Sunday, January 08, 2006


I have been searching for the ultimate application for playing music for a long time. I have tried Windows Media Player (WMP), WinAmp, Quintessential CD Player (QCD), and various offerings from other companies for a long time and just couldn't be satisfied for some reason.

QCD is nice and has progressed nicely since I first tried it several years ago, but didn't fit the bill for reasons I just can't remember at this point. That left me bouncing between Windows Media Player and WinAmp for a year or two and I finally settled on WinAmp, and here is why:
  • WinAmp is free for playing all content, including video and tons of high-quality Internet radio stations. If you want to rip music at a decent bitrate, you need the Pro version for $19.95, but there are a number of good free rippers out there if you want to avoid this one-time cost. I know WMP is free, but I needed to mention that WinAmp is also free.
  • WinAmp is skinnable and has so many skins developed for it that you're sure to find a look and feel that appeals to you. In addition to the look, skins also can make WinAmp more usable by exposing features that are sometimes buried in menus and submenus and more submenus. The windowshade mode, coupled with the "Always on top" option means WinAmp is always available. Again, I know that WMP is also skinnable, but WinAmp has more skins available.
  • I really like the library and playlist support. At first the music library interface looks cluttered, but when you start using it you realize how powerful WinAmp is. As you type a search in the music library, WinAmp searches incrementally through the artist and title, only displaying artists and songs that match. From there, you can highlight an artist or album and click "Play" or "Enqueue" to quickly play your songs.
  • If you're at a loss as to what songs you want to play, WinAmp can help you out. It uses a technology from Predixis called MusicMagic that allows you to highlight a song and WinAmp/Predixis will find 20 songs similar to the highlighted song. You have to have all of your library indexed so Predixis can work correctly, but it's worth the one-time scan of your music.
I could go on and on about the various features of WinAmp, but I've got more software to write about. In the meantime, I'm going to crank up WinAmp and listen to some Arctic Monkeys.

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