Music to my ears

I suppose I should check back in. It’s been a few weeks since I put finger to keyboard to type one of these up. I’ve been a bit distracted lately with new pursuits. A friend has been teaching me how to crochet, and I’ve been working on a pair of gloves for when the weather cools down. I’ve also been trying to learn Spanish through Duolingo on my phone (https://www.duolingo.com). I’m interested partly out of personal growth, envy of people who can speak multiple languages, and the desire to be able to watch “Jane the Virgin” without having to look up at the screen to read the subtitles. I doubt I’ll ever be fluent, but it’s a fun diversion.

This is unrelated to what I want to talk about today. No, this morning, as I was about to queue up some music, I had to stop and think about which of the numerous music players I wanted to use.

If you haven’t read anything I’ve written before, you’ll start to realize that I’m a little undecisive about what programs I use. Some days, I’m gung-ho about open source software. Other days, I’m nostalgic for software I used to use, back in the day. Other days, I’m interested in what software uses the least amount of system resources or which is the most secure.

I’m this way about music players.

Note that I am not a music player power user. I tend to stick to the basic settings, so I can’t go into any length about audio quality or equalizer settings. I make playlists, I run them, and I want the program to remember what I had loaded up last time I used it. With that…

The Players

When using Windows, I frequently use Media Player Classic (https://mpc-hc.org), which, according to the web site, was last developed in 2017. This software can run a large variety of files, from video to music, and has a simple, easy to use interface. It remembers what song I was on when I shut down the program and remembers the playlist, which is a plus for me. It’s easy to add and remove music and can save playlists in various file types. Back in my undergrad days, I used to use Windows Media Player a lot, and this hits the nostalgia points, with the familiar appearance.

Another Windows media player that I keep around because of the old days is Winamp (http://winamp.com/). This was the first media player I used when I first found out about .mp3 files. Last updated in 2018, the web page says that it is still actively being developed, though development is slow. This is definitely a product of an earlier age. Menus are crowded and not always easy to navigate, but it works well. I tend to stick with the main window and the playlist window and I like the classic interface because that’s what I used in the 90s.

I own a Microsoft Zune, and I love it. I also really like the Zune media player (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=27163) for ripping albums and managing some of my playlists. I also use it to transfer music between my Windows machines. Last release was back in 2011. The player is no longer supported by Microsoft, but the layout of the software was much easier to use than iTunes ever was. This handles a large library of music/albums smoothly. You can sort by group, album title, release date, etc. You can drag and drop music between devices. It’s a nice little piece of software.

VLC (https://www.videolan.org/vlc/) is a very commonly used media player that handles audio and video files. VLC is available on most operating systems and comes as the default player for several Linux distributions. This is still actively developed as of 2019. There are a lot of settings available to tweak. This software is known for handling just about any kind of file type out there, though there may be some it can’t load. I’m not overly adventurous with my music files. It will allow you to create and save playlists. However, the one thing it doesn’t seem to do well, and if someone knows how to do so please let me know, is remembering playlists after closing the program. There are, apparently, ways to save as bookmarks, but that’s one extra step I don’t need to do on other programs. This is the software I use if I can’t get other programs to work, if I want to play DVDs on Linux, or if I don’t care about losing my carefully selected playlist. This is the one thing that keeps it from being my default player.

I’ve dabbled with Aimp (http://www.aimp.ru/). It seems like it’s going for a Winamp aesthetic. The last Windows release was early 2018. It’s functional, if a bit busy, but I didn’t have any major complaints. It also didn’t wow me, so I have probably the least experience with it.

Clementine Player (https://www.clementine-player.org/) was last updated in 2016. It’s available on multiple operating systems, which is nice. It’s very busy, with multiple tabs for your music library, main player screen, multiple playlists, etc. This one took the most time for me to get used to the workflow. In some ways it’s great; I love being able to have several playlists saved and ready, with each remembering where I was the last time I booted up. You can even set the program to immediately start playing where you left off. The bad is that there is just too much going on in the interface. I like it and use it, especially when I’m trying to remember which episode of my radio drama I heard last, but it’s not the first program I load up.

One of the few players to release the newest edition in 2019, SMPlayer (https://www.smplayer.info/) is the player I have the most mixed feelings about. It’s able to run just about everything I’ve thrown at it and it is cross platform, which is great. But DVDs don’t always run as smoothly in it. I can’t just drag and drop files into the playlist screen, like I can with other programs. I have to go through the playlist window menus to add and remove files, which is less convenient. It will show album art, but it can drastically change window size, depending on what album I use, which probably has to do with the picture file used, but that can be distracting. I like using newer software, because I believe that means bugs are being fixed (even if new ones are replacing them). It can also fix security issues. Since SMPlayer and VLC are the only two media players that are actively in development, I feel like I need to use them, but they both have issues.  This is a program I use, but mostly to make sure it’s updated and to see if updates fix my relatively minor issues with it, but it’s not my first choice in programs.

In Conclusion

These are just the programs I use. There are dozens more out there that I’ve only heard about and dozens more that are completely foreign to me. I’m not as worried about jumping between different media players, like I am with web browsers. I prefer more up-to-date software, for security purposes, but I’m not aware of many attacks through media players. Might be worth researching.

Anyone have a favorite player I should look at? Maybe something I didn’t mention, or a killer feature of one that I do use?

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