The version tested is the 2.3.2 Beta 1 release, put out earlier this year, running on top of Kubuntu 10.10 Beta. Amarok improved a lot since I last took a look at it (I'm still using KDE 3.5 with the old - but stable - Debian Lenny).
First of all, let's have a look at the interface:
Amarok 2.3.2 Beta playing
Amarok also provides a so-called Slim Toolbar which arranges the upper side containing the Play/Pause, Next/Previous Track buttons in a more compact way:
Among the good features Amarok comes with:
- Powerful collection management system (although the playlist is a little buggy)
- Lyrics, Wikipedia, & several more widgets
- Cover manager and fetching system
- Online music sources
- File browser
- Podcasts support
- On-Screen Display
- Fadeout feature
Minuses compared to the 1.4 version are lack of statistics, stability (it's less stable and reliable - it's one of the players which at the moment can ruin your listening experience by crashing or making other surprises). I'm sorry to say this as an Amarok fan and promoter, but this is the truth as I see it.
Scanning the collection is very fast in 2.3.2, and I was really impressed to see that in less than four minutes Amarok successfully scanned a collection of almost 9000 audio files (Ogg and FLAC formats only), and populated the playlist in a little over 1 minute with all of them. That's on my Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz.
The problem with the playlist is that Amarok still has issues with categorizing songs which are part of a compilation by different artists, and this results in a messy playlist. I talked about this probably over one year ago, but it seems it hasn't been fixed not even until today. Also, it fails to correctly fetch album covers which are in the same directory with the songs from an album. This is frustrating and pretty much... amateurish. I mean, it's been over two years now!
The playlist can get messy - Amarok still has issues with organizing albums which are compilations with more than one artist
The configuration window allows to customise general settings, like enabling/disabling the system tray or the OSD, select which web services you want to have listed in the left panel, show moodbar or configuring an external MySQL database for the music collection.
The second time I started Amarok it jumped from a song to another, refusing to play any sound. I had to kill it in Konsole. The output was something like "amarok(2735): couldn't create slave: "Unable to create io-slave:
klauncher said: Unknown protocol ''." I really don't know whether this is Amarok's fault, or Phonon's. This happened after hitting Ctrl+J to jump to the search box and typing an artist in there, then Enter. Amarok refused to play any more songs after this, even after restarting the X Server and logging back in. If someone can help me with that, I'd be truly thankful.
Of course, I have to mention again that this is only a beta, and it was tested in a beta distribution too (I guess by this time we all know about the quality of Kubuntu releases).
Overall, Amarok 2.3.2 has powerful features, and it surely looks like a lot of work has been put in it (well, except for the playlist problems), but thing is, a lot of people still prefer the older 1.4.10 player, which is rock-solid compared to its KDE 4 port.
+ Equalizer with presets
+ collection manager
+ Wikipedia and lyrics widgets
- still needs more features
- lack of stability