpmlinux.org/mandriva/2008.1/i586/media/main/release/

-Scott

Anonymous said...

I've tried Songbird on Fedora 10, since I was looking for a new music player.

I have a couple of challenges that prevent me from using Songbird.

First of all, it does not play nicely with SELinux. I run in permissive mode so Songbird still works, but I have to grant a lot of exceptions in order to avoid warnings. I would like to run in strict mode, but with Songbird that would not be possible. I've filed a bug report with Songbird, but this has not been addressed.

I get most of my music by recording from Internet radio. When I find an artist I like, I'll purchase music from that artist's web site where possible. The downside of this is that my tracks do not have album information. I would like to know the number of songs per artist, but that doesn't seem to be a feature within Songbird.

Songbird seems to be both memory and CPU intensive. Coupled with PulseAudio, this causes sound dropouts. I know, I could get a more powerful machine, but upgrading a system just to handle a music player doesn't seem to be reasonable.

All in all, it's an OK music player. Hopefully the developers will make it lighter weight, and adhere to the SELinux programming recommendations.

I'll give it a try once the next version comes out.

Anonymous said...

I dont understand why (almost) all music players have to look like iTunes...
I'm sticking with Audacious.

Duey Finster said...

I have to agree with Anon: Why do all players mimic iTunes? I own and love my iPod nano; but iTunes can be the worst part of the experience; I use Amarok!

Anonymous said...

Nope, still tries to open jinzora m3us with external program. Better luck next time.

beyondenigma said...

Songbird is now not supporting Linux platform so I'm waiting for Nightingale to come. http://beyondrakesh.blogspot.com