Saturday, August 3, 2013

In Depth: 10 best free music players: the top Windows music apps around

In Depth: 10 best free music players: the top Windows music apps around

In Depth: 10 best free music players: the top Windows music apps around

Although Windows Media Player has been reinvented numerous times, it's still a frustrating app to use. And in Windows 8, the basic music player just doesn't have enough features to keep us tuned.

So we thought it would be a great idea to round up the best of the rest - the greatest alternatives for music playing and editing on your PC. Here's the list.

1. Get sorted with iTunes

It might be an Apple product, but we'd be remiss to not talk about iTunes. It does it all: it's a music player, a media browser and organiser, an d a tool to help set up your iPod, iPhone and iPad.

The iTunes Store helps you to discover and buy new music, too. The latest version has a new stripped-down look, with a simpler, cleaner interface. Most of the key playback options can be controlled from the Mini Player, creating and managing playlists is easier than before, and the store works more like it does on iPhones and iPads, which makes a lot of sense.

iTunes is all about Apple devices of course, and it does its best to get you into the store (you can't get album art until you're logged into an account, for instance).

2. Move it with Musiczen

If your music folder has got into a real mess, with MP3s scattered everywhere, then getting them properly organised can seem like a real challenge - until you run MusicZen. Point the program at your chaotic folder and it will scan all your MP3s automatically, reading their tags, then copying (or moving) them to new folders based on the artist, album, song title and more.

The program is incredibly simple, so you'll have your MP3s reordered in no time. If you've been amassing a collection of tunes over the years, MusicZen is essential.

3. Find songs on YouTube


There are plenty of YouTube search tools around, but MP3jam is a little different from most; instead of helping you access videos more easily, this program is all about music. Just enter a search term - an artist, song name or album title - and it'll quickly return any results, some of which even have album art.

Considering how many artists are forthcoming about uploading their newest tracks to Youtube these days (and considering the number of exclusive remixes you'll find on there), this is invaluable . Each song title has a 'Play' button, allowing you to stream it from the web.

4. The classic player


With 16 years of development under its belt, it's no surprise that Winamp - which can only be described as a classic in software terms - is one of the most capable music players around. The program supports more than 60 audio and video formats.

It can quickly scan your PC for audio files (or import your iTunes library), then organise your music in many different ways. You can create playlists, update and edit your MP3 tags, read more about your favourite artists, and access thousands of free audio and video channels.

5. Import and organise

iTunes is a great choice if you want to work with iOS devices, but if you have an Android phone or tablet - or you're just looking for a better way to organise your ever-expanding music collection - then it could be time to give MediaMonkey a try instead.

The program quickly imports even the largest music libraries, and can then automatically rename your MP3s, moving them into a logical folder structure, fixing tags and notifying you of any duplicates.

There are lots of playlist options, and the core player offers lots of features and can be extended with a huge range of effects. If you want to share your music, it's easy to sync with Apple or Android (and other) devices, or UPnP/DNLA compatible devices such as TVs, Blu-ray players and more.

6. Rename your tracks

Advanced Renamer is a powerful tool for renaming, copying or moving files. If your MP3 library is a mess, then it can give your files new names based on audio tags, change the case of a file name, add or remo ve text, change a file's attributes or timestamps, and even copy or move MP3s to new locations based on their tags (a specific folder for that artist or album, for example). It's one of the most useful tools if you're serious about keeping your music collection in check.

7. Keep it simple

If other MP3 organisers and players seem too bulky and complicated, you might prefer Foobar2000. Just like other music management tools, this program helps you build and organise your music library, create playlists and sort out your tags. The interface is very configurable, and its excellent music player supports lots of formats, gapless playback, gain to level out volume across tracks and more.

Despite all this, Foobar2000 requires only 7MB of hard drive space, and can even be installed in 'portable' mode, so it won't touch your Registry or install any extra components that might clutter your hard drive. It also has a refresh ingly simple interface.

8. Quick conversion

Just as its name suggests, Freemake Audio Converter is an excellent tool for converting audio files into a more useful format. If you have a portable music player or smartphone that can't play some of your tunes, Freemake could well be the answer to your musical prayers.

Freemake includes support for writing most formats, including MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC, AAC, M4A and OGG files. Various audio settings (bitrate, sample rate, channels) are there to help you get the best compromise between sound quality and file size, so you can even use it to shrink your files down to fit onto a smaller player.

9. Record and edit

Audacity is a capable and feature-packed audio editor, but is still relatively straightforward to use. Import an MP3 file and you'll see the usual waveform-type display. It's easy to zoom in and select the area you need, and then you can cut or delete it, or perhaps copy or paste it elsewhere.

If you need more power, the Effects menu reveals 40 options, including change pitch, equalisation, normalise and more. It's great for making your own music or podcasts.

10. Play almost anything

If you're looking for a player that's simple and easy to use, but also has some power when you need it, then why not grab a copy of VLC Media Player. You can use the program as a very simple on-demand player. Select one MP3 or an entire album and it'll begin playing, and you can reduce the interface to just a single toolbar and some album art, allowing you to enjoy your music without cluttering your desktop and distracting you.

Despite its simplicity, the program works with just about every media type, including MP3 files, video, CDs and more. There's simple media library management, playlist creation and t ag editing. Its graphic equaliser, compressor and spatialiser help deliver great sound, the interface is extremely configurable, and plug-ins add more power when you really need it. What more could you want?


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