Jun 14, 2010

The Other White Media Player

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What is a good alternative to Windows media player? What is a good alternative to iTunes? In a short answer, Winamp.

I've used iTunes for a very long time, actually, as long as I've had an iPod, but my patience with it is wearing thin.  It's marginally acceptable as  a computer media player, and really the only reason that I use it is because its the best software to use with an iPod. Like other Apple products, its superbly designed to do one thing in one way only. [I actually ranted for several paragraphs about this before realizing that this blog is supposed to be about media players and deleting them here. Sorry.] Suffice it to say, its a weak program that has severe limitations about what it will and won't play, although it is more than happy to duplicate every song you own, reorganize it for you in new folders in its own hierarchy and convert them to file formats only playable through Apple products.

Windows media player is actually worse. Not intuitive, without even the option to converting media files to something playable, its a clunky, awkward interface that seems to be built around the idea that people play music only to watch the pulsing bands of color in the visualizer.

Enter Winamp:


There are several reasons I prefer Winamp over iTunes or Windows Media Player.

  1. It plays all files. Give it windows media files, mpeg4, whatever, it comes with codecs to play pretty much anything you can throw at it, and it doesn't even have to convert the file.
  2. It syncs iPods. You can manage iPods on it, and even better, you can pull songs off of your iPod into the computer.
  3. Customizations. The player window above is one of FOUR very different configuration/styles that come pre-loaded with the player. This particular style, or skin, also has about 30 different color schemes that are easily changeable. Winamp also allows you many more options about how to see your information. You can make this window transparent from 10% opaque to 100% in 10% incriments. You can scale it up or down. You dock it to the side of the screen and it will dissapear unless you mouse over to the edge. It can compact down to a tiny sliver only showing the buttons and the name of the song. Best, you don't even have to stick with the 4 options. There are literally hundreds of other skins that people have made for this open source interface. Some look like giant insects, some look like cars with the headlights controlling volume, etc, some look like old radios. It really explores the room with the cowbell, if you take my meaning. Pixels are infinitely recyclable, why stick with the same boring interface?
  4. Sound quality. Out of the three media players, Winamp has the best sound. Its the best virtual music machine I've found. If you like, download it free and compare the same song in iTunes. 
Downsides, some people don't like high levels of customization, or fine tuning. Some people just want to click on a song icon and have music come out the comptuer speakers or headphones, and they dont care what they're looking at it. Winamp is definately not for them. 

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