Friday, 3 April 2009

12 Popular Audio Players for Linux - An Overview

Following the series like 14 most popular text editors for Linux or 10 file managers for Linux, next is an overview of the best audio players available in Linux. I will only review the GUI players, leaving tools like mp3blaster, mpg123 or ogg123 for some other time. To begin with...

1. Amarok
The latest release of Amarok is 2.0.2, which is a new foundation for new features and the future development of this wonderful audio player. Although I could describe current Amarok 2 as a total mess (regarding bugs) or as an application of the future, Amarok remains the most popular audio player for Linux out there. The 1.4 series had everything one could think of, from collection management to scripts, media devices support, powerful playlist or tag editor; Amarok 2 lacks several features from the previous release but I'm sure in time it will include those too and a wealth of many other, new features. The strong point of Amarok 2 in my opinion are the widgets and the new playlist, which looks twice as appealing and is more organised than the one in 1.4. The minuses currently include lack of an equalizer, lack of playlist sorting and shortcuts usability, and instability. However, Amarok 2.0 is just the ground from which this new, innovative version will start developing. I recently wrote a full review here.

Amarok 2.0.2

2. Rhythmbox
One thing I noticed about GNOME audio players is that most of them resemble pretty much the same interface, and I think Rhythmbox gives leads the way when it comes to this, and all other GTK players seem to copy its interface in one way or another. Rhythmbox is the default audio player in GNOME and also in distributions which ship it, like Ubuntu. It comes with a clean interface, plugins (including, LIRC support, Cover Art and Minimize to Tray), Magnatune and Jamendo integration, it supports podcasts, crossfading and up to 12 columns like artist, year, album to sort the playlist. Scanning large collections can take a very long time. Rhythmbox is and will probably always be one of the first choices for GNOME users when it comes to audio players.

Rhythmbox 0.12.0

3. Banshee
Banshee is a powerful audio player built in GTK, usually the first alternative to Rhythmbox for GNOME users. It comes with all the usual features of an audio player: music library, support for podcasts, integration and song submission, equalizer, radio, and even a video library. Banshee comes by default with several useful plugins too, like audio CD support, cover art fetching, iPod support or multimedia keys.

Banshee 1.4.3 integration in Banshee

4. Songbird
Lately Songbird became a strong player when choosing an audio player. It's built using XUL, the same library used by Firefox and several other Mozilla applications. Among several features which stand out of the crowd is the ability to open tabs and an almost perfect web browser integration. It supports add-ons and themes, which are called 'feathers' in Songbird. One of the add-ons I liked best is mashTape, which fetches and displays news, photos, reviews and even videos for the currently playing artist. I was impressed with Songbird even since the 1.0 release and I regard it as a strong competitor to players like Amarok or Banshee. You can find a full review of Songbird 1.0 that I wrote recently here.

Songbird 1.1.1

5. Audacious
Audacious is a relatively new audio player which replaced the older XMMS, and which resembles the interface of Winamp 2.x, also supporting its themes. I think Audacious is a good choice if you just switched from Windows, or if you want a player with a simple interface, yet with enough features to please an audiophile. It has support for and LIRC, which lets you control it via a remote control.

Audacious 1.5.1

6. Exaile
As most players do, when it first starts, Exaile will prompt the user to choose the directory containing audio files, and will scan and add them to the collection. Exaile offers a file browser, radio and podcasts support, smart playlists, equalizer, the ability to sort the playlist by many information available (including rating, playcount, location or filename). It supports plugins, like the iPod device support, radio (and built-in song submission), on-screen display and local covert art fetching. You can specify the cover filenames for which Exaile should search in the album's directory. All in all, Exaile is a very good alternative to players like Rhythmbox or Banshee.

Exaile 0.2.14

7. Quod Libet
What I like about Quod Libet is its clean and classic interface, with a intuitive menus and simple features. Built in GTK, Quod Libet suppors a big number of plugins, and allows to switch the view mode to playlist, album list, library and several more via the View menu. The plugins include an alarm clock, burning CDs with K3b, the song submission (in my opinion a must-have for users, me included), export to HTML, CDDB lookup or Wikipedia fetching of album or artist information. However, one of the stupid things about Quod Libet (at least for version 2.0 which I tested in Kubuntu 9.04) is that it won't show the songs after adding them from the Music -> Add a Folder menu. Overall, although Quod Libet won't handle collections like Amarok does for example, it is a good player.

Quod Libet 2.0

8. JuK
JuK was ported to KDE4 and it's a player with less features than his bigger brother, Amarok. I think JuK is fit to those who just want to listen to music, no matter in what player, and who don't need all the advanced features other players provide.

JuK 3.2.2

9. Sonata
Sonata is a music player client for MPD, the music player daemon. You will first need to install and configure MPD in order to use players like Sonata or GMPC. Also notice that MPD takes a pretty long time to scan large music collections. It comes with a simple and easy to use interface and it features a library, song submission, crossfading and popup notifications on song changes.

Sonata 1.5.3

10. GMPC
GMPC, an acronym for GNOME Music Player Client, is another GTK client for MPD and an alternative to Sonata. GMPC provides customisable shortcuts, popup notifications, support for plugins. I liked the interface of both Sonata and GMPC, simple, slick and clean.

GMPC 0.17.0

11. XMMS
XMMS, or X Multimedia System, is a legacy audio player using GTK+1 which used to be the most popular audio player in the past. It has an interface similar to Winamp 2 from Windows and can also support Winamp 2.x themes. It was replaced now by Audacious, and most distributions don't ship it anymore.

XMMS 1.2.11

12. Listen
Promoted under the slogan 'Listen, just listen', well, Listen is yet another audio player for GNOME, relatively new, and it provides similar features with Exaile or Banshee. Listen comes with integration, Wikipedia information fetching, lyrics and podcasts support, online cover fetching, music library and on-screen display. This makes it another alternative to the default Rhythmbox player, or Exaile or maybe even Banshee. It has a simple interface specific to most of the GNOME players and provides various configuration options. Listen also has visualizations support, which for me was very CPU intensive and slow and it also crashed Listen.

Listen 0.5

I encountered bugs here and there, especially at releases which are not tagged as stable yet, but this can also happen because I tested those players in Kubuntu Jaunty with all the updates to date, but which is still in beta. Amarok 1.4 for example was rock solid and I expect the same with the future releases of Amarok 2.x, Rhythmbox instead behaved pretty well, while Banshee offers more and more features with every new version. Songbird made a huge progress lately, especially with the release of 1.x series, while Audacious remains the preferred player for those who were used with XMMS.


Anonymous said...

let's not forget is very light on the sistem

Craciun Dan said...

Thanks, I was not aware of this one (and I don't use Xfce).

Anonymous said...

What, nothing on the awesomeness of CMUS? :(

Magnus said...

By the way, Songbird's themes are called feathers not leathers.

Craciun Dan said...

My mistake. I don't know what I was thinking of :) I corrected it to feathers.

mrwn said...

audible is quite ok, it's simple :D reminds me of SysTrayPlay..

Anonymous said...

Aqualung will be my choice:

It features gapless play for mp3 files.

taper23 said...

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Anonymous said... great player!

YBoris said...

You forgot Decibel Audio Player!
Perhaps the best thing there is for certain types of tasks.