Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Review: Exaile in Ubuntu 9.04 - Complete Audio Player for GNOME

Exaile is a powerful and complete audio player for the GNOME desktop environment, which can easily compete with more popular players like Banshee or Rhythmbox.

Scanning a music collection of about 700 Ogg Vorbis files took around 3 minutes and a half, while adding all those tracks to the playlist took about 3 minutes too on my Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz and 1 GB DDRAM2.

Exaile running in Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope

Exaile can become a little slow when there are several thousand music files in the playlist, especially when adding and sorting by custom columns. The playlist can be sorted by meta tags and other rules, like title, album, year, genre, rating, bitrate, location, playcount etc. Columns can be shown or hidden. You can shuffle or the tracks and repeat the playlist endlessly. The collection sidebar on the left can also be sorted by several rules, including Artist - Year - Album. See the screenshots below.

Exaile also comes with an equalizer, so those who are used to using an equalizer when listening to music will be pleased by the 10-band equalizer accessible via the Tools -> Equalizer menu. It comes with presets too.

10-band equalizer including presets

I like Exaile's approach to use tabs for track info for example, which is a powerful information widget indeed. It includes several sub-tabs which display track general information, statistics, artist and album info from Wikipedia, and lyrics. These are searchable, and there is an option to open the current web page in an external web browser.

Track info - Wikipedia tab

Another feature of Exaile are vizualizations, which can turn it into a pleasant music experience, especially useful when relaxing or not working at the computer.

Exaile also comes with a blacklist manager, a queue manager and the library manager, which allows to add specific directories to the collection to be scanned.

Support for plugins is also a powerful addition for Exaile. There are several plugins which can prove very useful, especially the Last.fm radio, Desktop Cover (to display the cover on the desktop), Alarm Clock, Shoutcast Radio etc. See the screenshot below:

Exaile Plugins

Exaile can collect album covers from Amazon.com or locally, from the directory where the audio files are located. The good thing is that it allows to customise which files to look for, by default these being cover.jpg folder.jpg .folder.jpg album.jpg art.jpg. It supports Internet radio, podcasts, and it comes with an embedded file manager from which you can drag and drop files to the playlist.

Tag editor

The preferences window is quite rich in options, allowing you to change various settings, including Last.fm song submission user and password, OSD (on-screen display), enable or disable the splashscreen, and many more.

The major drawback of Exaile is that it is slow with large music collections and will sometimes freeze for a while, especially when switching between songs. Although the freeze is not for long, this can annoy any user. I also encountered problems when ticking options (for example when enabling the equalizer). This makes the current song restart, and it can take up to 15 seconds to actually enable the equalizer. Maybe this is only happening to me, but if not, then it's definitely a big problem. The version I tested was 0.2.14 running in Ubuntu 9.04, with all the updates to date.

Exaile really impressed me, since it really looks like a top notch audio player. It has plenty of features, it is highly configurable, yet its interface remains simple and really intuitive. It's not very fast, but neither too slow, in my opinion being on the same level with Banshee or Rhythmbox regarding resources. I liked how well it is organized: you can find anything you want in a matter of seconds, even if you use it for the first time. As a final conclusion, Exaile is definitely a very good choice and can compete easily with any other GTK audio player.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Exaile is a nice audio manager interface, but what happened to the record button (streamripper plugin) for ripping shoutcast streams?
This was present on earlier versions, I hope it's added back in a future release.

For now I've reverted to a combination of Streamtuner and Audacious. The 'Project M' visual plugin is truely awesome! :-D

Whorehay said...

Exaile has been my preferred audio player for the last 6 months or so, and I'm glad to see someone show it some love.

David Sugar said...

I am glad to see it get some attention also. This to me makes sense as a Rhymthbox alternative or replacement, and I think it has a better gui layout, too.

Anonymous said...

Several paragraphs and not a single mention to the application that Exaile "borrows" heavily from? Come on! ;)

Douglas said...

Thanks for your review...I had grabbed Exaile to test, but had not gotten around to try it. When I saw your mention of an equalizer! wow! an answer to my tinny-trebly sounding speakers!

Thanks again!

ps... don't worry about not mentioning Exaile borrows from some other audio tool. Isn't that the Linux way?!

Anonymous said...

I like Exaile, but I don't love it. I tried it a few minor versions ago and have these observations:

1) If you add music to your collection, you have to rescan the entire collection. There is no "update collection".

2) No replay gain.

3) The UI has some bad feng shui. A few controls are in bad spots and the rightmost panel has acres of wasted space near the top. Perhaps the controls down the bottom of that panel (play/pause, time bar etc.) could be moved up the top thus opening up more playlist space.

Overall, I don't mind it, but I find myself going back to Amarok because it niggles me less.

Obviosuly Exaile will get better as it copies more features and refines its UI.

McPop.

Greg said...

I agree with one of the Anonymous' that having to rescan when you update needs fixing. Having said that it is much quicker now than it was, my daughter has 10,000+ songs and after the initial scan Exaile only takes moments to update.

As for the other application referred to by another Anonymous - which one?

There are two basic layouts

Exaile, Amarok, aTunes (not iTunes), Minirok and Decibel use a library panel and a playlist panel. This is the best for people who create and use playlists.

Rhythmbox, Banshee, Songbird and others use the artist -> album -> song -> play approach that makes playlists more complex and it better suited to playing whole albums.

I prefer the first layout group as you can also use it to create a playlist of an album with just a double click.

More choice is great and Exaile is coming along nicely.

Anonymous said...

Tried it for some time... and went back to Rhythmbox. The GUI is bad. Those navigation shortcuts at left are very rarely used and should be hidden. The album art is so small that is useless.. they look like an avatar from pidgin.
I don't know... they simply should try to copy the looks of Amarok 1.4. Simply as that.

One Salient Oversight said...

Exhailes have some serious flaws that annoy the hack out of me.

For example, I can't have a playlist open, add to that playlist and then resave the playlist under its original name.

I've also discovered that songs which get counted as being played suddenly revert to "zero plays" when the computer gets turned back on again.

And finally, when you order your playlist by album, all the songs on the album appear in alphabetical order rather than in the original play order. I think this occurs when you do a mass addition to your playlist (adding a couple of thousand songs from various folders all at the same time).

Paul Weiss said...

The Shoutcast integration is lacking a few features. I still like Songbird the most.

user said...

ok

Anonymous said...

Exile doesn't support proper drag and drop yet. It's annoying to say the least.

Anonymous said...

Rhythmbox has a bug: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/rhythmbox/+bug/123460. it also frequently suffers gaps during playback if the machine is under strain.

Banshee is resource hungry. It plays videos - as if we care. Don't forget to select add tags to the files or expect a nice surprise when you tag your files and move to another player. The play now splash window is as Ugly as WMP (P stands for piece of shit).

Exaile needs some tweaking - check the plug-ins - as to remove the side bar on the let (it gets integrated as a menu with the help of a plug-in), however it is a real player. yes, it is resource hungry but comparing to the rest, it is way above them.

All theses players use Gstreamer, however they do not - at least to my hear and on my system - sound the same, playing a same track at the same volume. Exaile is more dynamique/deep.

Coming from Windwos, Foobar2000, mp3tag, EAC, and hydrogen forum, it was a bit of change when I moved to linux - Ubuntu - a month ago. But Linux rocks so much comparing to M$, it worth making some concessions.

moB said...

I am running Exaile under Mint 7 (Gloria).

Just started using Exaile recently.

Found the alarm plugin settings to be oddly hidden.
[menu]: "Edit=>Plugins" Then select/click plugin, & finally click "Configure" before beginning to set the alarm time.

Should the settings for addons not just be visible from the menu?
(Compare Firefox.)

I am unsettled by the proximity of the Uninstall button to Configure & Close(!).

Otherwise it looks good. Keep it up!

moB

Semper sursum. (Always [the] highest.)