Skinable!
June 24, 2012 11:00 PM   Subscribe

Winamp's woes: how the greatest MP3 player undid itself
posted by Artw (221 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
Kind of a bad title, since my first thought was "AOL undid WinAMP" and that's pretty much what the article is about. At least we got Gnutella and that Windows installer out of the deal.

I used to hang around on Hotline with one of the MacAMP developers. Those were the days...
posted by polyhedron at 11:07 PM on June 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


I would spend hours making visualizations. It was a great program.

.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 11:20 PM on June 24, 2012


I can hear the line in my head even now:

WINAMP - winamp - It really whips, the llama's ass! (llama noise)
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:21 PM on June 24, 2012 [50 favorites]


In the meantime, the core application, known for being thin, light, and fast, was suffering. In August 2002, Winamp version 3 was released (Nullsoft now had 15 employees) and had been re-designed. Some users felt it was bloated; many even reverted to older versions.

That's when it died for me.
posted by vidur at 11:21 PM on June 24, 2012 [21 favorites]


Speaking of Winamp, which are the current en vogue music players for Windows?
posted by Gyan at 11:27 PM on June 24, 2012


Gyan: Foobar2000.
posted by aubilenon at 11:28 PM on June 24, 2012 [18 favorites]


Is that the one where the volume control resides in the preferences dialog?
posted by Gyan at 11:29 PM on June 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


This is the way I remember it: when MP3s were starting to take off, you needed a program to play them, and Winamp was one of the better choices. (Me, I was a Sonique partisan.)

Then Microsoft finally got around to adding MP3 support to Media Player, and Winamp was suddenly a lot less necessary. At least, that's how it went with the people in my immediate vicinity.

I use Winamp sometimes, these days, for mods and SNESamp. Sonique hasn't weathered the years quite so well.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 11:31 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Winamp had the start of something social in music," he said, dismissing the music sharing that Spotify is now doing on Facebook. “That’s just seeing what people are listening to. It doesn't feel right.”

I wish there was an alternative to iTunes, but if the idea is to make WinAMP a social media platform for music lovers, then that ship has mostly ailed and sailed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:35 PM on June 24, 2012


I was always on a Mac. SoundJam was the shit.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:43 PM on June 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I use Winamp currently.. is there something better? I'm behind on my music player, but I won't have the virus that is iTunes on my computer.
posted by Malice at 11:47 PM on June 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I remember how there was MacAmp and then when they came out with WinAmp, MacAmp for some reason had to change its name to MacAst.
posted by anazgnos at 11:50 PM on June 24, 2012


I remember my introduction to MP3s. A zip file, downloaded from a BBS in...1997? Inside was a 96kbps file of Primus's "Tommy the Cat", and an early version of Winamp. I was soon combing "Blex's Page of Good MP3" and leeching those ratio servers. Good times.
posted by Jimbob at 11:52 PM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Huh? I thought Sansa and Amarok were the greatest?
posted by JLovebomb at 11:53 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great question but alas the people who have the best insight into the answer all declined to be interviewed so I found the article somewhat lacking. Perhaps a better question to explore might be "Why is music playback software almost universally mediocre?"
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:54 PM on June 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was into this back when there where MP2s. None of you remember MP2s, do you?
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:55 PM on June 24, 2012 [15 favorites]


I was always on a Mac. SoundJam was the shit.

aka iTunes. (yeah, yeah, I know, same but different… SoundJam really was the shit!)
posted by readyfreddy at 11:59 PM on June 24, 2012


Oh wow, music visualizations. Can someone do an FPP on those? Or am I going to have to pick up a shovel and start digging.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:01 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Messing around with processing is totally the new making visualisations. Or messing with the CANVAS tag. Or both.
posted by Artw at 12:03 AM on June 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


More parts to the AOL story. Great read.
posted by readyfreddy at 12:08 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


reprise the theme song and roll the credits: I was on the Sonique team (for the year before all the free money evaporated and Lycos axed it)! Glad to hear some love.

The problem that Sonique2 and Winamp3 were trying to solve was:

Skinning a fixed set of features is easy. But media players were mostly differentiated by the plugins now at this point, so it was important to be able to make skinning available to those. That's tough, because it's basically making two interfaces for different third party developers who don't know each other to interface with one another. And a lot of the skinners were not coders exactly so they couldn't be expected to do 'real' programming.

Sonique went awry through poor product management, and also the fact that Lycos didn't have the paying customer base that AOL had to allow them to survive once the VC banner ad pyramid scheme collapsed. We had a really solid technical team, and the Sonique 2 alpha was very fast and powerful. I have not seen a media player with a more responsive feeling seek bar. But we spent too much time screwing around with cool technical features. We could load skins out of Photoshop documents - even supporting most of the blend modes! I'm convinced that what we really should have done is just gotten the damn thing out the door, and added that stuff later. Not that that would have necessarily have made any extra money - the fighting to give away your product for free the fastest business model was dying very quickly.

After a not-that-brief period of unemployment I took a job at AOL Music. One of my tasks was to make an "AOL Media Player" out of the Winamp 3 engine. So I've spent a fair amount of time with the guts with Winamp 3 as well. I can say that from the ground up it was full of problems. Since media players are all plugins, they all tend to end up reinventing COM. Real Player & QuickTime did this too. Windows Media Player just used COM. The reason everyone else wrote their own is that COM is a Windows technology and everyone else wanted to be cross-platform, or at least not rule it out at that level of the design. Sonique2 had a BeOS port for a while early on. (They said they were going to get us support for non-rectangular windows but never did. Eventually BeOS died completely, so stopped being mad at them and started being sad about them instead.)

Anyway, nearly all of the DIY COM implementations worked just like COM, where you just sling function pointer tables around. This is clearly the most efficient way to do it, and that matters because nearly every single function call you make goes through this. The only one that didn't do that was Winamp3, which had some ridiculous network of preprocessor macros that generated extra functions with big switch statements. This means that there's more overhead to every call, and the libraries are bigger, and it also means it's a big PITA to debug anything, because every time you call a function, you have to figure out what these stupid macros expanded to.

So I can say with authority that Winamp3 went wrong in some very technically fundamental ways.

"Why is music playback software almost universally mediocre?"

I think that's because there's a million different ways people use it, and that's not the way the developers use it, so it's not optimized for your use case. And of course the developers are all power users so they each have their own funny way of using it they have to support that barely anyone else will use.

And it's free.
posted by aubilenon at 12:11 AM on June 25, 2012 [101 favorites]


I probably first used Winamp in 98 or so and stuck with it for a good five years. I don't remember exactly why I moved from Winamp to iTunes (it was long before I had a iPod) but I do remember crossing the point of no return and clicking the checkmark in iTunes' preferences that allowed it to re-organize my mp3 folder. Before that, I kept that folder organized myself and prided myself on it. In the decade since, I haven't been inside it once.
posted by thecjm at 12:11 AM on June 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


Is that the one where the volume control resides in the preferences dialog?

No, that's a terrible idea and I don't know who does that. Foobar2k is the one that looks like a regular program and not like a car stereo or star-trek tricorder or whatever. Here's the view I use. The volume control is to the right of the playback controls.
posted by aubilenon at 12:15 AM on June 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I was thrilled to find my old Sandisk MP3 player (256 mb!) while doing some home cleaning during the week. Looking forward to using it during my walks until I realized that I barely had any MP3s on my computer. Most have been lost during countless upgrades and Spotify has kinda made owning music files less important than the music metadata (all I really need to recreate my collection is the Spotify playlists).
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:18 AM on June 25, 2012


256mb is "hardly any MP3s" so that sounds perfect.
posted by aubilenon at 12:19 AM on June 25, 2012 [8 favorites]


Foobar2k is the one that looks like a regular program and not like a car stereo or star-trek tricorder or whatever.

But... But... How will people know it's an MP3 player?
posted by Artw at 12:19 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


dang aubilenon that was a great comment. i love this site.

here's my slightly modified foobar setup. the volume is on the top bar, left of the "order" toggle. used to go all out with columns ui and panels etcetcetc... and now i don't care. if someone wants to bring me back into that, i'm all eyes.
posted by raihan_ at 12:19 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I actually never upgraded passed winamp 2. In fact, when I would upgrade to a new machine, I would install the lased version of winamp 2 available. I was actually still using it just a couple years ago.

I actually just switched to using VLC to play music files, mainly because I could mix videos downloaded off youtube into my playlists that way (which I rarely ever do but it was annoying that I couldn't do it with winamp)

It seems like most of the people who switched from winamp to something else just went with iTunes or windows media or whatever, both of which seemed like they wanted to take over your life and manage your physical files as well, and use up WAY too much screen space compared to what you actually need for a media player.

VLC doesn't look as cool as winamp, and it doesn't have the slick, tiny pixel graphics designed for people with 800x600 CRTs. But it pretty much works fine for listening to music.
posted by delmoi at 12:27 AM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I still have WinAmp (V3 I believe) installed on all my Windows computers.
I seem to recall being annoyed at V3 at the time, and horrified by what came after.
In fact, I keep a CD around with the installation files on for Winamp 3 just in case.

I haven't used much of Windows in the past few years (switched to Linux ... which I haven't been able to find anything as good as Winamp for, and I have tried), but when I have I have looked for things as good and as lightweight as the llama and nothing has stood up.

Skins? Visualisations? A jedi craves not these things.
posted by Mezentian at 12:28 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I heard Winamp3 was the one that sucked, and winamp 5 was supposed to be a clean rewrite with speed of winamp 2 and the functionality of winamp 3 (because 2 + 3 = 5, right!)

Of course, with a modern machine the speed issues with Winamp3 have probably dissipated.
posted by delmoi at 12:31 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't hate Winamp like I do iTunes, and I stuck with it even up to version 5.5, but finally I couldn't stand it anymore and switched over to Foobar, which I also don't like but which in recent versions at least has the bare minimum UI that I can deal with. Winamp seemed at some point to collapse into a black hole of gaudy, terrible skins and browser hijacking (which still seems to be their great hope for future revenue, based on the last bit of the article).

I tried using Songbird for a while too, and I actually sort of liked it once it stabilized, but it's still way too slow and it's missing the ability to do some extremely basic things, such as scan your mp3 library for files which no longer exist and remove them. Besides that I find their odd half-corporate / half-open source communication style sort of off-putting in a way that's hard to describe, sort of like if a PR person was commenting on a technical mailing list.

Recently I've switched over to using Clementine on the Mac, which I am truly happy with. It is apparently a port of the Linux player Amarok, but you wouldn't know it; it's open source, fast, it doesn't have to be in some kind of weird round window with flashing lights (nothing personal aubilenon), and it gets out of the way when I'm not using it. If there's anything that approaches its level of usability on Windows, I haven't found it.
posted by whir at 12:31 AM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


No offence taken at all, whir. In fact I'm there too. Last time this came up I went and downloaded the old Sonique2 alpha and poked around DeviantArt for some skins. I don't think there's ever going to be a media player that looks as pretty as some of those, but damn if they aren't a pain in the ass to use.

At this point, it turns out that I don't want my media player to look good. Because while it's saying "hey! Look at me! I'm cool!" all the time, I'm saying "Shut up, I have stuff to do. I don't have time to hack the Gibson".
posted by aubilenon at 12:38 AM on June 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


I used the same version of WinAmp (2.81) for nearly nine years, across at least three different computers. It was fantastic, not just because it did everything I needed it to, but because it didn't do everything else. It was small, light, and elegant, and seemed to become moreso over the years as competing software (and, of course, the newer versions of WinAmp itself) became increasingly bloated and useless.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:39 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I wonder what will happen to the Apple insistence of making iTunes look like Finder in Windows 8? Can't see them rushing to make a Metro version.
posted by Artw at 12:42 AM on June 25, 2012


I actually still do use Winamp for some things, on my Windows machine. It's the quickest, easiest way I've found to convert FLAC files to something useful (VLC seems to choke on them, and its conversion output settings are ridiculous). It's better at handling internet radio stations than iTunes (which wants to store them as "songs" for some reason, rather than filing them alongside all its built-in radio stations). And it plays MODs! At least it hasn't gotten worse in five years or so.
posted by Jimbob at 12:49 AM on June 25, 2012


To this day, Winamp still has the best visualization plugin of any music player ever. I even jury rigged my HTPC so that I can run the output from Spotify and Pandora through the Winamp visualizer. I am unashamed to admit having spent many joyous hours on dissociative drugs, listening to Spacemen 3 and watching the Winamp visualizer.

GO WINAMP VISUALIZER! KEEEEEEEYOW!
posted by Afroblanco at 1:05 AM on June 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


I think that's because there's a million different ways people use it, and that's not the way the developers use it, so it's not optimized for your use case. And of course the developers are all power users so they each have their own funny way of using it they have to support that barely anyone else will use.

This seems so true to me. I, like many here, won't use iTunes, for philosophical reasons as much as anything, even though I like the interface. But I have yet to find any media player, on either Windows or Ubuntu that suits me. I spent a month trying to make Foobar2000 work for me but gave up. Just too hard. I have settled on Subsonic - a web interface approach, but it doesn't handle mp3 devices. Sigh.
posted by vac2003 at 1:34 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Why is music playback software almost universally mediocre?"

It's not just because the developer and the user use case differs. A lot of music players have had to bear the burden of a lot of corporate strategy over the years. That's what's made iTunes completely unusable, which is a shame because I remember being quite happy with it when it first came out. But then it became a store, then it got built-in podcast support, then it was a video player, then it became the interface between your computer and your iThing which added a lot of new functionality, now it can buy movies, TV shows and books....

There was some Sony product that came with an old computer that wanted to be my new music player, but of course it was a trojan horse for their proprietary music format and store. And I once had some experience with Sony's portable Walkman update that only played that format and so was unusable.

I think it's a fairly simple kind of thing to implement these days, I mean most OSes will play the file for you, so the developers feel like they have to justify their existence with special features and a plate full of fancy. Custom UI buttons, backgrounds, visualizers, library managers, non-rectangular windows... I don't need any of that. Just play the file please.
posted by JHarris at 1:44 AM on June 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you're on Windows looking for a music player its all about MediaMonkey ... set up a library or just browse your drive from within the program using a library-like interface, which is what I've been looking for ever since iTunes bloated itself into usability and/or I started using flac
posted by criticalbill at 1:46 AM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Unusability ... Like this autocorrect
posted by criticalbill at 1:48 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I still use Winamp. I want an mp3 player that takes up 5% of my screen, and does the following things:
1). Play a playlist of mp3 files.
2). Nothing else.

I don't want a bunch of crapware from Redmond or Cupertino or Helsinki or wherethefuckever to decide to rearrange all of my files, and show every mp3 on every computer in my network and show me an ad for the new Carly Rae Jepsen album and produce an artificial mushroom trip and show a crummy version of the album cover, like that matters for some reason. (I don't have to stare at the package the food came in when I'm eating it, either.)

I just installed foobar2000, which came in 20 layouts, 19 of which show some sort of totally useless album list thing that makes it impossible to find the goddamn song I want, and takes up a third more RAM than Winamp. Yes, I have lots of RAM. No, a music player shouldn't take up 22MB literally just for playing a 6.5 MB file, with no shiny business at all.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:51 AM on June 25, 2012 [20 favorites]


I'm actually perfectly satisfied with Windows Media Player these days. I'm unable to discern a benefit from using anything else.
posted by wilful at 2:34 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mezentian:

I haven't used much of Windows in the past few years (switched to Linux ... which I haven't been able to find anything as good as Winamp for, and I have tried), but when I have I have looked for things as good and as lightweight as the llama and nothing has stood up.

Winamp-alike on Linux? You might be looking for XMMS.
posted by illongruci at 2:35 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I still use Sonique 1.96 because the audio quality is much better than anything else I have come across including: iTunes, Quicktime, Windows Media Player, VLC Media Player, Winamp, and Foobar.

Unlike some people who used their media players as decorations, I actually used Sonique for listening to music. What madness!
posted by Jurbano at 2:37 AM on June 25, 2012


It's the quickest, easiest way I've found to convert FLAC files to something useful

Foobar2000 does this well too, which is what I use it for. Interesting to see the itunes hatred; I still use it because I like the layout, but certainly not the latest version, as everything after 8.xxx sucks the llama's ass. As with so many software products, you have to whip it in shape first before it becomes usable.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:38 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


What, does Sonique decode to Monster gold-plated certified PCM samples?
posted by Gyan at 2:39 AM on June 25, 2012 [7 favorites]


I used to love WinAmp. Whenever I did a complete reinstall of Windows (every six months or so because of the 6 month decomposition period Windows 98 and, to a lesser extent, XP was burdened with) it was one of the first things I'd install, right behind WinRAR and X-Tree Gold.

I can't remember when I stopped using it... it was probably when I got my first iPod and couldn't get it to work with it. I've grudgingly used iTunes since.

Thanks for the post ArtW. It was a good read.
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:42 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gyan: I don't think so, but mp3 and WAV files sound great to me off Sonique 1.96. Sonqiue always had a really crisp and full sound. A lot of other mp3 players to me seem to sound like they are playing out a tin can. The only thing that is a little tricky about Sonique is tweaking the bass on the EQs so that you really get that punchy "thump."

I do listen to vinyl records off of an Allen & Heath mixer through Sennheiser headphones so I would think I have some idea what I'm talking about. :)
posted by Jurbano at 2:56 AM on June 25, 2012


WinAmp was my go to MP3 player for years to the point where that hideous green and purple base skin gives me a proustian rush.

Have been running MediaMonkey for a while now and it works well as a lightweight iTunes replacement if you turn a lot of the autoscanning stuff off. Might check out WinAmp for Android though.
posted by brilliantmistake at 3:01 AM on June 25, 2012


This is one of the few times I can say: I was there.

I worked at AOL Music on the Winamp team around 2000-2002. This was after the acquisition by AOL Music, but before Frankel and the core team left to do their own thing again.

It was a wonderful experience, one that I wasted to be honest.

I do have this to say though, Justin Frankel, Tom Pepper, Stephen Loomis and the rest of the core team were amazing people. You hear the word prolific tossed around a lot in the writing and creative communities, but not in engineering. But those guys were amazingly prolific developers. Winamp, the visualizer, Shoutcast, Gnutella, WASTE, Jesusonic, REAPER, the list goes on. Ideas flowed freely in their SF space.

Ignoring the academic research into ad-hoc wireless technologies, these guys really released the first practical distributed peer-to-peer / p2p technology (Gnutella) that saw widespread mainstream adaption and changed the cultural landscape of media. Sean Parker's Napster was amazing, and showed what was possible. But it was centralized and therefore had a critical weakness. Gnutella was fully distributed. All nodes and users were contributors as well as consumers. And that philosophy infused all of the work they did. They really believe in the power of putting creative tools into their users hands, and in the community itself. I don't want to get too political, but it differs greatly from a lot of the current media player mindsets.

And AOL. Oh, AOL... My first week there we did orientation. Where we saw Powerpoint slides that literally used the term "Carpet Bombing" for their strategy of distributing AOL CDs to prospective customers. Comparing that mindset to the Nullsoft guys is hilarious. One saw users as bombing targets, another saw them as part of a community that could not only consume, but create content.

I wish I could have been a bigger part of that, but at the time I think I was more interested in other things: partying, exploring the world and myself. And to be honest, I'm a good engineer, but I didn't have their spark.

There's an aspect of anarchy in what they did, and looking at the Winamp skins and user-contributed content you're reminded a bit of MySpace. But I'd prefer that world to the AOL one.
posted by formless at 3:02 AM on June 25, 2012 [29 favorites]


I do listen to vinyl records off of an Allen & Heath mixer through Sennheiser headphones so I would think I have some idea what I'm talking about. :)

Funny, that would be an exact reason why I might think you don't. ;)
posted by Jimbob at 3:14 AM on June 25, 2012 [18 favorites]


Let us take a moment to remember the wisdom of Makali and jwz.
"Whenever a programmer thinks, "Hey, skins, what a cool idea", their computer's speakers should create some sort of cock-shaped soundwave and plunge it repeatedly through their skulls."

"I am fully in support of this proposed audio-cock technology."

I used to be a winamp fan waaaaaay back in my windows days (1999 was when I jump ship), and then went to XMMS because it was familiar and eventually supported all my hip skins. But time has worn me down into a bitter curmudgeon of a man I now I just resort to mplayer. It never lets me down and as a CLI program it remains blissfully skin-free.

Loved the article btw.
posted by samworm at 3:33 AM on June 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


Things that Winamp does that VLC doesn't:
Remember what was queued to play last time you used it without having to create a playlist
Read the file names and play the files in the correct order if they are numbered
Allow the user to rate songs and create queues of songs according to song ratings (you can play 'unrated' songs to hear things you forgot you had)

Is there another media player that has these features? There seems to be an enmity between Win 7 and Winamp on my PC that is insurmountable.

Also, community created Winamp visualisation plugins were amazing ten years ago. Is there any similar thing today that uses the capabilities of modern graphics cards?
posted by asok at 3:49 AM on June 25, 2012


I still use Winamp if I need to play music on my laptop but that's not a very comment event. Mostly I just listen to music on my phone these days and my mp3s never even make it onto my computer.
posted by octothorpe at 3:53 AM on June 25, 2012


(you can play 'unrated' songs to hear things you forgot you had)

Heh, this is something I've been trying to make iTunes do for years, using weird smart playlists that never seem to work quite right.
posted by Jimbob at 3:54 AM on June 25, 2012


So, a simple smart playlist where "rating is (no stars)" doesn't work for you?
posted by Pinback at 3:58 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only thing that is a little tricky about Sonique is tweaking the bass on the EQs so that you really get that punchy "thump."

I do listen to vinyl records off of an Allen & Heath mixer through Sennheiser headphones so I would think I have some idea what I'm talking about. :)


I would think that the EQ on the mixer would be superior to the computer program. And much easier to tweak, having dedicated knobs and all ( I assume it's an analog mixer )

Wouldn't just sending the raw, unprocessed output to the mixer be better?
posted by mikelieman at 3:59 AM on June 25, 2012


So, a simple smart playlist where "rating is (no stars)" doesn't work for you?

I don't rate songs. I want a playlist that selects, say, a bunch of songs randomly from those that have never been played, or have been played the least, or haven't been played in the longest time. And I've tried making smart playlists with all those options. None are perfect, mainly because the smart playlist doesn't automatically adjust and remove a song once I've listened to it, I have to manually clear all the songs in the playlist and let it repopulate.
posted by Jimbob at 4:16 AM on June 25, 2012


> Is that the one where the volume control resides in the preferences dialog?
> I spent a month trying to make Foobar2000 work for me but gave up. Just too hard.

Weird, because for me it is not only the most powerful but also by far the easiest and most intuitive player I've ever used, it looks like a "normal" Windows program and everything is where you'd expect it to be.

For example:
> I just installed foobar2000, which came in 20 layouts, 19 of which show some sort of totally useless album list thing that makes it impossible to find the goddamn song I want
right-click the column header, select "Groups", choose "None". Then sort by title and find the song you want (assuming it is properly tagged or at least its filename is descriptive enough).

foobar2000 is the number one reason why I'll probably keep using Windows for a very long time.
posted by Bangaioh at 4:17 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Winamp. There's a name I haven't thought about in years. Just reading it brings back a flood of memories from jr. high and high school. Does anyone remember ICQ? I used to get so excited when it made that little "uh-oh" sound when someone sent a message.
posted by Kevtaro at 4:25 AM on June 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've been using some version of winamp 2.9x since it came out, with the albumlist plugin. Haven't come across anything faster or more flexible for my mp3-only archives, and it doesn't try to take over my meticulously organized 400 gb of music.
posted by legospaceman at 4:36 AM on June 25, 2012


I've started using Spotify as my main music player, for my local files and everything. It's one of those things you think will never happen to you, and then it does.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:37 AM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


If even Foobar is too bloated for you, go check out Billy.
posted by mahershalal at 4:43 AM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


jurbano: I still use Sonique 1.96 because the audio quality is much better than anything else I have come across including: iTunes, Quicktime, Windows Media Player, VLC Media Player, Winamp, and Foobar.

If you're comparing it with Foobar, either in kernel streaming mode (under XP) or WASAPI mode (under Vista/7), and Sonique sounds different, then something is wrong in your decoding stack somewhere.

If you've got an older soundcard (especially motherboard sound), that could be the problem. Many older chips force a 48Khz resample in hardware, which can sound absolutely horrible, depending on the implementation. It's usually done very poorly. If Sonique is doing a resample to 48Khz in software before playing back, then it COULD sound much better than what you're getting out of the other players. To test that, turn the Foobar resampler on, have it output at 48Khz, and see what happens.

Computer sound in general has been absolute shit for many, many years. It's really been just astonishingly incompetent. Most soundcards weren't very good, even putatively 'good' ones from Creative. As late as the Audigy 2, they were still forcing a crappy 48Khz hardware resample. The X-Fi was the first card they had that didn't do this, and even then you had to jump through hoops (putting it into Audio Creation Mode) to turn the resampling off. And motherboard sound? Don't even get me started on motherboard sound.

For a long, long time, if you wanted to get genuinely good sound out of a computer, you couldn't have the computer itself do the sound playback. All the consumer sound hardware was shit. If you wanted good sound without spending a mint, you wanted to pass a bitperfect bitstream out through a S/PDIF to a receiver, and have the receiver actually do the decoding for you. This was quite difficult on a Windows machine, requiring playback software that would use "kernel streaming" mode (a special sound mode in XP that didn't let the horrible Windows Sound mixer anywhere near your precious bits), and then hardware that would actually pass that bitperfect stream to a receiver. It took a ridiculous amount of effort to find hardware that would do this. It was insane how hard it was to just get the computer to copy bits from an input, to an output, verbatim. I mean, that's what computers do, but every goddamn soundcard, OS, and program that came anywhere near bits that were deemed 'sound' wanted to screw with them.

It didn't even take much hardware. The simple Chaintech AV-710 would pass bitperfect audio to a receiver just fine, and it was about $15. But even finding out what the problem was, why your music sounded like shit, and then figuring out how to fix it, was just stupidly difficult.

Macs, interestingly enough, got this right almost out of the box. All you had to do was set your output to be digital, set all your volumes everywhere to maximum, so that the "volume" of a digital bitstream wouldn't be attenuated, and it was easy to play back DTS-encoded WAV files, the benchmark for knowing whether your computer could pass bitperfect audio correctly to a receiver.

The ASUS Xonar was the first truly great soundcard that I personally experienced. Even the Xonar resampled, but did so in floating-point mode, and it just sounded incredible, no matter what the input or output bitrate was. I was never able to get true bitperfect passthrough working, but it didn't matter with the Xonar, because it sounded so good natively. All the pain in setting up a receiver was suddenly unnecessary.

And recent motherboard chips are finally getting it right, too. Even in regular analog output mode, the Realtek 889 on this motherboard puts out very nice quality audio, and it does bitperfect to a receiver with minimal effort. Computers are now roughly as good as a CD player, even cheap ones, and it is about goddamn time. I can't believe it's taken this long for them to finally get it right.

This, by the way, is why you can't trust computer people to tell you about speaker quality, and why you should never, ever buy 'computer speakers'. Because the sound reproduction on PCs has been so very bad, for so very long, very few computer geeks have ever learned what good speakers should sound like. You get shit hardware like the stuff from Logitech, which makes the worst speakers in the world.* You cannot trust a computer geek about sound until they've had at least a few hundred hours with competent audio hardware. That doesn't mean expensive.... even midrange hi-fi these days is extraordinarily good. But it needs to be actual audio gear, not the cheap consumer crap they hang on computers.

There's a huge amount of snake oil up in the high end, especially, and audiophiles are, er.... well, let's say 'untrustworthy'. But computers have also been shit for ages, so you want to find people who know and focus on the midrange when soliciting advice for speakers and sound quality in general. Don't trust computer geeks for sound advice unless you know they're also something of a sound geek, and watch carefully for signs of audiophilia, which is where fools go to be falsely authoritative.

*If there are worldwide rankings somewhere for speaker sound quality, Logitech would have to be in the bottom 5%. They are atrocious, designed to impress people that don't know what music should sound like. They have muddy, ridiculously overdriven bass, flat and muted mids, and horribly grating treble... and this has been true of every one of their speakers I've tried. They're shudder-worthy. Even white-van specials will probably be better. But they go BOOM BOOM BOOM, so ignorant people think they've gotta be good.
posted by Malor at 4:45 AM on June 25, 2012 [31 favorites]


I was thrilled to find my old Sandisk MP3 player (256 mb!)

I'm still using my old iRiver mp3 player (512 Mb).

I used winamp and stayed with the 2.* series downloaded from oldversion. But at some point I switched over to VLC. I don't even remember why.

Y'know, I even used RealPlayer for a while. :(
posted by DarkForest at 4:47 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


By the way, I have a DTS-encoded sample WAV file in my webspace, if you'd like to test your bit-perfectness. Drop me a MeMail if you want a link. It's not as good as test as it used to be, however, as many players can now decode DTS natively. You have to verify that it's passing the actual bitstream to the receiver, and that the DTS light is coming on, and that you're getting true multichannel orchestral sound, to know that you're able to pass a bitperfect signal.

If you're on a Mac post-Core Audio (sometime around the first Intel transition), you don't need this. Every Mac I've tried does this flawlessly if you're connected via S/PDIF. This is only a Windows problem.
posted by Malor at 4:49 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jimbob: "None are perfect, mainly because the smart playlist doesn't automatically adjust and remove a song once I've listened to it …"

Odd; can't say I've had a problem with "Live Updating" in smart playlists failing to … well, update the playlist live when a track no longer matches the criteria. But my use case may be much simpler - while I've got a few complex & nested smart playlists, I only use them fairly simply (mostly for auto-selecting stuff to go onto my iPod).
posted by Pinback at 4:52 AM on June 25, 2012


The parallels to Flickr (see previously) are pretty uncanny.
posted by cacofonie at 5:04 AM on June 25, 2012


You'll have to pry WinAmp from my cold dead fingers. Well, at least until there's a surefire way to export playcounts & ratings for a 600 GB music library to iTunes so I can give that another shot (now that I use it anyway for the iPad).

The key for me has been ml_ipod, which manages my iPod better than the built-in software.
posted by muckster at 5:08 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Winamp, which are the current en vogue music players for Windows?

I just use Youtube.
posted by box at 5:10 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Logitech, which makes the worst speakers in the world.

I've got a Logitech 2.1 setup from probably 10 or 12 years ago. I thought it sounded "great" in my cinder block dorm room (with output from Winamp, of course). It's mostly been in storage since then, but during our last move I added it to my monitoring setup, to reference my mixes on some average computer speakers.

Holy hell, these things are awful. Grainy highs, boomy bass, and a midrange that somehow manages to be both honky and hollow. Only useful as a mix reference because I don't have a sub in my main setup. Just terrible.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:13 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to nth the support for MediaMonkey. I spent ages looking for a decent music player, after Windows Media Player 10 did almost everything I wanted to (decent two-pane library interface, allowed sorting by Album Artist rather than plain Artist, workable playlists and CD burning, controls that sat completely within the taskbar when minimised and popped up a not-very-intrusive window with a seek bar when a new track started) but it couldn't handle OGG files because Microsoft seems to have a deep and abiding hatred of anything open source.

Then Microsoft "upgraded" WMP to version 11, which had an utterly hideous UI, and MediaMonkey 3 came out with pretty much the same UI as WMP10 but full OGG support and a bunch of other handy features as well. I switched to it almost immediately, and even ended up getting the paid version, which does smart playlists (one I use a lot is "an hour of music I haven't heard in the past week, no tracks shorter than 30 seconds"). MM seems to either be based on WinAmp or at least exposes a very similar API, because many WinAmp plugins just work with it straight off (I found a way of making it fill in the "what I'm listening to" field in MSN Messenger back when I still used that regularly).
posted by ZsigE at 5:16 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm still using Winamp, and can't really see a reason to switch. It has a small footprint, even with all 40 gigs of my music loaded into a single playlist, it doesn't choke on any of the weird formats I've accumulated over the years (.it? .s3m? No problem.), if I want to play a particular song I hit "J", type the name, press Enter, and it plays. I know it's built up a ton of cruft over the years, but it's very easy to never see the AOL-inspired crap at all and just use it to play music and nothing else.

(Also, the Android version is the only music player I've found that has a decent homescreen widget and responds properly to voice commands.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:21 AM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Malor wrote (a huge comment about why computer audio is mostly not good and what to do about it).

The thing is, at the end of all that, shitty or absolutely perfect output, it all ends up in two ears that can reliably tell whether a) this song is quite loud or b) this is a bit on the soft side and c) cool tune, but not much more than that. So I'm happy with my crappy Logitech speakers, as the majority of the time all they are transmitting is Radio 4 (for the cats, who'd get very angsty if they miss You and Yours).
posted by MartinWisse at 5:26 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm still running WinAMP 5 and have been for a long time (5 is closer to 2 than 3, IME). But I know I'm a unique sort of music-listener - I usually only listen to full albums, or I make playlists on the fly as I'm doing something else, and I don't use it to automatically sync new content to an MP3 player. It's so great for listening to streaming content, and ripping CDs/DVDs.
posted by muddgirl at 5:45 AM on June 25, 2012


I was the nerd who actually got the llama whipping reference. Oh how I enjoyed the hell out of Wesley Willis (RIP Wesley).
posted by zardoz at 5:49 AM on June 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


By the way, anyone reading this thread will likely have gathered that Foobar2K is a good player. I wouldn't call it a great one... I've always found its playlist features annoyingly non-intuitive and strange.

But what you probably haven't figured out yet, from these comments, that it is the Swiss Army Knife for format conversions and tagging on Windows. You have to install it with all the options, though, as the tagging and lookup features aren't included by default.

If you've got a bunch of random files, you can have Foobar sort them into directories by pretty much any tag value you like (artist/album/tracknumber - trackname being probably the most common example), or you can rebuild tags by using the directories they're stored in. So you've got untagged files that are nicely sorted in your filesystem, Foobar can tag the whole lot at unbelievable speed. And then, once they're tagged, it's easy to then reorganize them into a different structure.

It's also got an effing magic lookup function, where you can highlight a few tracks from the same album, and tell it to do a freedb lookup. It it marvelously good at figuring out what album those files came from, and offering you appropriate tag values.

And, of course, you can do mass conversions between formats trivially, and it's smart enough to spawn exactly as many encoding threads as you have CPU cores. It uses LAME (which you may have to download separately), and is incredibly fast. I just ran a test, pulling FLACs from a gigabit network share, converting to 320K MP3 on a local SSD, and my quadcore 4.4Ghz machine converts at about 225x listening speed.... for large batches, this means that each hour of audio would encode in roughly 16 seconds. It might go even faster if the files were fully local.

I remember being quite pleased when I first hit 1x.
posted by Malor at 6:07 AM on June 25, 2012 [13 favorites]


I do not love Winamp, but I can find no other low-resource mp3 player that will make a playlist of every song by an artist I have three or fewer songs by.
posted by Jonathan Harford at 6:10 AM on June 25, 2012


I wish there was an alternative to iTunes

I cant speak for the OSX world, but in the Windows world there are alternatives for the four different things iTunes does.

(1) Music store. Buy mp3s elsewhere, like say amazon.
(2) Play music. Any of a gazillion players.
(3) Manage an iPod or other mp3 player. Some options here too, even for iPods.
(4) Break your computer. Quicktime will do this for you instead.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:11 AM on June 25, 2012 [22 favorites]


I was always on a Mac. SoundJam was the shit.
aka iTunes. (yeah, yeah, I know, same but different… SoundJam really was the shit!)
It's such a fine line between the shit and shit.
posted by mazola at 6:14 AM on June 25, 2012


I use Foobar2000 and I often use Mp3tag to manage my files. It can sort/rename many files (not just mp3s) into folders based on tags, but what I really like is its ability to draw tags from file structures. So, for example, if you have a bunch of files organized like this:

\My Music\Juicy Karkass\2008 Songs for Mefi\03. Punch em in the dick.mp3

that don't have tags, you can tell Mp3tag to extract tags like so:

\My Music\%artist%\%year% %album%\%track%. %title%
posted by dhens at 6:29 AM on June 25, 2012


I have settled on Subsonic - a web interface approach, but it doesn't handle mp3 devices. Sigh.

I use Subsonic on Android, but I have a lot of issues with it. Most pressingly the web app and API design are... idiosyncratic to say the least. It's the closest I can get to running my own Spotify server, though. Least-worst option.
posted by Leon at 6:29 AM on June 25, 2012


dhens, Foobar can do all that natively, almost exactly the same way. I don't think you have to download anything extra, but you do have to choose extra components when you first install it.
posted by Malor at 6:35 AM on June 25, 2012


The thing about foobar is that, yes, it's unintuitive and comes with a questionable default setup. However, it can be your dream player... whatever you've always wished for, you can make it happen with a little work. For me, I wanted a lightweight, slightly tweaked iTunes-similar UI. Here's my current foobar setup.
posted by gilrain at 6:35 AM on June 25, 2012


Oh, one more thing, dhens: you might have to download plugins for more esoteric filetypes, like Monkey's Audio (aka APE). I'm not sure Foobar supports all those formats out of the box.
posted by Malor at 6:38 AM on June 25, 2012


Does foobar have a UI mode with a visual footprint the size of Winamp's main window?
posted by Gyan at 6:40 AM on June 25, 2012


Winamp still rocks my world. Since 1997. Maybe I'm out of touch.
posted by rmmcclay at 6:44 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


dhens: in foobar,
- Select files
- Right click -> Properties
- Tools -> Automatically fill values...
- Source = %path%
- Pattern = D:\Music\%artist%\%album%\%tracknumber% %title%.mp3 (or whatever)

You can also use any property or combination of properties as the source. It's incredibly powerful. It's also very, very fast at updates. I stopped using a dedicated mp3 tagger ages ago.
posted by CaseyB at 6:47 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I use winamp 2.81 from oldversion.com, with litestep on [fixes multiple monitor issues] and multiple instances. One instance playing NPR and another instance playing music [usually either Devil's Night Radio or BassDrive] or local tunes/mp3s.

I simultaneously get news and tunes on two very small players, with little to no negative impact on my pc's ability to do work, but a massive positive impact on my ability to work.
posted by ill13 at 6:47 AM on June 25, 2012


Winamp user here. Every day. Believe me, I've really searched for programs that might be better. Have not found.
posted by davebush at 6:49 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


No argument that Winamp3 was awful, but what's wrong with Winamp5? Wasn't it just a continuation of the Winamp2 series, whilst version 3 was abandoned?
posted by schmod at 6:52 AM on June 25, 2012


Linux roundup!!
posted by LogicalDash at 6:53 AM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I haven't used much of Windows in the past few years (switched to Linux ... which I haven't been able to find anything as good as Winamp for, and I have tried), but when I have I have looked for things as good and as lightweight as the llama and nothing has stood up.

Linux has lots of good music players; it's one of the areas that the free software model does well.

You want Audacious (was XMMS), although to get it to look like Winamp in the latest version you have to go into the View -> Interfaces menu.

Other minimalist players (i.e., that don't try to database your music collection) are VLC and my personal favorite Music On Console.

Rhythmbox and Amarok are good as far as full-featured music players, with honorable mention to JuK and Banshee.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:54 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I switched to iTunes from Winamp not long after it came out on Windows. I've only stuck with it until now because I didn't think anything else would work with my iPod.

I've used MusicBrainz Picard for tagging and that works really well. The one thing that I wish I could figure out how to do is to tag things according to the album that they were originally released on rather than the greatest hits album that this particular file was ripped from. For example, I ripped The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" from their Greatest Hits album but I'd like it to show up in my player as if it came from "Who's Next."

Then I just need to figure out how to get rid of all of the duplicate files I've accumulated over the years and then dig out my actual CD's and re-rip them now that I have a better idea of what I'm doing (silly past self, you should have known that 128kbs wasn't good enough).
posted by VTX at 7:08 AM on June 25, 2012


Does foobar have a UI mode with a visual footprint the size of Winamp's main window?

It seems somewhat flexible, but all the UIs I've seen have been basically squarish, fairly normal Windows-style windows with some decoration and theming. My assumption is that Foobar doesn't offer the pixel-level control for skinning that Winamp did. I've certainly never seen anything as compact as the Winamp 2 UIs.

That said, I don't myself need UIs that compact anymore, as my current monitor is far larger.
posted by Malor at 7:10 AM on June 25, 2012


I still use Winamp v2.81 with the TubeAmp skin. I didn't like the v3 of Winamp, and could never be bothered to find anything newer as the one I have has always worked great. Just copied it from computer to computer.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:14 AM on June 25, 2012


I am a archaic throwback to a different time (as was pointed out on the Surface thread by some whippersnapper who was threatened by my CD collection). What I want a media player to do is to play the "album" I want to hear out of roughly 500 gb of music. I've got the audio outputs leading to a Denon receiver which pushes a pair of old Infinity bookshelf speakers that are tight and clear. My listening used to be playlist after playlist but I've outgrown that. Now I just want to hear the concert or album in its proper order. I don't care about 1500 possible skins - just play the music the way I want to hear it.

I have not tried Foobar but I've been through all the others. iTunes blows on a PC. Winamp freaks out at my collection of ROIOs and lumps them all under one "unknown album/unknown artist" category. But WMP not only recognizes a fair amount of those concerts but in some rare cases it will bring up the album cover (especially Stones boots). So I stick with that. It doesn't lock up. It plays wav files which is what the majority of my music is. And it looks white, clean, and neat.

Now playing: Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign
posted by Ber at 7:22 AM on June 25, 2012


Then I just need to figure out how to get rid of all of the duplicate files I've accumulated over the years and then dig out my actual CD's and re-rip them now that I have a better idea of what I'm doing (silly past self, you should have known that 128kbs wasn't good enough).

If you rip FLAC, you'll never have to rip again, if you back up your files.

To prevent bitrot, I wrote a script to iterate through my music directories and generate PAR2 recovery files for all my FLACs. I really don't want to have to go through all that again, and 10% extra space, to give the files a high degree of resilience against damage, seems like a good tradeoff.

This is bloody huge compared to 128K MP3s. The FLACs themselves are typically about fives times the size of 128K MP3, and then I added another 10% recovery info. But terabyte drives were closely approaching $50 before the floods last year, and they will be cheap again. Even now, the 2TB models aren't too bad... I see some Seagates down to $150.

Compared to what the music itself costs, and the time it would take to rip CDs to fill that space, that's cheap beyond all reason.
posted by Malor at 7:23 AM on June 25, 2012


Screw it, I've still got a Musicmatch Jukebox version 5 key in my office somewhere.
posted by charred husk at 7:24 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Malor: My assumption is that Foobar doesn't offer the pixel-level control for skinning that Winamp did.

You can really do just about anything with foobar.
posted by gilrain at 7:25 AM on June 25, 2012


The thing about foobar is that ... it can be your dream player... with a little work. <snip>
posted by gilrain at 6:35 AM on June 25
So you're saying I have to sysadmin my MP3 player, too?

Hate on iTunes as you will, but it requires no bit twiddling.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:28 AM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was once in AOL's building in Palo Alto where they put many of the web properties that they've acquired.

All of the conference rooms had cute names or themes. One of them had a drum kit. Another was named Alderaan.

I want you to let that last one sink in.

They named a conference room after a planet the Death Star blew up.
posted by zippy at 7:30 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


TheNewWazoo: So you're saying I have to sysadmin my MP3 player, too?

No, you don't have to. If you want to use foobar and customize it more than a little, it takes a few hours. If you like iTunes, it's probably better to stick with that, yes. There's a lot of people in here who don't like iTunes, so I was explaining another option they have.
posted by gilrain at 7:31 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


illongruci: " Winamp-alike on Linux? You might be looking for XMMS."

Ooooh. Nice. Thanks for that!
posted by zarq at 7:33 AM on June 25, 2012


zippy: They named a conference room after a planet the Death Star blew up.

Yeah, but they're sort of like the Death Star, blowing up the planets they control... so maybe it was just a subtle reminder of what might happen if you, as a recently-acquired startup, didn't supply the location of the rebel base... er, I mean, fall in line with AOL's new strategy for you.
posted by gilrain at 7:34 AM on June 25, 2012


I'm the only person I know who switched to iTunes even before I had an iPhone just because of the smart playlists (and, if I'm honest, the eye candy of Cover Flow, which seemed way too cool at the time). Before I finally let it organize my library, I had three separate backups.

But, to this day, if you just double-click an mp3 file on my box, it opens in Winamp. I just wanted that to be faster than the whole open iTunes thing. I could make it VLC instead, but now it's just nostalgia. And I actually do use Winamp's Android version on my tablet, on the rare occasions I play music from it. just cause I can't find anything I like any better.
posted by tyllwin at 7:37 AM on June 25, 2012


They named a conference room after a planet the Death Star blew up.

That actually makes it harder for me to hate them. The places I work always have conference rooms with names like "3C28"
posted by tyllwin at 7:40 AM on June 25, 2012


I have been to a fair number of meetings that really, really needed to be held on Alderaan.
posted by localroger at 7:47 AM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ber: One spot where Foobar is really good is in its support of lossless streaming, which is very useful if you're connected via a digital out to a receiver. (analog outs usually suck on older machines, unless you put special attention into them. You could get good ones, but it was hard).

In XP, you put Foobar into Kernel Streaming output, and in Vista or Win7, you use WASAPI, which is similar, but better. I think both output flavors need a plugin. You download a zipped DLL, extract it, drop it into the Components directory wherever you installed Foobar, and restart the program. New output options will show up in Preferences.

You may hear an improvement even with an analog connection, but over analog, the difference may be subtle or not there at all. If, however, you are connected digitally, so that the receiver is doing the digital-to-analog conversion instead of the PC, you may be quite startled at how much better it sounds. If you've got a typical crap Windows sound setup, the difference will NOT be subtle, it will be sledgehammer-to-the-head obvious, something almost anyone would pick out 10 times in 10. It will knock your bloody socks off.

I found out about all this the hard way. I'd built a home theater, which I liked a lot for movies, but I was never really happy with music coming through those speakers. I thought they kind of sucked for music, but were okay for sound effects. Turns out, it was the computer that had been mangling my 44.1Khz CD-type sound, while passing through 48Khz movie sound undamaged. I found out purely by accident, playing around with a USB Sonica Theater soundcard that I'd accumulated. I happened to fire up a Berlin song, and after maybe fifteen seconds, you should have seen the big grin on my face. I couldn't believe how much better it sounded, and sat there listening for a good couple of hours.

So then I started digging into the absolute shit-on-a-cracker fustercluck that is Windows Sound and PC soundcards. What an effing mess. If you're on older, typical computer sound hardware, getting a bitperfect stream out to a decent receiver can be a huge upgrade. That Denon you mention is likely to be perfect.

Drop me a MeMail, and I can send you a link to a sample DTS-encoded WAV file that you can use to test that a S/PDIF connection is, in fact, lossless.
posted by Malor at 7:48 AM on June 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


~$ cvlc Music/Wilco/Yankee\ Hotel\ Foxtrot/06\ Ashes\ Of\ American\ Flags.mp3
posted by double block and bleed at 7:52 AM on June 25, 2012


I used Winamp for years, but times change. iTunes on Windows may as well be a virus, considering all the absolute shit it installs without telling you. After trying everything under the sun, this is the process I've settled on - it's a little, uhm, involved, but it works perfectly:

1. Foobar for everything involving ripping and playing.
2. MP3Tag for tagging and attaching artwork. If your tags are complete and consistent, Foobar can show and play your tunes any way you want.
3. I run all new mp3 files through MP3Gain to normalize. It's an old program, but it works. I have 40+ gigs of music that all play at the same general level (and any changes made are reversible if you don't like the changes.)
4. The Lyrics Show v3 plugin for Foobar will download, display and add lyrics to you mp3 tag if you are into that.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:53 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Typing in clvc M-tab-Wil-tab-Y-tab-06-tab is a lot faster than waiting for Amarok to load and then looking for the song I want to play.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:58 AM on June 25, 2012


Winamp-alike on Linux?

QMMP.
it whips the penguins ass. comes with a complete set of fully functional plugins. plays pretty much anything. i love it.

i notice that today's listeners seem not so much "album-oriented" as an old fart like myself. i have a big usage issue with most of the "modern" players, many of which lack a folder oriented perspective in favor of tag-driven hierarchies around genre and artist and yes, album - but years of long habit have molded my usage pattern: open music folder, select album folder, right click and Play In [insert player]. i tend to choose my music from the o/s as opposed to within the player. i also like the diminutive nature of the winamp-style presentation. that said, i am still anal about tagging, and EasyTag, as noted above by LogicalDash takes the prize. i have caja-actions (in MATE, known as nautilus-actions in the old gnome) set up to send entire folders to EasyTag as well as to QMMP.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 7:58 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


3. I run all new mp3 files through MP3Gain to normalize.

Foobar can do ReplayGain scanning as well, both tagging only and applying to audio data.
posted by Bangaioh at 8:00 AM on June 25, 2012


Have other Mac users tried Vox? It plays FLAC and the beta can load AU plugins. Fast and light, great for playing directories of tracks without having to add them to the iTunes library.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:02 AM on June 25, 2012


I abandoned Winamp when I got my first Mac, but still miss the Zelda skin (I used 2.9 but can't find that version anywhere).
posted by subbes at 8:10 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


gilrain: You can really do just about anything with foobar.

But, in browsing through those skins, what I see is that almost all of them are just rectangular. They're regular Windows-style windows, gussied up. Many of them look quite cool, but at least to a cursory overview, I don't see any evidence of the extremely precise skinning that was possible in Winamp.

It looks, to my eye, that Foobar skins are all subservient to the Foobar program. Foobar skins at least appear to manipulate Foobar's basic windowing engine, but still rely on Foobar itself to talk to Windows and do most everything. With Winamp, the audio engine seemed to end up being subservient to the UI. I think Winamp ended up being, in essence, a plugin for its skins, instead of the other way around.
posted by Malor at 8:20 AM on June 25, 2012


The thing is, at least for me anyways, I'm sure most of you had all kinds of different experiences, each new music player either created, or was needed because of, a fairly radical change in the way I consumed music.

We have the before Winamp era (BW) in which I listened to physical CDs on the default player built into windows 95 or, gasp, actual physical machines dedicated solely to the function of playing CDs.

After the dawn of the Winamp (AW), we have what I refer to as the early and late pirate eras. The early pirating era was dominated by media players, which for me meant winamp set up with some probably horribly embarrassing skins and plugins for doing things like playing Super Nintendo audio files.

Media players were replaced by media libraries, which aggregated everything into one big list. I know a lot of you hate it, but this for most people is iTunes. In undergrad, the number of gigabytes you had in your iTunes playlist, and how tastefully those gigabytes were curated was a source of major bragging rights. Although said bragging rights only applied in circles that gave a shit about this, which is, I'm told, not everybody.

Currently media libraries are giving way to media streaming. Your Spotifies and your Sharks and your what have yous. In fact, I think Spotify has brought about the largest change in the way I listen to music of any of these by a large margin. I don't pirate, accumulate, and curate any more. I'm just supposed to pick a thing and listen to it. I didn't expect this but abandoning curation is a huge frikkin deal. Now that I don't curate I never know what I want to listen to, it's harder to remember and give a shit about that band I heard of a few weeks ago and liked and wanted to check out, and I pay less attention and know less about what is currently happening in music. Maybe that's not because of Spotify, maybe it's just because I'm at the cusp of being no longer with it, where what I'm with isn't it any more, and what's it is weird and scary to me.

Sorry to derail here, I was just gonna talk about Winamp and why I stopped using it, but then I remembered how big of a deal the reasons why I stopped were.

From a comment by TwelveTwo way upthread: Oh wow, music visualizations. Can someone do an FPP on those? Or am I going to have to pick up a shovel and start digging.

It may not exist right now, but the fact that you just said this means that somewhere in the next 72 hours a Tumblr dedicated to animated .gifs of Winamp visualizations will spring into being.
posted by cirrostratus at 8:23 AM on June 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


"dhens, Foobar can do all that natively, almost exactly the same way..."

I have much love for Foobar, but MP3Tag really can do many, many things that nothing else can. Sure, if all you want is to pull tags from a directory structure, there's a bunch of tools that will do that. But, well, for the kind of maintenance I've been doing on my MP3s, because I'm very fussy about tags and completeness, there's nothing even close, when you include what's possible with scripting and plugins. You have to go to the site's forum to find this stuff, though.

I was disappointed in this article because it seems to me that on the one hand it talks about Winamp as a media player but doesn't talk about the other media players; and then on the other hand it talks about Spotify and such and only mentions Shoutcast in passing. It's weird and incomplete.

Probably I didn't stop using Winamp until three or so years ago. I finally decided that WMP did what I needed and I'd stopped being happy with winamp years before...I'd just felt there weren't any good alternatives. I only recently discovered Foobar, and it's of less interest to me as an music player than it is for some of the other things I use it for to maintain my collection. The less said about iTunes, the better. (Except that it should die in a fire.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:26 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I switched from WinAmp to iTunes on Windows pretty much from the beginning of its availability. I don't use much of anything beyond the music playing and interact mostly via a Rainmeter skin so I don't have much of an issue it. It's definitely too big now and really needs to get broken up into separate modules but it does what I want and that's just fine for me.
posted by tommasz at 8:26 AM on June 25, 2012


The second reason I never switched to iTunes (the first being 'it crashed my fucking computer whenever it wanted to') in college was because we were all in the first tentative steps of wanting to easily share music with our friends. There would be a party coming up, and I would make a playlist in WinAMP, make my music folder shareable on the network, and could access it from the laptop connected to our shared mixer, or from our homebrew media center connected to the TV in the living room. But iTunes, initially, made that process incredibly hard. This sort of direct-network sharing of files over fast university lines is sort of proto-Spotify or proto-Pandora, and it's something that, IIRC, iTunes heavily discouraged for a long time (maybe still does? I haven't touched it since 2005).
posted by muddgirl at 8:31 AM on June 25, 2012


2nding foobar's builting replaygain. Fast and efficient, like everything else. I add a custom column in foobar with the expression "%replaygain_album_gain%/%replaygain_track_gain%" to see the replaygain values at a glace.

It's interesting to look at the progression of the loudness wars over time. It's also surprising to see where various artists place. Skrillex's Bangarang at -12dB (a large value required to bring the volume down to the standard 89dB) isn't surprising, but Infected Mushroom's latest Army of Mushrooms, a somewhat similar kind of music, is only 0.57dB.
posted by CaseyB at 8:31 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm still using my old iRiver mp3 player (512 Mb).

I've still got a vintage 1998 Diamond Rio MP3 player, with a whopping 32 MB of storage! If I could just find the damn cable so I can see if it still works...
posted by COD at 8:32 AM on June 25, 2012


I am surprised there has been no mention of what at one time was my favorite player. Cthulhu. It had the greatest visualizations that I have ever seen! You could add photographs to the visualization and it would do these subliminal Warhol, swirly, melty effects to them. Trippy! Wish I could find a copy of it! Wheres my Pink Floyd CD?
posted by Yer-Ol-Pal at 8:35 AM on June 25, 2012


Why did they skip from WinAMP 3 to 5?

Who really wants a WinAMP 4 skin.





Still the best joke.
posted by deezil at 8:35 AM on June 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


we were all in the first tentative steps of wanting to easily share music with our friends

I mean, we've always wanted to share music with our friends, but in the late 90's/early 2000's we were making tentative steps away from "Burn them a Mix Tape/CD" and towards using the internet to do so. Using intranets was a logical first step.
posted by muddgirl at 8:38 AM on June 25, 2012


workbone cd player gave way to xmms and mpg123 (later mpg321) on my desktop in 1997. When I could no longer find xmms in debian stable I tried and abandoned xmms2, finding audacious to be a worthy replacement with similar key bindings to the original xmms. mplayer, mpg321, and audacious are my standard music players now.

I am in the anti-itunes camp.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 8:42 AM on June 25, 2012


I love Foobar2000 so much. I'm running it on WINE, on X, on OSX— it's still faster than iTunes!
posted by yaymukund at 8:52 AM on June 25, 2012


Does Foobar have a volume control yet?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 9:11 AM on June 25, 2012


I am (in) the pro-iTunes camp.
posted by Edison Carter at 9:13 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


GallonOfAlan: Is that a joke? The volume control is where you'd expect it to be, next to the playback controls. It's been like that for at least five or six years.
posted by yaymukund at 9:16 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


This thread inspired me to update my copy of foobar2000 and install a snazzier theme. I also followed Malor's advice and installed WASAPI. It sounds a little better, maybe... but I haven't done an A/B or anything, so it's likely placebo.
posted by gilrain at 9:19 AM on June 25, 2012


I add a custom column in foobar with the expression "%replaygain_album_gain%/%replaygain_track_gain%" to see the replaygain values at a glace

Same here, but I prefer to use track gain and peak for the columns and created a custom grouping by artist/date/album/codec/album gain to prevent redundant album gain values from taking up space.

Since you mention the loudness wars, you may be interested in this dynamic range meter component, whose output can be used to contribute to this DR database (if you don't consider that a flawed concept). It can also tag scanned files with the DR values for tracks/album but I don't remember if that's the default or not.
posted by Bangaioh at 9:21 AM on June 25, 2012


(Just noticed in my screenshot above that my new theme doesn't handle the way I organize multiple-disk albums well... I can customize that, though.)
posted by gilrain at 9:26 AM on June 25, 2012


It sounds a little better, maybe... but I haven't done an A/B or anything, so it's likely placebo.

Yeah, it may be. It really depends on your audio hardware.
posted by Malor at 9:27 AM on June 25, 2012


MP3 player nostalgia aside, I'm just glad Frankel's still making software.
My personal music-making arsenal would be pretty dire if not for REAPER.
posted by anthom at 9:37 AM on June 25, 2012


I fought iTunes for a long time, but once I got an iPad it was inevitable, and now that's what I have. I hate it, thought, and don't understand why it's so crappy (other than the fact that Apple has turned it into a combination mp3 player, video player, music store, app store, backup service, file transfer, etc.) I was with WinAmp until the program bloat of version 3, at which point I tried a number of different programs, none of which I liked as much.

In its time, though, it was excellent.
posted by Legomancer at 9:50 AM on June 25, 2012


I've tried nearly every mp3 player/organizer/media player/etc out there for windows and linux. I still come back to Winamp. I left after v3, and came back to v5 pleasantly surprised. Two things keep me with winamp: MilkDrop, which is still the best auto-generated visuals I've come across on a PC (cough syrup, good music, and MilkDrop was a staple of my Fridays for a period of my youth) and the Library. I've had one issue with the library where it wasn't clearing out missing files and I had to re-install, but it manages my collection better than anything else I've used.

I've had very good results with the MAD output plugin (an alternate MP3 decoder).
I also noticed there is a WASAPI output plugin now, although I haven't used it.

Foobar is my secondary on windows, but the media library functions never really clicked with me.
posted by nTeleKy at 10:01 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am (in) the pro-iTunes camp.
Same here. I'm always a little mystified at the hate it engenders. I use it to manage a ~20,000 song library and never have problems with slowness or crashes, etc. Guess I'm just lucky.
posted by BurntHombre at 10:13 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm also still using WinAMP 2.9x in the default skin. I think I'm on 2.94. There is still no replacement.

I used to run it religiously with the DFX audio processing/enhancement plug in, which does a decent job of restoring some of the sonic range of lossy low bitrate mp3s, especially when played on bad speakers. But not so much these days since I encode/play at 320 CBR or VBR and I have decent headphones, but I still miss the sonic maximization and bass boost features for making tiny little laptop speakers go decently thumpy.

I don't know what Justin Frankel's non-compete contract terms are like (or personal motivations) but it's entirely possible he could pull a repeat of WinAMP's success considering how screwed up the music/media player market still is.

All the major competitors are utter crap. The only time I run iTunes is when I have a native Macintosh/OS X computer, and even then it's only to rip CDs or burn a playlist to CD. I can't stand using the bloated thing as a player, and I'll often default to XMMS grabbed and installed through apt-get or similar.

The WinAMP visualization scripting language called AVS is still amazing stuff. If you use WinAMP versions 2.9x or so and later and you see pre-made scripts labeled with the name "mig" that's an old friend of mine. He got a job at Nullsoft specifically because of the strength of those scripts.

You can even load those scripts in edit mode and look at the source - he was a huge fan of insanely clever intelligent beat counting and detection algorithms. Some of his scripts will detect and count phrases/bars and measures and will attempt to find the builds/breaks in electronic music and react to them at the appropriate times. So, some of his scripts are designed to intelligently evolve and develop over the length of not just a song but an entire album length mixed DJ set.

This is, of course, a bit mad from the viewpoint of the average user as most people just look at the first few seconds of a visualization to decide if they like it or not, while his scripts may not achieve full action or fully bloom until being left to run for long enough to evolve and develop.
posted by loquacious at 10:13 AM on June 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


I used to run it religiously with the DFX audio processing/enhancement plug in, which does a decent job of restoring some of the sonic range of lossy low bitrate mp3s,

I don't think that's really possible.... that information has been lost, and any attempt at 'restoration' is just making up plausible lies, basically.

I saw a attempt by Creative to do something similar described as trying to use hamburger to reconstitute the cow.
posted by Malor at 10:18 AM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's awesome to read a bit about what happened to Sonique -- I was just thinking "whatever happened to that.." a couple of weeks ago. Seriously! Thanks for that, aubilenon. I was a Sonique user in the '90s, but was too young (teenager at the time) to really track the Lycos acquisition and fallout from that. I just remember lusting after the oh-so-pretty S2 screenshots and enjoying the weirdly-shaped, "fun" windows in S1. All that before hardware-accelerated graphics, pretty much. I think a lot of my interest in UI design can actually be tracked back to Winamp/Sonique and their contemporaries, which.. sort of means all this software is indirectly responsible for my Ph.D direction.
posted by Alterscape at 10:19 AM on June 25, 2012


I don't think that's really possible.... that information has been lost, and any attempt at 'restoration' is just making up plausible lies, basically.

No, it's not really supposed to be possible. Yes, it's just plausible audible lies. Yes, you wouldn't really need or want DFX running on a nice stereo with nicely encoded mp3s. No argument there.

But what the original versions of DFX did for MP3s on crappy speakers was really amazing. There were controls not just for bass boost/enhancement, but also a dynamic range expansion as well as a post-decode wave sharpening effect that functioned sonically like "sharpen" does for images in Photoshop - which obviously could be a destructive effect if applied too heavily, as it would begin to reveal flaws and artifacts in the mp3, just as the sharpen tool in Photoshop can reveal flaws in an image.

But it made a huge audible difference to badly encoded mp3s, or making shitty speakers sound better. Except for this one program (and outside of professional audio production plugins) I've never been a fan of software based audio enhancement.

But as one audiophile with known good, tested and experienced ears to another - I assure you it was good stuff, in the same class of cool and useful audio magic as a BBE Sonic Maximizer rack unit.

Anyway, that plugin was capable of turning an old 2001 era Pentium 1 laptop with tiny, tinny little speakers into something that sounded more like a boom box with some bass response. Sure, it's all simulated audio trickery and lies, but so are MP3s and digital music themselves.
posted by loquacious at 10:55 AM on June 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


mpd anyone?
posted by PenDevil at 11:16 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm curious, what do those of you who don't want your media player to manage the physical location of your files use to do so? And, how much new music (that you want to listen to and get to know well - some people want a gradual acquisition of just things they really like, other people like to acquire in a all consuming archival sense. Just different quantitatively, not qualitatively) do you acquire?

I used to feel the same way, but then realized that allowing it to do so led to a very consistent and very organized set of music files. It may not be the exact file structure that I would choose, but it's logical and easy to figure out, and it's not like my music files are HIDDEN or anything.

I buy about 2-3 hours worth of new music every week, mostly for DJ-type purposes, and keeping that well organized and tagged is critical. It'd be really tiresome for me to do that by hand with the file system and some sort of id3 tagger - I really LIKE that changes in the tags are automatically reflected in the file name and location. I also would have a lot of trouble keeping up with everything without smart playlists.

Of course, to each their own, and I am by no means implying that if you are not ingesting that quantity of music, or have made a different choice about how you want to manage it you are in any way lesser in your enjoyment or involvement in listening to music, it's just a curiosity I have.

(Also, I don't remember there ever being a version of iTunes that didn't allow you to turn that off. At the very least, it's been many years. So that being a reason to not use it at all has always rung a bit oddly to me)
posted by flaterik at 11:23 AM on June 25, 2012


I'm thinking of switching from audacious to mpd. I've started using xmonad and mostly control audacious through dbus these days anyway, while it hangs out on workspace 9.
posted by kenko at 11:25 AM on June 25, 2012


Speaking personally, 99% of my music consumption is in album form. I can see the value of a content management system for music files if I was buying singles or individual songs, but I basically never, ever do that. I have maybe 50 non-album songs that I've collected over the past 10 years, which is a pretty slow pace. And as I mentioned before, I almost never use playlists - it's either full albums or a playlist that I make on the fly.

In the Audion link they mention that one of the great strengths of iTunes is that they don't have to cater to the 1% who want a specific player experience. I recognize that I'm probably that 1% - that's why I still use WinAMP.
posted by muddgirl at 11:34 AM on June 25, 2012


I've always used Winamp. It does the job, and if you avoid the cruft like toolbars and unecessary online services it's pretty fast. Shoutcast isn't a bad Internet radio service either.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:34 AM on June 25, 2012


I was into this back when there where MP2s. None of you remember MP2s, do you?

MP2 is still the go-to format in public radio. It's the default file type over on the Public Radio Exchange.
posted by mykescipark at 11:36 AM on June 25, 2012


I have exactly one MP2 on my computer. I can't even remember what song it is, but I know that it's there.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:38 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I use WinAmp 3, but grudgingly. I even, finally, succumbed to the whole "Music Library" spreadsheet-looking thing instead of just using nicely organized folders. I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. It's... okay.
posted by Foosnark at 11:39 AM on June 25, 2012


Yer-Ol-Pal: I am surprised there has been no mention of what at one time was my favorite player. Cthulhu. It had the greatest visualizations that I have ever seen! You could add photographs to the visualization and it would do these subliminal Warhol, swirly, melty effects to them. Trippy! Wish I could find a copy of it! Wheres my Pink Floyd CD?

I'm not sure if it's what you were referring to, but that makes me think of Cthugha, which I used to use back in the day. I don't think it was a player, per se — Wikipedia says it got the audio from the sound card's inputs, which sounds about like how I remember using it.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 11:42 AM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Heh, I've never bothered with the Local Media thing. And loading it now it seems there's at least nine online services I don't subscribe to. AOL will just drown you in "features" if you let them.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:45 AM on June 25, 2012


Jimbob: "I don't rate songs. I want a playlist that selects, say, a bunch of songs randomly from those that have never been played, or have been played the least, or haven't been played in the longest time. And I've tried making smart playlists with all those options. None are perfect, mainly because the smart playlist doesn't automatically adjust and remove a song once I've listened to it, I have to manually clear all the songs in the playlist and let it repopulate."

I have several playlists like this in iTunes. Generally I use them to repopulate my small Shuffle for running. I have a playlist of stuff I like to listen to when running, and I created a second "Unlistened" list using a set of filters. I limit the "unlistened" list to 250 songs, chosen by least recently played. Typical filter setup is:
Playlist is "Running Mix"
Rating is less than ⋆☆☆☆☆
Last played not in the last 30 days
Works just fine. Every time something is played, it gets removed from the list for at least 30 days. Make sure the "Live Updating" box is checked.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:46 AM on June 25, 2012


Also, dang, Winamp. They really hosed it didn't they? I still have my old-ass skin available for download from my website... I spent way too much time making that work. I switched to VLC after getting a Mac in 2007, but Winamp was on every Windows system I used for years.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:47 AM on June 25, 2012


I use WinAmp 3, but grudgingly.

Switch to 5, ver3 was awful.
posted by Cosine at 11:48 AM on June 25, 2012


I'm curious, what do those of you who don't want your media player to manage the physical location of your files use to do so?

I just use the filesystem. Once something is in place, it's not going to be moved again probably ever, except possibly if I move the entire directory tree somewhere else, and then I'll just do that from the root. Getting everything tagged and sorted properly was a major effort in the beginning, and I used Foobar's tools to do that for me. But I was always using the filesystem as the organizer, and Foobar was just the method of automating the process.

And, how much new music (that you want to listen to and get to know well - some people want a gradual acquisition of just things they really like, other people like to acquire in a all consuming archival sense. Just different quantitatively, not qualitatively) do you acquire?

Not much, anymore. I used to be in a group of friends in Second Life who would get together once a week and spin some tunes. During that period, I accumulated quite a bit of stuff, and bought a great deal more music than at anytime since my youth. But these days, I'm buying, geeze, maybe three or four albums a year? Maybe?

If I were accumulating more than I am, I might well want something automated to do it for me... I did, after all, use Foobar to set up most of my present organization system. But I add new music rarely enough, and almost always an album at a time, that making a couple of directories, and copying a set of files, isn't an annoyance.

Oh, also, I store music on a network fileserver, rather than locally. It's a shared library, across Windows, Mac, and Linux. I think filesystem organization may be my only real option.
posted by Malor at 11:50 AM on June 25, 2012


//Sometimes I think there should be mandatory training on the Streisand Effect before one is allowed to become a lawyer.//

My files are organized in directories by artist, and subdirectories for each album. But then, I buy about 1 new album a month, so keeping it up to date is no big deal. And I also tend to listen to albums 99% of the time. Shuffle play is a feature that I just don't use.
posted by COD at 11:51 AM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice cut and paste error there. Grr.... I was responding to this...

I'm curious, what do those of you who don't want your media player to manage the physical location of your files use to do so?
posted by COD at 11:52 AM on June 25, 2012


Re: flaterik – I tend to acquire music infrequently but in chunks; I'll pick up a few different albums from an artist I discover, or take advantage of a big sale at Amazon or whatever to stock up. The files go into music/[ArtistName]/[AlbumTitle], and then the new folders get dropped into my Winamp playlist. The “jump to file” function in the program includes both the metadata and the file path in the search terms, so that way even if the song isn't tagged properly I can still find what I'm looking for by typing in the album title, on the rare occasions when I want to sort by album. And the rest of the time I just have a honkin' big list of songs I can shuffle at random or create quick playlists from, which is how I like it.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:54 AM on June 25, 2012


I'm confused about the organization problems. I dump any mp3 files into my MP3 folder. Foobar2000 simply monitors that folder and organizes the info by artist/album and date. I can play randomly, by album, etc.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:03 PM on June 25, 2012


“There's no reason that Winamp couldn’t be in the position that iTunes is in today

Hardware players. That manufacturing infrastructure is a huge part of Apple's success. If people weren't using so many iPods/iPhones, the iTunes store would not be consequential.

I use Winamp currently.. is there something better?

I've been using Quintessential Player/QCD since like 2004. I thought it was a fork of Winamp, but maybe not. It had the same plug-in architecture (I thought). I made the switch from Winamp in order to save streams.

All that said, I'm surprised to see this article in 2012. I thought we got all of it out of our system in 2007 .... maybe not.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:04 PM on June 25, 2012


I'm confused about the organization problems. I dump any mp3 files into my MP3 folder. Foobar2000 simply monitors that folder and organizes the info by artist/album and date. I can play randomly, by album, etc.

But what do you do if you want to burn all songs by Artist X to a CD/DVD or MP3 playlist? Or make a copy of Album Y for a friend? Or fix a typo in the tagging for Album Z?

For playing, yeah, dumping them all in a folder is fine (if they are tagged correctly), but for managing, I use a filesystem as well.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:08 PM on June 25, 2012


I should have said I use Artist/Album as well.
posted by muddgirl at 12:20 PM on June 25, 2012


flaterik: I'm curious, what do those of you who don't want your media player to manage the physical location of your files use to do so?

I like to double-check all the tags of my incoming music anyway, so I use Mp3tag, which is insanely useful. I make sure all the tags are as I like them; get, check, and embed album art; then press a button to have them renamed and moved as needed into my music folder. The folder hierarchy is set up exactly how I like, and it's all configurable.

Then, since foobar2000 is set up to watch that music folder, everything is good to go without even reloading foobar or anything. It's a really satisfying system.

Oh, and then I can plug in my Android phone and press another shortcut to automatically sync that up too.
posted by gilrain at 12:23 PM on June 25, 2012


mrgrimm:
But what do you do if you want to burn all songs by Artist X to a CD/DVD or MP3 playlist? Or make a copy of Album Y for a friend? Or fix a typo in the tagging for Album Z?
Filter by artist or album or whatever, right click the header and "send to new playlist" or "burn audio cd" or "properties" (to edit metadata).
posted by raihan_ at 12:32 PM on June 25, 2012


But what do you do if you want to burn all songs by Artist X to a CD/DVD or MP3 playlist?

raihan_ beat me to the punch, but I'll add that foobar can also copy/move all the files in the big mp3 folder to a customisable filesystem hierarchy based on the files' metadata. So even if you don't want to use foobar to burn the CD, just tell it to copy the files to a directory of your choice and work from there.
posted by Bangaioh at 12:40 PM on June 25, 2012


Still running version 2.9.2 here.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:45 PM on June 25, 2012


Cthugha! That's it! Thank you so much Reprise! I guess it's just old age creepin in. At least I remembered it was one of those Lovecraft critters!
posted by Yer-Ol-Pal at 12:47 PM on June 25, 2012


The thing I liked the most about WinAMP and haven't found adequately reproduced anywhere else, is the cross-fader.

Among many other things, it allowed you to skip cross-fading for clips less than a selected duration.

I have hundreds of tiny audio clips - from cartoons, movies, tv-shows - that I love to throw into random music mixes which I find to be quite enjoyable when they pop up between songs.

I left WinAMP behind when I switched from Windows to Linux. XMMS and Audacious have decent crossfaders, but neither offers the same level of control.
posted by mmrtnt at 12:47 PM on June 25, 2012


I am (in) the pro-iTunes camp.

Same here. I'm always a little mystified at the hate it engenders. I use it to manage a ~20,000 song library and never have problems with slowness or crashes, etc. Guess I'm just lucky.


The first time I encountered itunes, a friend used it to sync his ipod and his machine. It promptly deleted everything from his pc that wasn't on the ipod. A warning notice and cancel option should have been the minimum; not deleting tens of gigabytes would have been nicer.

It also seemed to look at id3 tags to the exclusion of the filename, which is a behavior I dislike.

I *like* knowing where my files and directories are rather than letting third-party closed source software decide what to keep and where.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 1:28 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


That behavior is one of many reasons I will never use iTunes to manage anything, even if they did do a 180 on the more-is-more design philosophy and actually reduce the screen and memory footprints. Why would you even make it possible for the software to delete files without an explicit user command?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:43 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want a music player with the exact same interface as iTunes, but dedicated solely to playing MP3s. I don't need a store, I don't need device support out of the box, I don't want Songbird-style web integration. I just want to play music.

All my ideal music player would have are an iTunes-style interface, a SQLite DB, a basic playlist system and a MP3 decoder.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:00 PM on June 25, 2012


Cthugha! That's it! [...] At least I remembered it was one of those Lovecraft critters!

!!!

NOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooo....
posted by JHarris at 2:04 PM on June 25, 2012


Tsk. DERLETHIAN.
posted by Artw at 2:10 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cthulhu Mythosian?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:17 PM on June 25, 2012


Still using Winamp 5. It works fine, it's stable, I like it.

I also like the way it stays the same, rather than doing the Firefox thing of randomly making drastic changes to the UI for the sake of novelty, rather than because the product has changed functionality.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:43 PM on June 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


I like to double-check all the tags of my incoming music anyway, so I use Mp3tag, which is insanely useful. I make sure all the tags are as I like them; get, check, and embed album art; then press a button to have them renamed and moved as needed into my music folder. The folder hierarchy is set up exactly how I like, and it's all configurable.

That is roughly exactly my iTunes workflow for ingestion, except that the exact folder model isn't configurable. I've found that I don't care, iTunes already does pretty much exactly what I would do anyway. But thanks for the answer, that seems like a totally reasonable way to do things.
posted by flaterik at 2:48 PM on June 25, 2012


I'm still using Winamp 5.6 (with the Winamp 2 skin!). The main .exe is only 1.5 MB. Also, global hotkeys.
posted by kersplunk at 3:03 PM on June 25, 2012


I would think that the EQ on the mixer would be superior to the computer program. And much easier to tweak, having dedicated knobs and all ( I assume it's an analog mixer )

Allen & Heath channel strips aren't bad. EQ plugins in media players are all terrible. I'd only use one if I was listening to e.g. some dodgy soundboard recording and it had some annoying flaw that needed fixing. Mastering engineers spend their lives ensuring that all the songs on the CD are perfectly balanced. Why dick around with their hard work?
posted by kersplunk at 3:07 PM on June 25, 2012


The reason to EQ is generally to compensate for the room and sound system, not the track.

Unless of course it's been poorly mastered, which happens more often than one would prefer.
posted by flaterik at 3:13 PM on June 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ah OK, most of my listening is done on headphones.
posted by kersplunk at 3:31 PM on June 25, 2012


"The reason to EQ is generally to compensate for the room and sound system, not the track."

Or possibly one's ears.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:50 PM on June 25, 2012


That manufacturing infrastructure is a huge part of Apple's success. If people weren't using so many iPods/iPhones, the iTunes store would not be consequential.

Yeah this is pretty much it for me. Winamp was able to sync my iPod shuffle years ago. Begrudgingly. But I'm not letting it near my iPhone, so iTunes it is.
posted by Jimbob at 4:10 PM on June 25, 2012


The reason to EQ is generally to compensate for the room and sound system, not the track.

This is a really cool feature in receivers from the last few years; they've added special DSP programs (the one in Denons and Onkyos is called Audyssey) that will measure your room response, and will do the best it can to correct the flaws it hears. An oddity of the algorithms they use, an unplanned side effect, is that the more listening positions you measure, the better the algorithms work for all the positions.... so you want to spend the time to measure as many positions as you feel you have time for.

I gather that the big mojo with Audyssey is that it's working in the time domain, instead of the frequency domain, and is truly, deeply, wizardly. I don't know the math or the algorithms at all, and I think it's quite possible that I might never be able to understand them no matter how hard I tried, but I can tell you that it's improved the hell out of every room I've tried it in.

A couple years ago, the "good version" of Audyssey, MultiEQ XT, moved upscale into the super high end, but then last year it looked like it had come back down into the receivers that normal people might actually be able to afford, $800ish retail (which typically means about $550 on sale, maybe lower if you find a good spot, or buy near the end of the model year.) Kind of expensive as computer gear goes, but relatively cheap in the audio world, and Audyssey has a vast impact on perceived music quality, at least for me. I really love Denon's "Audyssey Flat" recommended setting.

But even the little cheapies, which you can often find for $250ish, will have a weaker version of Audyssey in them, and the overall audio quality on even the cheapest of the Denon and Onkyo units is amazing. They are just freaking awesome.

Well, okay, I should amend that slightly. I haven't been audio shopping for a couple years, so my experience is a little outdated, but I have a couple of either 2009 or 2010 midrange Denon units, and they are outstanding.
posted by Malor at 4:13 PM on June 25, 2012


Still use Winamp 5, can't imagine what else I'd switch to. MediaMonkey's not bad but the interface just gets in the way. iTunes is awful and I only keep it around to buy music that is absolutely, positively not available anywhere else, or for music I'd have to pay through the nose for to import from Japan or Estonia or what have you. I think I tried foobar once and I got GiMP shivers.

I'm especially weird in that I fully embrace Winamp's media library capabilities. It's great because I can still put my files wherever I want, and organize them however I want, and then use the media library for its metadata organizing features and easy playlist creation (Winamp, show me every song that's exactly 3:33 long—yes, I think I actually did that once). You'd think something like a MediaMonkey would be a good fit for me, then. And yet I can't bring myself to switch. It just feels wrong.
posted by chrominance at 4:15 PM on June 25, 2012


I wasted valuable HSC (the Australian equivalent of SAT) study time making an awesome Beastie Boys skin based on the cover image of "Hello Nasty"
posted by trialex at 4:52 PM on June 25, 2012


Great post, by the way. I love hearing stories from developers!

Malor: "Macs, interestingly enough, got this right almost out of the box. All you had to do was set your output to be digital, set all your volumes everywhere to maximum"

Would someone care to explain this in a little more detail? I've googled a little bit and found the BitPerfect OSX app, but Malor's comment seems to suggest there's some OS-level configuration you can do?

I've applied a 48Khz resampler in Foobar2000 and it sounds noticeably better. You can do this by:

1. Foobar2000 > Preferences > Playback > DSP Manager.
2. Add the 'Resampler (PPHS)'
3. Click "Configure selected" and enter 48000.

There's also "Ultra Mode" but I haven't bothered to find out what that does (yet).
posted by yaymukund at 5:11 PM on June 25, 2012


This is a really cool feature in receivers from the last few years

Yeah, that's existed for PA system tuning for a while, and it's cool to see it trickling down into the consumer space. If you're right about working in the time domain that's pretty neat - one of the big things pink noise input/response matching from a single point misses is stuff like comb filtering and other interactions of multiple audio sources.

I don't know how you could fix that with the processing power available in a home theater receiver, but maybe THEY do!
posted by flaterik at 5:13 PM on June 25, 2012


yaymukund: "I've applied a 48Khz resampler in Foobar2000 and it sounds noticeably better."

Well, I *think* it sounds better. I haven't A/B tested it or anything yet... :)
posted by yaymukund at 5:23 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I’m wondering is the person who wrote the article knows where Sedona is, or has never been there. I feel they are misinformed.
posted by bongo_x at 8:09 PM on June 25, 2012


Though I'm pleased to have something to associate with Sedona besides John McCain.
posted by box at 8:29 PM on June 25, 2012


I rewrote those two sentences right before I posted. I did not do a good job.
posted by bongo_x at 8:36 PM on June 25, 2012


surprised no one has mentioned AIMP3 -- it's as good as the old winamp -- lightweight, fast and lots of features: http://www.aimp2.us/aimp3-download.php
posted by milnak at 10:55 PM on June 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've applied a 48Khz resampler in Foobar2000 and it sounds noticeably better.

It's probably compensating for a lousy DAC.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:30 AM on June 26, 2012


And AOL. Oh, AOL... My first week there we did orientation. Where we saw Powerpoint slides that literally used the term "Carpet Bombing" for their strategy of distributing AOL CDs to prospective customers.

Oh man. At one point I was reading through the spec for the AOL Media Player and asked "So why would anyone use this?" And the answer was: "We will set it as the default and most people don't know how to change those."

...

So basically the requirement was that it not be so terrible that people would stop buying internet because of it. Awesome.


I still use Sonique 1.96 because the audio quality is much better than anything else I have come across

Sonique touted it's Stardust audio engine. But in fact I believe mp3 decoding is pretty much determined - there's not leeway for doing things better or worse, short of playback bugs. Encoding has a ton of room for this sort of thing, but playback: You can play it right or wrong, are basically your main choices. There might be some tricks like dithering you can do to effectively squeeze 18 bits of detail out of 16 bit audio, but that basically is inconsequential.

However, there is some benefit to doing EQ during the decoding process instead of as a post-processing step. Mp3 represents sound in the frequency domain - so you should be able to do cleaner adjustment before you bring it back to the time domain, as opposed to decoding and EQing as separate discrete stages. But again, I'm skeptical that this is a difference that actually would be detectable in double blind A/B tests.

I don't know what Justin Frankel's non-compete contract terms are like (or personal motivations) but it's entirely possible he could pull a repeat of WinAMP's success considering how screwed up the music/media player market still is.

It is not at all possible that anybody could have a repeat of WinAMP's success by writing anything you (I am talking specifically to you, loquacious), or I (I am talking specifically about me) would want to use. Even if you made the bestest media player possible, that worked in every stupid way that every stupid person wants to use it, that still wouldn't be good enough. Only 1% of people even give a shit in the first place, and something like two-thirds of those people are already happy enough with one of the dozens of existing free media players, and don't want to try something new.

If you define success by a large share of the "market" for a free media player that'll be extremely tough. If you define it as making a pile of money, do you really think someone could trick Facebook or Google or someone into spending $100m for a media player today? Because there's sure as fuck no other way WinAMP would have ever made that kind of money.

I'm curious, what do those of you who don't want your media player to manage the physical location of your files use to do so? And, how much new music (that you want to listen to and get to know well - some people want a gradual acquisition of just things they really like, other people like to acquire in a all consuming archival sense. Just different quantitatively, not qualitatively) do you acquire?

I hate to keep harping on how great it is, but this is how I use foobar2k. I manage my library on the filesystem, but tell foobar where that is. Whenever I buy something new from somewhere I fix up the tags ("Original Mix"? Thanks, beatport) and then drag it into my music spot. Foobar2k instantly notices that and adds them to its "library" (without actually moving or changing the actual files). Mostly from there I play in album-shuffle. I used to not use the library functionality, and just drag folders onto the window - it works fine for that as well.

I don't get new music all that often, until I find something new, at which point I try to track down all of it. If someone stops making albums I like, it usually takes me three or so of those before I stop buying them, and then I still feel bad about it. This is because I'm a chump.
posted by aubilenon at 1:35 AM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Would someone care to explain this in a little more detail? I've googled a little bit and found the BitPerfect OSX app, but Malor's comment seems to suggest there's some OS-level configuration you can do?

You mention Foobar, so I'm not sure whether you're on a Mac or on Windows, so these comments sort of mix commentary about both OSes together.

The stuff I was talking about, on the Mac, only applies if you are using a S/PDIF to connect to a receiver, and you're having the receiver do the DAC for you. Macs do this flawlessly. All you have to do is enable the digital output port, set system and iTunes volumes to max, disable any EQ in iTunes, and you're automatically bitperfect. Alternately, you can use an Airport Express. Connect it, using its special S/PDIF connector, to a receiver, and then you can use it as a remote, bitperfect digital out through iTunes.

However, this process does not help at all with analog reproduction on the computer. All that prior paragraph does is ensure that a bitperfect stream gets to an outside DAC for processing. If you're using the Mac's internal DAC, it won't make any difference.

With analog playback on a computer, your playback software decodes the file, whatever format it is, and sends PCM samples to the OS for playback. On Windows, if you're using DirectSound or just flat old Windows Sound for this, that sound is routed through the Windows resampler and mixer, which allows multiple programs to be emitting sound at once. On XP, all sound is resampled to 48KHz, and it's not done terribly well. It's not completely horrible, but it's not great. Then the sound is handed off to the sound hardware, which can then resample again, depending on the hardware. Creative is especially bad about this.

If you bypass Windows Sound by using ASIO, kernel streaming, or WASAPI, the original 44.1Khz stream is passed intact to the sound card, but then the sound card may mangle it. This can actually be much poorer resample than the one in Windows Sound. This is totally dependent on your specific hardware, but it's actually possible for the 'superior' interface method to give you lousier sound. If the hardware doesn't resample, though, it can give you substantially better sound. You'll just have to, heh, play it by ear.

Windows 7 has a better system mixer; it's still not bitperfect, but apparently it does a pretty good job with resampling, so you won't usually find the results too objectionable. But you still potentially have the soundcard issues. The Mac system mixer is similar to Win7's -- perfectly competent. But I don't know much about what the actual physical sound hardware is doing on Macs. They have the reputation of being only so-so in analog mode, but I just don't have the personal experience with them to know. I've typically used them only in digital-out mode. (I can say, though, that the original iPhone was horrible for analog sound. Oh, god, was it appalling.)

If you get a soundcard that does really good resampling, or no resampling at all, and talk to it with one of the bitperfect interfaces, you can get pretty good analog sound out of a computer. I used an ASUS Xonar D2X for a long time, until a failing power supply melted it. (sigh). It sounded freaking awesome, pretty much no matter what I did with it. I honestly thought it sounded better than my receiver DACs... I liked to put my receiver in pure analog mode, so that it was just being a stupid amplifier, and didn't redigitize the really, really nice sound coming out of the D2X.

I did a fair bit of experimentation, but I was never able to get a true bitperfect digital stream through the D2X to the receiver. This frustrated me slightly, but I realized it didn't matter -- it sounded so amazing in native mode that this was all I needed anyway.

The D2X is expensive, and very hard to find, but it's my understanding that the $70 DX is almost exactly the same, just with slightly cheaper DACs. I think the chance of being able to tell the difference between the $200 D2X and the $70 DX is probably just about nil.

The driver quality from ASUS is only so-so, but if you're just listening to music, it should still tingle your toes a bit, at least if you have headphones or speakers that measure up. And I've seen some third-party Xonar driver packages that purport to fix many of the problems in the official releases.

But you don't necessarily even have to spend that much money. I had a $15 Chaintech AV-710 that sounded very nice in analog mode, and sent bitperfect streams easily. That was discontinued long ago, but I see some Envy24HT chipset PCIe soundcards for about $25 on Newegg that are claimed to send bitperfect, and cards that do that usually have perfectly reasonable analog outs. I haven't actually heard those specific offerings, but the chipset description on the VIA site makes it sound quite competent.

tl;dr version: A Xonar DX, at $70, should sound outstanding almost no matter what you do with it, but it will not send bitperfect to a receiver, in my experience. But it should sound so good you won't need it. Just connect via analog...you'll be happy. The little $25 soundcards should give you excellent bitperfect out, over a digital connection, so that a receiver can then do the DAC for you. And they might even sound good in an analog mode. No promises, but I had very good luck with that ancient Chaintech cheapie.

As a general observation, receiver DACs, at least from quality companies, tend to be really, really good. Passing data to them digitally, and letting them essentially be your soundcard, will usually give you outstanding results. Even the cheapest Onkyo and Denon units should sound outstanding, Denon in particular.

And don't forget used... receivers lose value really fast, but they sound fantastic for ages. A flagship Denon from five or ten years ago shouldn't cost much, and should sound absolutely amazing.
posted by Malor at 6:24 AM on June 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Oh man. At one point I was reading through the spec for the AOL Media Player and asked "So why would anyone use this?" And the answer was: "We will set it as the default and most people don't know how to change those."

...

So basically the requirement was that it not be so terrible that people would stop buying internet because of it. Awesome.


There was also the likely requirement that the software be designed to in no way enable, facilitate, or encourage the unauthorized duplication or distribution of copyrighted materials.

You can talk all you want about business mismanagement, but the failure to adapt to "file sharing" and the resultant culture is a HUGE part of Winamp's failure (... and I suppose that *is* a big part of the mismanagement of the software.)

1. One file format to rule them all - the rise of MP3 as the default musical currency made a flexible format player irrelevant. Codecs? Plug-ins? Skins? 90%+ users don't care.

2. Larger libraries - free digital music meant digital libraries 100x-1,000x bigger than before. Winamp's library functionality came later and seemed tacked on. Here is where I mention Media Monkey (another product that has kinda gone downhill.)

3. Again, pure inflexibility to legitimize or even recognize the ability of users to rip and share music. See WASTE. Or Pandora/Last.fm/Spotify, etc.

None of the major media companies were willing to consider streaming their content and monetizing with ads ... until they realized all the money they were losing. Enter Hulu, Pandora, Last.fm, etc. Those licensing deals for catalog are not easy. Winamp was in a horrible position to get one.

4. Social networks? Why do we need those? We have AOL!

If someone stops making albums I like, it usually takes me three or so of those before I stop buying them, and then I still feel bad about it.

Radiohead only has one free pass left ...
posted by mrgrimm at 9:02 AM on June 26, 2012


I fix up the tags ("Original Mix"? Thanks, beatport)

This is off-topic, but the "original mix" part is almost certainly part of the official name of the track, as provided by the label. If beatport DIDN'T leave that in, they would be changing the track info. In electronic music, where there are frequently many (very different) remixes of the same song, even though the lack of remix title should indicate that it's the original, having the positive identification that it's the original is useful for consistency.
posted by flaterik at 12:13 PM on June 26, 2012


Still using Winamp 5. It works fine, it's stable, I like it.

I also like the way it stays the same


Same here. I finally bowed to the pressure and installed iTunes once I got an iPod to play iMusic in my iCar, and I let it reorganize things because, after 10+ years of meticulously fussing with folders and somehow always getting it wrong, I just did not care anymore.

So iTunes can do that. Artist, album, track. Good for it. Except whenever it imports something with tags/metadata it doesn't recognize, it thinks it's by the Cure. I must have the Moody Eighties version of iTunes.

For playing music outta this box though, Winamp all the way. It's small, it works, it doesn't freeze and crash like iTunes, and it has stayed the same, within reason, since I first used it. When they add new bits, mostly they're useful. When they aren't, I can turn them off. We will never speak of Winamp 3 again. Though I do miss the "happy mode" language option, weeeeela!
posted by cmyk at 12:29 PM on June 26, 2012


So iTunes can do that. Artist, album, track. Good for it. Except whenever it imports something with tags/metadata it doesn't recognize, it thinks it's by the Cure.

One of the (few) cool things about iTunes is listening to other people's libraries on the same network, i.e. work, so I used to use it in my office.

When I did, 50% of my music had the cover artwork for Deep Purple's Burn.

I like Deep Purple fine, but I have no Deep Purple in my digital music library. ZERO. What gives?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:32 PM on June 26, 2012


When I had a Zune (well, I still have it, because it's got the signatures of the entirety of TSO East on it, but I don't use it anymore), it loved to give my un-tagged songs the cover art from Machine Head.

Maybe Apple and Microsoft aren't so different after all.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:51 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Windows Media Player (and I believe iTunes also) have a horrible habit of downloading album cover artwork in the background - even if you explicitly tell them not to- and installing a .jpg file in your music folder. Sometimes it's called "folder.jpg" and sometimes it's "abunchofrandomnumbersandletters.jpg". Once those .jpgs are in your music folder, a lot of players will call that as the "default" regardless of what's in your tag. Once you delete the picture files, all is well. Until you use Media Player again.

It sucks hard. Microsoft has been aware of the issue for at least five years and hasn't done anything to remedy it.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:57 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is off-topic, but the "original mix" part is almost certainly part of the official name of the track, as provided by the label.

I think what's happening is that they're encoding the mp3s themselves, and tag them with the data provided them. But they require a "mix" field, which most people don't, and for tracks where that's NULL they use "Original Mix". I've seen this from nine different labels on beatport, and the only songs without "(Original Mix)" say "(Extended Version)", "(1930 Version)" or something. The labels are not demanding this.
posted by aubilenon at 5:05 PM on June 26, 2012


I got a brand new macbook pro about a year and a half ago, so I've been using iTunes all that time.

I was so, so happy just now, to realise that I can use port to install XMMS, as I think it is pretty telling, that every time I am on a different computer, I try to find and use something more like Winamp.

An example of one of my most fundamental problems: I have all sorts of playlists, smart-playlists, and podcasts etc - but it drives me nuts that I cannot cue up the next track, while I have a track playing. I have to go create a new playlist to do that.
I can't rearrange smart playlists into a custom order in any way.

The Winamp model of 'currently playing' list, with playlists etc that I can drag into that, is so much more functional. I can actually see what is coming up, and rearrange, delete etc.

So yeah, skins? Not so bothered (although, why so hy-uge, itunes?), but basic functionality?
I would trade it for all the magic beans that iTunes has.
posted by Elysum at 6:58 PM on June 26, 2012


Aubilenon, you're right. I had somehow not noticed that, but I just went through the thousand or so tracks I have from beatport (wow. I've given them a lot of money in the past few years) and as far as I can tell, all of them have some sort of mix name in the track name field.

So many of them are not "original mix" that I hadn't noticed.
posted by flaterik at 12:15 AM on June 27, 2012


Yeah, that's something I'd like in Foobar too, Elysum. I like to be able to build playlists when I'm mid-list. If I'm on song 8 out of 20, I'd like to be able to add and shuffle around other stuff without changing what song is playing, and then when song 8 is over, I want it to start whatever song 9 is right that second, and not Song 9 from five minutes ago. And while I'm messing around with track orders, I don't want it to mess up or change the playback of Song 8.

Winamp is the only player I've ever found that will do that really flawlessly. It's such a simple thing, but it's so darn hard in everything else I've tried.
posted by Malor at 7:59 AM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


If I'm on song 8 out of 20, I'd like to be able to add and shuffle around other stuff without changing what song is playing, and then when song 8 is over, I want it to start whatever song 9 is right that second, and not Song 9 from five minutes ago.

Clementine handles that very well, which is one of the things I like about it. There is a sort of tabbed interface to playlists, some of which can be saved files and some of which can just be whatever the user is pulling together at the moment. I'm actually still baffled by why most music players are so terrible at dealing with playlists, it doesn't seem like a difficult UI problem to get right.
posted by whir at 8:28 AM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's sort of surprising how badly iTunes and Foobar 2000 (and WMP if anyone uses that for music) screw up FIFO playlists.

That was the main reason I used Media Monkey for so many years. Just let me create a temporary, dynamic running playlist!

I'm actually still baffled by why most music players are so terrible at dealing with playlists, it doesn't seem like a difficult UI problem to get right.

I think about that a lot. Why is it so hard?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:16 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't you just enable "Playback Follows Cursor" and "Cursor Follows Playback?" Then, you can edit the playlist as much as you'd like, select song 9, and Foobar2000 will jump to song 9 when song 8 is over.
posted by yaymukund at 9:18 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, that doesn't work, because the playback jumps to whatever track is currently highlighted, not the next in numerical order. So if I'm messing around with tracks 15 and 16, debating which order I should play them, and Track 15 was highlighted when Song 8 stopped, song 15 is now playing.

Just a remarkably stupid way to handle it. It's the one thing I'd really like to thump the Foobar2K developer about. I love the program in every other respect, but that one thing makes it largely unusable to stream stuff to my friends.
posted by Malor at 4:44 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


FWIW, iTunes DJ is good for "here's what I want to hear next" on-the-fly changeups.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:24 PM on June 27, 2012


OK, feel free to ignore this if you've had enough, but I still don't understand.

> indicates the song that's playing.

Your playlist is:

Song A
> Song B
Song C

You swap the first two. B continues playing, uninterrupted:

> Song B
Song A
Song C

Then, B finishes and foobar plays A, since it's up next:

Song B
> Song A
Song C

This is the behavior I get if I disable "Playback Follows Cursor." Isn't that what you want?
posted by yaymukund at 9:13 PM on June 27, 2012


Thanks for recommending Clementine for Mac, I see it has an out of the box feature to mix in the Hypnotoad sound. Actually in the couple days or so it's been playing I feel I don't really need music to go along with it anymore, it sounds great just on it's own, like exploring the Universe while time is frozen. No more typing now, must obey.
posted by yoHighness at 6:49 AM on June 30, 2012


yaymukund - I think the problem is that, if song B finishes playing while you're still messing around with, say, song M, it's going to play Song M, not Song A. Because that's where the Cursor is. If one doesn't want this to happen, one has to be constantly vigilant as to the status of the currently-playing track, and when it's near the end, go back and highlight Song A and then wait for Song B to finish before continuing with the playlist on the fly. It's inconvenient.
posted by muddgirl at 7:18 AM on June 30, 2012


Muddgirl- that behavior is only if you enable 'playback follows cursor'. If you disable it, then the highlighted track won't affect playback at all. By default, it's disabled.
posted by yaymukund at 11:43 AM on June 30, 2012


“when song 8 is over, I want it to start whatever song 9 is right that second, and not Song 9 from five minutes ago.”

This is the bit that confuses me. Foobar has never "remembered a track" in my experience. It always either a) plays the next track in the list, or b) jumps to the highlighted track (if playback follows cursor is enabled).
posted by yaymukund at 11:53 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


*foobar has never played the track it "remembered" from 5m ago
posted by yaymukund at 11:55 AM on June 30, 2012


*Shrug* I've never used foobar - I was just trying to clarify other people's complaints.
posted by muddgirl at 1:54 PM on June 30, 2012


I have all my vinyl on a shelf away from sunlight.
posted by roboton666 at 8:28 AM on July 11, 2012


No, that doesn't work, because the playback jumps to whatever track is currently highlighted, not the next in numerical order. So if I'm messing around with tracks 15 and 16, debating which order I should play them, and Track 15 was highlighted when Song 8 stopped, song 15 is now playing.

My main problem with Foobar is that I want a FIFO playlist option *and* I want the option to play a song individually without putting it in *any* playlist, while maintaining my FIFO playlist as a non-saved entity.

Screw it, I've still got a Musicmatch Jukebox version 5 key in my office somewhere.

Musicmatch really was the best until they got bought by Yahoo.

Remember mic in track?
posted by mrgrimm at 1:03 PM on July 11, 2012


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