Saturday, 18 July 2009

Decibel Audio Player 1.0 - Simplistic Music Player for GNOME

In the past I reviewed Minirok, which is a minimalist music player for KDE with a simple interface. Well, Decibel surely is its counterpart in GNOME. The version I'm going to talk about is 1.00 running in Ubuntu 9.04 with GNOME 2.26.

Decibel 1.00 in Ubuntu 9.04

The first thing I noticed was that the file explorer can be a little confusing because I couldn't make the file explorer display nothing more but my home folder, so access to my mounted volumes in /mnt (where I have the music) was not possible. Showing hidden files didn't help either, since .. was not displayed. So here's what I did. I edited the configuration file in ~/.config/decibel-audio-player and replaced the home location (/home/embryo/ with / for root):

S'Home'
p14
S'/home/embryo'

S'Home'
p14
S'/'

Later I saw the file explorer root directory can be configured from the Edit -> Preferences menu, File Explorer tab. I think this should be probably be more visible for first-time users.

This way upon starting Decibel again, the root file system was shown. I noticed dragging and dropping only works for directories which have audio files inside them, but not for directories with other sub-directories which can (possibly) include tracks too. Here's how Decibel looks like:

As I already said, the interface is very simplistic. Decibel features a menu bar, a tree view for directories on the left and the playlist occupying the rest of the space.

The playlist can be sorted by track number, title, artist, album, length, genre, date and path, and all these columns can be shown or hidden. You can save the playlist to a .pls file. You can also shuffle or repeat the playlist.

The preferences window includes several nice features, like:
- Audio CD, to play audio CDs with Decibel
- AudioScrobbler, to submit songs to Last.fm
- Covers, to show album covers (this include covers from the album's directory or from the Internet; names for local covers can be changed)
- File Explorer, allowing to add directories for fast access
- Instant Messenger status, to update Pidgin's status with the track playing in Decibel
- Status Icon, to put Decibel in the system tray

Those are quite a few features I would say, however I couldn't find a way to actually configure the Last.fm song submission.

Decibel has several nice features, including cover art, system tray integration or IM status

If you're looking for whistles and bells, Decibel is definitely not for you. If you're looking for a minimalist, fast and clean audio player, stripped by advanced features, then Decibel should probably be one of the first alternatives to try. Just keep in mind that it's not intended to be an advanced audio player, so it doesn't mean it's 'worse' than other audio players, it's just designed for users who want only to play music and forget other, more advanced features.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Simplistic music player for Gnome"

All things gnome are simplistic, that's the whole point of using it.

Otherwise, great article, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one.

Greg said...

I love Decibel on my EeePC. Uses minimal resources. I have the lid set to just turn off the screen, so using the headphone jack I can shut the lid and have Decibel play the music without using too much battery. I use a cable to my cars sound system. Instant jukebox.

Ryan Haigh said...

I have used decibel ever since I read about it a few years ago. The best feature for me is that your music is organised by the way you organised it in the filesystem.

I have a large music collection but not all of it is tagged and the portion that is tagged isn't consistently so. One day/week when I'm really bored I might get around to fixing that but for now I know what I want to listen to and the heirachy of artist/album/track is easy much more useful than 'unkown artist' tags.

The only thing I don't like about decibel is the non-recursive adding of tracks when the added directory contains sub-directories. This was reported as a bug some time ago:
https://bugs.launchpad.net/decibel-audio-player/+bug/179998
As you can see the developer has marked it as won't fix. The solution as far as I can tell would be to allow users to play/add to playlist any directory they want and then recursively add any audio tracks in that directory. I can't see the point in scanning each directory first to determine if its 'playable'.

Ryan Haigh said...

After posting my last comment I decided to see what I could do about my issue. After reading through the python source code for a while I was actually able to figure out how to add this functionality.

For instructions see the bug report.

I am certainly no expert when it comes to programming and I am sure there are better ways to add this functionality to decibel but I think this example demonstrates the fundamental value of open source and truly free software.

xaer0knight said...

it looks like Exaile ... which to me also takes a lot less resources as well.

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