Best Free Media Player

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Introduction

Finding an all-in-one media player used to be impossible. In the past you needed to use several separate programs to play MP3 files, streaming media from Real, Mpeg files, Quicktime movies, CDs and DVD discs, but with the advent of Microsoft's Windows Media Player (WMP), all of these media types could be played in one player. Over a period of time, however, WMP has become bloated and isn't compatible with all of the available file formats. WinAmp, which began as an mp3 player, now plays almost everything, although it uses a lot of system resources and may contain adware if you aren't careful on the installation. iTunes has become more prevalent on many PCs due to the almost universal reach of the iPod, but it also uses a lot of resources and is processor intensive.

So I've done some major research to find alternative media players capable of playing multiple types of media files, including various digital audio and video formats, CDs, and DVDs. They are also easy to install and use and are light on system resources. Not only do these programs replace WMP, iTunes and WinAmp, but they also exceed their functionality.

Check out Tips and Warnings at the end of this article.

 

Rated Products

PotPlayer  

A powerful media player provides awesome video and audio quality, supports all modern formats and seamless media playback.


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free
Very fast updates and fixes, supports almost all media formats, 1000 files seamless playback, supports GPU acceleration, built-in codecs, extensive configuration options, light on system resources and fast startup, auto resume for 200 files,configurable xml skin files.
No help files, default 'automatic' video renderer not the best.
Read full review...

VLC Media Player  

An excellent media player with a highly portable framework and works across different platforms.


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free
Available on multiple platforms, media converter and streaming capabilities, excellent playback quality and stability, plays Internet radio and TV, great choice for DVD playback, GPU and DSP decoding, support for extensions.
Large download size, Uninstalling can be problematic as it integrates into WMP components, seeking real media files causes short time glitches, many options can be confusing to non-technical types.
Read full review...

KMPlayer  

Feature rich, easy to use, extremely customizable and available in multiple languages.


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free
Play damaged AVI files, locked media files and compressed audio albums, Live URL broadcasting support, User friendly interface, Good picture quality and playback, Extensive configuration options, Apply user defined external filters apart from built-in, Plays almost all media files, Strong user base and active forum, Multi-language support.
Lacks a professional web representation, Slower than some media players like VLC, Contains Opencandy, Ask toolbar, Pandora TV Service.
Read full review...

SMPlayer  

A front-end for award winning MPlayer with extensive features and ease of use.


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free (Open source)
Great playback quality, Pleasant and colorful interface, Remembers playback position and customizations on close, Online subtitle search and YouTube browser, Light, portable and stable, Karaoke effects, Highly customizable, Shortcuts for nearly every function, Supports nearly every format.
Installer is bundled with OpenCandy. DVD menu's seems experimental, No icon library for supported file formats, No Win7 playback controls.
Read full review...

GOM Player  

Plays flv and other media files with internal codecs and its ability to play some broken media files.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
No extra codec packs are needed, capable of playing broken avi files.
Bundled with OpenCandy (see information link in review text). May not play DVD discs on some systems.
Read full review...

MPC-HC  

An incredibly small program packs a vast set of features and requires no installation on your PC.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Open source)
Very fast and lightest, no installation required, extremely easy to use, 64 bit versions available.
No support for syncing music, no picture quality controls.
Read full review...

SPlayer  

Provides great picture quality with some neat and creative optimization features.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Open source)
Smooth and excellent playback, many options to enhance display, H/W acceleration support, includes audio and video equalizer, low on system resources, played almost everything, best for non-techies.
Open Candy installation, didn’t get sound out of a video in rare situations, too simple, confusing and clunky interface, non-ethical marketing: compares various media players on their homepage, some Chinese left in main interface & only Chinese documentation available.
Read full review...

JetAudio Basic  

A very good, solid and feature packed media player for audio and video files.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Limited features)
Supports all major file formats, customizable interface, good subtitle rendering and video quality, floating bar mode, various extra tools packed inside, music management capabilities, auto-resume all files, internet broadcasting.
Big download, Interface not very user friendly, Registered encoders, decoders and filters on system, Need to tweak for hearing AC3/AAC sound(due to licencing restrictions; method given in full review), Offers 3rd party applications during installation (which you can choose to ignore).
Read full review...

Kantaris Media Player  

An intuitive all-in-one polished media player designed with style.


Our Rating: 
3.5
License: Free (Open source)
Awesome interface, Colourful visualization effects, Plays video files inside RAR archives, Online subtitle matching, Organise video library in 3D, watch and play latest movies and songs from Apple movie trailers and Last.fm.
Not as configurable as some other players for those requiring advanced features, Shortcut keys incomplete.
Read full review...

UMPlayer  

A short addition to players using MPlayer as the core with integration of YouTube and Shoutcast.


Our Rating: 
3.5
License: Free (Open source)
Sleek Interface, light on resources,Plays any kind of media file, Automatic subtitle download from opensubtitles.org, Built-in support for YouTube and Shoutcast,Record files and reads damaged files,Plays online TV and Radio.
Problems with HD media playback (.h264 mkv files), quite a few bugs: setting equalizer and certain menu's pauses video for a moment, files with asian characters doesn't play , associates media files aggresively,Time incorrect sometimes,Help file needs improvement.
Read full review...

Products to be Reviewed

RealPlayer | Light Alloy | QQPlayerMPlayer WW | VSO Media Player | DivX Plus Player | DA Player | Zoom Player Free | FreeSmith Video Player | ALShow | ALLPlayer | AK-Player

 

Tested & Not Recommended

  • Splash Lite: The Bad: Capture frame, Playback resume and Basic video controls & audio controls only available in the PRO version. Splash Lite just feels like an advertising for its commercial version. No support for URL playback. Doesn't play many files properly. The Good: HD videos playback quality is good, certain broken files plays well.
  • Toolwiz Player: The Bad: Nearly everything. No seeking, no right click context menu, a waste of time! The Good: Plays certain files!
 

Tips and Warnings

  • Codecs: Some programs reviewed in this article may require additional codecs for expanded functionality. For more information about codecs, including what they do, legal issues and download links, see this article Understanding Codecs.
  • Use Codec Packs At Your Own Risk (especially Mega Codec packs). They are capable of producing software incompatibilities, system crashes and sometimes doesn't let your new media player to play your files properly. In case you want to use one, I recommend using lightweight ones (CCCP, Windows essentials). Read Why Codec Packs Are Bad, Codec Packs Are Evil, Microsoft's Caution.
  • Fake Players: Download media players from reliable resources such as the "Get It" links suggested in our reviews. Many websites are offering fake versions of the player.
  • Video Renderers: This option is useful especially for PotPlayer and KMPlayer. They include a number of renderers and switching between these renderers may give you better image quality.
    • Personally I find that EVR and VMR9 renderless works great for most systems especially for Vista/Win7 (Microsoft.Net 3 framework should be pre-installed in XP to use them).
    • For older systems Overlay Mixer might give better performance and clarity. You need to have Haali Media Splitter installed to use Haali Video Renderer. It doesn't work for old video cards though.
    • MadVR (Madshi) is a newly released renderer and to use this renderer you should install MadVR filters first and have a fairly powerful GPU.
  • Stay Updated: Get beta and stable updates of your favourite media player through e-mail using Altert me! tool at Videohelp.

 

Related Products and Links

 

Editor

This software category is maintained by volunteer editor George.J., a software engineer just graduated and working in Software Development and Testing unit. Reviewing software and writing articles are one of my passions. Registered site visitors can contact me here.

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Average: 4.5 (257 votes)

Comments

Correcting my own post, the license agreement of GOM Player does list OpenCandy, so yes it does contain OpenCandy.
"... ROX Player: - Integrated network modules allow ROX Player to play files from any place in the Internet. - Moreover, you'll be impressed by variety of supported protocols including IPTV, DHT, P2P. - ROX Player will turn your PC into TV. Enjoy High Definition Video in High Quality Player ...": http://roxplayer.com/

Latest version of MPC-HC released V1.70
(previuosly posted in wrong place - sorry!)

Lots of intersting changes, particularly replacing internal filters with LAV filters. More info on their web site. I like and use PotPlayer (new stable version 1.5.40373 just out there as well) but if I was allowed only one media player it would be MPC-HC. Everyone to their own, of course.

Highlights of new version
Security advisory: Due to known buffer overflows in the internal filters of v1.6.8 and below, it is strongly recommended that you update to the new version. More information on which filters are affected will follow soon.
•Replace the internal filters with LAV Filters. LAV Filters are modern open source DirectShow filters based on FFmpeg. They are known to be reliable and fast and overall should be more stable than the old filters. MPC-HC integrates LAV Filters directly and no extra installation steps are required. The embedded version of LAV Filters doesn’t interfere at all with other installed DirectShow filters (including the standalone versions of LAV Filters).
•Support loading HTTP/RTSP/UDP/RTP streams using embedded source filters
•Windows 8.1 support.
•Many more bugfixes and improvements, check the changelog for details.

Hi

Can anyone please provide opinion about Light Alloy Player.

The interface seems to be good.Has anyone tried this player out

[Links to non English websites are not permitted. Please read the site rules before posting]

http://www.techsupportalert.com/freeware-forum/announcements/3617-forum-...

Wondershare Player: Features: · Plays standard and HD videos · Compatible with WMV, MKV, MPEG, AVI, MP3, M4A, AAC and FLAC formats. · Supports ASS, SRT and SSA subtitle formats. · Utilizes advanced codecs to offer quality rendering. · Users are able to customize the subtitle color, font and position on the screen. · Create playlists. · Capture screens during playback in normal or picture-burst mode. · Shut down computer after playback. BEWARE: This freeware apparently comes with wshelper.exe included so search on the Net on how to remove it after the installation! MC allowed this comment to be posted. http://www.softpedia.com/progViewOpinions/Wondershare-Player-235249,.html

Doom9 does not require registration! They have rempved any reference to PotPlayer because they claim it is violating the GPL license. The source code PotPlayer provides does not match the actual product.

The "beta" download link for PotPlayer does not seem to be working anymore. And the doom9 link requries registration in order to view.

http://www.videohelp.com/tools/PotPlayer seems to be much more helpful.

Also please note that by default, PotPlayer seems to lock out aspect ratio controls.

You can fix that with:
1. Preferences - playback - screen size - set screen size as x 1.0 [100%]
2. Preferences - playback - aspect ratio - control - keep aspect ratio [recommended]

Thanks for notifying me. Link updated.

After I installed PotPlayer, another program which depends on wmp.dll wouldn't work any more (for that matter, Windows Media Player wouldn't work either). Uninstalling PotPlayer didn't fix it so I had to revert to an earlier drive image. Not nice. And I'm not happy with PotPlayer.

PotPlayer works independently of WMP, and it can be even run as a portable application. What O.S are you using, and which version of WMP are you running? Could you mention which program that depends on WMP.dll had problems since installing PotPlayer? While installing PotPlayer it gives you option to associate the media files on your computer, if you wish do so, then all media opens up with PotPlayer as default. Have you installed any codec packs on your system?

Thanks for your response, George. Good point about PotPlayer's independence, so perhaps it's a coincidence that WMP ran fine before but failed after installing PotPlayer -- and I made no other changes related to playing media in at least the two weeks before that. But I don't have a detailed log of of events other than installations and updates, so there could be something I have missed.

My OS is Win7 x64, and WMP 12 (installed with Win7). I didn't associate any file types with PotPlayer, and I haven't installed any codec packs.

The program requiring wmp.dll is Listen N Write (transcription software from Elefant Software). The error message when I try to launch Listen N Write says
"Lib OCX -> Reg ERROR! Failed to load control 'WindowsMediaPlayer' from wmp.dll. Your version of wmp.dll may be outdated. Make sure you are using the version of the control that was provided with your application."

Listen N Write was installed after PotPlayer was installed and after WMP stopped working, so I can't say if it would have run before that. In fact it wasn't until I got the above error message that I went back to my installation log and saw that two WMP-related programs have failed to run since installing PotPlayer (WMP itself and Listen N Write). So that's what makes me suspicious. But I remind myself that WMP is Microsoft, and MS programs sometimes just fail on their own so PotPlayer may be just an innocent bystander.

Try re-installing Windows Media Player. Go to Control Panel->Type "windows features" in the search box->Click Turn Windows features on or off. In the next window, expand Media Features by clicking on the "+" icon next to it and unselect the check box next to Windows Media Player. Now reboot your system, and select (tick-mark) the same check box next to Windows Media Player again.

FIXED!!! As you indicated in your initial reply, George, the problem was NOT due to PotPlayer after all. It turned out that several features of WMP had gotten corrupted, and reinstalling WMP didn't overcome that.

I was led to Microsoft's Fix WMP tool at
http://support.microsoft.com/mats/windows_media_player_diagnostic

(HT to Elise King-Lynch's comment at http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_7-pictures/wind... )

Lingual Media Player is a free software for learning languages with the help of movies and YouTube videos that have subtitles. Its main goal is to help learners of foreign languages improve their listening comprehension skills: http://lingualmediaplayer.com/en/

I revisited SMplayer and it does good job with downloading subtitles. I've been huge fan of mplayer and it works. Dumped BSplayer I do not like players that force me to install them and third party's candies. I like open source.

Fleex (based on VLC): http://fleex.tv/
Like the dual subtitle approach to English learning. :) MC - Site Manager.

BS Player displays the Conduit logo when installed. Conduit "... forces the user to use their search engine and [as a toolbar] is difficult to remove". (from Wikipedia).

My favorite media player is MPC-HC. Specially I love these builds:

1. MPC-HC Lite (Nighty Builds):
http://nightly.mpc-hc.org/lite/
Same as MPC-HC but it has no internal filters and codecs. Updated every 4 days.

2. JanWillem32's MPC-HC Builds:
http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=161047
It has better subtitles renderer and internal renderers. Good for watching anime.

To use them, you need to install external filters. I recommend LAV filters.

hi, is there here a player that fetches subtitles the way BsPlayer does, meaning as the movie starts?
I tried UMplayer and does not you still have to do it manually.
I tried SMplayer and VLC ,in both you do it manually(VLC even by use of a plugin).
I am sad that no other player than BSPlayer does it because I do not like it one bit.
But due to this state of affairs I have to acknowledge that BsPlayer kicks all these players' ass.

While support for downloading subtitles within the media player is a nifty feature, auto-downloading them may not be, as you may not always get the right subtitles for the movie. Even manual downloading within the media player is not a pain in the ass, as you just have to click the "search" button and find the one that matches your video. Moreover I don't prefer feature-limited media players, (with free and pro version), because in the case of BS Player *all* (yes everything) the features that are only available in the Pro version is available in PotPlayer, while most of them are available in other media players. Support for global hotkeys, dvd playback, sutitle editor (is that sync?), audio equalizer customization are all limited to Pro version which is quite stupid, as most media players provide this, while other features are available in advanced media players like PotPlayer & KMPlayer.

Getting wrong subtitles is always with every player a risk. What BSPlayer does is present you with a list in a small window with all subs found and you manually choose which one you want the player to download for you. No other player to my knowledge does it. In case of SMplayer and VLC, the only two that I would ever consider as alternatives what they do is put some zip with the subtitles on your hard disk. Potplayer is in no way a solution.
I will patiently follow those 2 aforementioned to evolve as the only thing to be done unless I start a programming career. :)

1. MPC-BE (Media Player Classic Black Edition):
http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=165890
http://sourceforge.net/projects/mpcbe/

2. BS.Player:
http://www.bsplayer.com/

3. Zoom Player:
http://www.inmatrix.com/

I recommend MPC-BE and BS.Player.

Thank you for the recommendations. I'll look into them soon.

You are welcome.

Obviously, everyone values certain features or options differently (or lack there of). If one TRULY NEVER needed support of any kind - even to browse forum questions, I guess PotPlayer may be fine. Or if you need "1000 files seamless playback." Having no support or documentation in English for English users (this is an English language review site) would put it farther down the list, IMHO.

As far as Pot / KM Player & VLC's playback quality of most vids I tried (haven't played many of the more obscure formats), they were no better than SMPlayer. Don't know about 1000 seamless files, auto resume on 100's of files - I'd never use those.

I used VLC - a LOT & still do some. It's interface & settings are more difficult to customize than SMPlayer, IMO. Maybe VLC has more options ?, but some are undocumented & for SOME - or things that just didn't work, users could never get an answer on their forum. But, for the most part, beyond it's complex settings, it's generally a GOOD player.

I started using SMPlayer about 1 yr ago. I like the way the toolbars seem easier to customize (VLC is way over complicated for that, IMO). SMP's play quality for common formats I played is as good or better than VLC, PotPlayer or.

Open GL3 video output, contained in MPlayer2 (not in VLC as of v2.0.6), seems to work better than others for some formats, if your video card supports it.

If having a problem, SMPlayer / MPlayer's logging is easier to enable & use, IMO. (Problems are rare for me).

SMP has it's own Youtube browser / player built in. The player is much better than Flash Player (& I'm sure safer, not to mention more private).

SMP will store custom play & (I believe) equalizer settings for individual files.
It has settings for not storing any info what so ever about files played, directories used, etc., if you want.

You can use MPlayer2 w/ the SMPlayer front end, which I think is a bit better than MPlayer. It supports more video output formats. Switching out Mplayer2 for MPlayer is quite easy. They also maintain / distribute a Windows MPlayer2 version.

I used VLC for a long time & spent a good bit of time on their forum. It's pretty decent & some advanced users often have answers / suggestions, but the VLC devs sometimes seem crabby - for no apparent reason (not to me directly; from reading other posts) or seem non existent. They sometimes give "half answers" - not enough info for avg users (which is better than none, for Pot Player). Some questions go unanswered for a good while.

SMPlayer now has versions that include Open Candy AND versions that don't. At least, they did a few mo ago.
Their own PORTABLE (Windows) versions DON'T have Open Candy or any such things. Even so, Open Candy can be avoided, following instructions on O.C.'s site.

Any question I've ever posted on SMPlayer's forum is usually answered that day; often in an hr or 2. More often by a dev than by users. They're not crabby & will explain things in detail if you need it. It's QUITE different than most forums.

SMPlayer devs fixed several bugs / UI issues I brought up w/in a day or 2 - several times (in a dev build, made available).
They issue update versions far more often than VLC, so bugs don't drag on for many months or longer, as in VLC.

I am not, nor ever have been affiliated in any manner what so ever, with any media player software.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts Misty, and your review of SMPlayer. It's in fact a great media player. ... PotPlayer while being an advanced media player was still pretty light on resources. When comparing quality (handling different media file formats) and quantity (options available under the hood), the clean nature of the installer, and it's active development with lots of new features and bug fixes done every fortnight, it was hard to give a second thought of what could be the top pick here. As far as the output quality of the video is considered, it doesn't depend on individual media players. The combination of video renderer being used, and the video controls (brightness, saturation, color and contrast) is basically what determines the output. But the biggest deciding factor is the quality of the video file itself. If you have a 1080p video and 720p one, the quality will be better for the former. PotPlayer sets every option to automatic (by default), so that most system can play videos without a hitch. So if you want better quality for the video you've still plenty of video renderers available which you can switch to, until you find one that works best for the video and the system. The best renderer available currently is MadVR (supported by MPC-HC, Zoom Player, J.River Media Center 16, PotPlayer and KMPlayer) and it beats most other renderers by a pretty good margin. But the tradeoff is that you need to have a high end system, with a graphic card as this renderer is GPU assisted. Moroever PotPlayer had excellent scrub/navigation bar response time for all media containers, in fact the best. However fast you seek an 1080p HD video, the output never blurred for me. It ran really smooth on a low end PC that I had, compared to MPC-HC, which is considered to be the lightest, but not really. You can also store your settings to a .ini file, so that configuration can be exported to other systems. I know it's a shame that the support thread at Doom9 is closed. There is a new site constructed, Doom10, and it may have a support thread on PotPlayer. PotPlayer functions quite similar to KMPlayer so you could use the link to the Guide that I've given given for KMPlayer for PotPlayer too..

PotPlayer no longer has any support at least not in English One used to be able to post bugs at http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=148745. Doom no longer supports PotPlayer over the issue of "legal software".

PotPlayer as good as it is has issues. I've noticed that the lips and voice don't sync in some movies. However VLC and Smplayer have no issue. Also the video/ audio quality is just slightly richer for these latter players.

PotPlayer still remains my fav player but for how long? I guess until I get tired of the bugs.

Please update this link so the users can still get support if you can.

Thanks

Latest versiof Media Player Classic Home Cinema released - 1.66.69.

"Highlights of this release:
•Uncompressed RAR files can now be played directly in MPC-HC, drag any .rar or part file (.r00, .r01, etc.) into the player to play it (thanks to RARFileSource)
•The Subtitle menu now shows all available subtitle tracks including the tracks offered by the splitter
•“Now playing” information can now be sent to Skype’s mood message, MSN support has been removed
•VSync is now turned off by default due to playback issues, if you have Aero on you already have VSync and will not notice the difference
•The hotkeys related to D3D Fullscreen and Frame Time Correction have changed to avoid accidental activation
•The external filter list has been split for the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the player,your current filter list will automatically be corrected

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