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Android. The Operating System that is flexible, can do everything, can do social networking, can do media, music... wait a minute. That "music" app on my desktop is supposed to be my music player, and organizer? What kind of junk is this? On my high-end Android?
Let's face it: the stock Android music player, if you're not on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, can, well, play music. That's about where it ends. It does the typical stuff, sort by artist, song name, create playlists, whatever. The stock music player on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is Google Play Music, and it's better than the previous stock player - and you can download it on Android 2.2 FroYo or later (see the Google Play Music review). It still has its limits, though. While some companies have added a skin to Android's music player on their device, it usually doesn't add all too much. Hey, I'm on a Samsung Galaxy Player, which is basically an Android mp3 player. And I've got basically that stock Android 2.3 Gingerbread music player, just with the Samsung skin. Fine for basic playback, but what do you do if you want something more than "shuffle"?
That's where Android's magic shines - you can use whatever app you want to play music, and, if the developer did it correctly, you won't even notice that you're not using the default app. Here are the best music players and organizers for Android.
One note for those who may be on Android 4.4 KitKat - there are issues with apps not being able to access the SD card. This is a problem with the operating system, and not the music player.
Rocket Music Player is a suggestion I got from several people in the comments section a good while ago, and it is still my first choice for this category. While this is a free version with a paid version available, and it isn't uncommon to run into a paid feature that you can't use, the free version can still do a lot.
The artists, songs, albums, and genres sections work as expected, except there are more sections - folders and even composers. Everything is very smooth and very well done - the only minor issue here being that it takes a little while for album art to load on older devices. There is also a podcast and video playback section. Playlist management is also very good - simply go into any secion and hit the multi-select button. Then you can choose as many tracks, albums, or whatever else as you like and add them to a playlist. Also, you can choose a song, album, or whatever else to play right after the current track is finished - another very handy feature
And while I'm at the playlists, let's not forget a feature Rocket Music Player has that no other app I've seen has had: auto-playlists, or as this app calls it, Live Lists. Go into the playlists section, hit the menu button, and click "new Live List". Then you can add "rules" for the tracks that should go into your playlist, and for those rules you have a variety of possible criteria: Title, Date Added, Year, Play Count, and, oh, right, Rating. Yes, you read right. There are seriously too few music apps that support the standard 5-star rating system, but this one does. Back to the Live List feature, though: I won't go through how it works, because I could write an entire article on that alone.
The now playing screen is clean and useful with all the controls you would expect. You can also access a 5 band equalizer, rate the track, set the track as a ringtone, set a sleep timer, or show the songs embedded lyrics - yes, you read correctly. This app supports embedded lyrics.
You can also use this app to edit tags and to edit album art, which is also very useful.
There is also a decent amount of settings you can tinker around with, but beware that a good amount of them are only available if you pay.
The app uses around 30MB RAM when it's playing music in the background, which is more than it should be, however, it doesn't run in the background when it isn't supposed to.
Overall, this is a solid, fast, and useful app. The paid features are a bit of a nuissance, but on the other hand there are no ads anywhere in the app. If you're looking for a music player with a good set of features - or even one that's easy to use - this is it.
Winamp is the next program. This app doesn't offer as much as RocketPlayer in most aspects, but it still has a good amount of functionality, and is also very easy to use. It has recently changed ownership several times, and is currently not available on Google Play. It can still be unofficially downloaded as an apk from the facebook site of a group of Winamp enthusiasts - see the summary below for the link.
The artists, songs, albums, and genres sections work as expected. Scrolling gets a little laggy on older devices in the albums section where there's a lot of album art. Playlist management isn't the best, it's easier to add songs to the "queue", basically the now playing list, and save that as a playlist. There are also a couple of auto-playlists: recently added, recently played, and top played.
You can also sync Winamp on Android with the desktop version of WinAmp.
SHOUTcast is a great feature in WinAmp - it's an online radio, with over 47 000 stations available (a believeable number if you check it out). You also have access to Spinner mp3 downloads and the "Full CD Listening Party" music streaming service.
The equalizer and lyrics are not available in the free version. There's artist and album information, but it isn't well done.
When you play music in the background, it needs 30MB of RAM, but it doesn't run in the background when it's not needed. Just make sure you use the "exit" option in the menu when you don't want it running in the background anymore.
This app also doesn't use any advertising, either.
Overall, WinAmp also has a good set of features. Even if you have another music player you still prefer, it's still worth downloading WinAmp for the SHOUTcast feature.
After that we have Cloudskipper. It also has a good set of features, and has a beautifully designed interface. For a while, the developers have said that it's been left behind and deteriorating, but the status has changed, and it recently got a facelift.
The artists, albums, songs and genres sections work as expected. The main exception is that when you choose a genre, you get a list of songs, instead of a choice between songs, albums or artists. However, everything is designed very nicely and elegantly. There is also a podcast player, but not a downloader.
There is an equalizer, which does seem to be having a couple of problems. But, when it's working, it sounds amazing. There's also a reverb effect, a virtualizer, and a bass booster. With the update, the lag problem seems to be solved, although it's still not completely problem-free on older devices. On newer devices, though, it's great.
The lock screen player, as you could expect from this app, is very nicely designed, and can even be set as your permanent lock screen, although there are a couple of problems with that. It doesn't support setting the album art as the wallpaper in Android 4.4 KitKat and later, though.
The app doesn't run in the background when it's not needed, and takes up a decent 12MB RAM when playing music in the background. The app doesn't use any ads either.
Overal, this app doesn't have any features that make it stand out. However, if you don't need advanced functionality, but like something that is very pleasing to the eye, this is for you. The equalizer is also very good, as long as your device can support it without lagging.
MixZing hass a good amount of features, but is still easy to use. While it really is a good app, the developer's insistance on intrusive advertising is a real nuissance.
The app's design was always fairly simple - and now, it's gotten a visual makeover. The help is gone, which is a disappointment, but it shouldn't be a problem for most people. The songs, artists, albums and genres sections are as expected. Also, when you choose an artist or a genre, you can choose what to see - albums, songs, or artists. Playlist management is decent, and there's an auto-playlist: recently added. There is also a file browser built in to find your media. Search functionality has been added. There are a couple of bugs in the now playing interface - mainly when you try to skip to a certain part of a song - but I expect that to be resolved soon.
You can also do quite a few things with your songs. You can set a song as your phone's ringtone, but most importantly, you can manage your library from this app - you can edit a song's tags and delete songs. You can also get all sorts of information - a biography or the artist and song lyrics, as well as wikipedia, youtube, and google results.
The equalizer in this app is one of the best I've seen - you can set how smooth it should be, and also apply the equalizer settings to certain songs and certain albums.
Recommendations are something that only this app has. When you listen to a song, it finds songs from your library that you might also like together with that song. If you have it configured properly, it will even pay attention to if you skip to the next track or listen to the whole song, and customize your recommendations based on that. In my experience, this works best for pop music, but MixZing says it is continually updating their library. Anyone coming from iOS and who liked the Genius playlists should check this out.
It now also has the Shoutcast online radio service, and you can get personalized station recommendations. A search function is missing, though. All in all, WinAmp is much better for this.
There are also many settings, from customizing the app, to recommendations and music controls.
The app doesn't run in the background when it's not needed, but when music is playing, it takes up about 20MB RAM, which is OK.
Advertising is a big problem in this app - too often, a video will play before you get to do something, with no way to get past it. Even though this is freeware, it's a big problem, and I can't recommend an app that has intrusive advertising.
Overall, it's a very good app that has a good set of features, and that is easy to use, however, the developer's insistance on intrusive advertising is annoying, to say the least.
Next up: Meridian Player Transcend. This app plays music and videos. In this review, I will be covering the music section. It has a suprising amount of funcionality for an app of this type, and enough to make it a decent music player. Oh, and it has ratings. More on that later.
The interface is a little confusing at first, but you get used to it. It also isn't the most elegant interface, either, but it's not ugly, either. The artists, songs, albums, and genres sections work as expected - and it also has a "writers" section, probably better known as "composers" on many desktop programs. Scrolling is smooth with a small amount of lag when there's a lot of album art, and extremely smooth when there's none. Playlist management is decent, if somewhat odd. It also lacks a now playing list, but otherwise it's fine. The now playing screen works as expected.
It also has quite a few interesting features. It has tag editing, along with album art editing. It also supports the 5-star rating system. You can filter your music according to it - for instance, you can only show songs that have a 4 star rating or higher. It also has a decent equalizer, except the on/off switch is not very easy to access, and doesn't work well.
This app seems to take a huge 60MB (!) memory whe it's running in the background. It also seems to have problems running in the background when it's no needed, but I haven't had any problems with that lately. I also noticed a surprising amount of bugs - from the tag editing not working until I do a full restart of the app (with a force close) to some songs refusing to be played. This could just be my luck, though.
Overall, this app has quite some potential, but needs some work.
Next up is Songbird. This is an app that was very integrated into social media - and that was its main strength. Songbird.me has now shut down, and the app is no longer in development. However, with the link in the Product Description section, it should still be possible to download it. Also, as the software is open source, sevelopers can create their own versions of the Songbird app.
There used to be a social component to the app, but that doesn't seem to be working anymore, as this was most likely connected to the Songbird.me service.
The artists, songs, albums, and genres sections work as expected. One handy feature is the play button on every item, which will play it, but leave you where you are. Probably the biggest disadvantage in these sections is that when you play something, it will always return to playing it with shuffle off, even if you had shuffle on before. On older devices scrolling can get a little laggy when there's a lot of album art. There's also a podcast player (but no downloader), and a video player. The video player doesn't have any extra codecs, though.
There is no equalizer in the free version... and they're extremely keen on selling that. There's an easier option than giving in to that, though - RocketPlayer, MixZing and Cloudskipper all have really good equalizers.
There aren't many settings either, except that they try to sell you the equalizer again.
For those of you on tablets, this app has a couple of nice optimizations for tablets. It's not a complete tablet design, but it's a lot better than what many other apps offer on tablets.
Songbird only takes up 6-7MB of memory when playing music in the background, and it doesn't seem to have any problems with running in the background when it's not needed anymore.
Overall, it's a decent media player, as uncertain as its future is.
After that, we have Google Play Music. This is actually a service for buying music, and is part of Google's Play system. This app is basically meant to tie in with the Google Play Music service, and it doubles as a music player. Starting with Android 4.1, it's bundled with Android. It also has a good tablet interface - so if you have an android tablet, you can give it a try there.
Google has given it a visual makeover recently, giving it a Google Now look. Sadly, a lot of the (really amazing) eye candy has been removed.
The albums, artists, songs, and genres sections work as expected. The playlist functionality doesn't have anything new, either, with a "last added" playlist, and the "thumbs up" playlist.
You can "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" a song. Thumbs up adds it to the "thumbs up" playlist, and I'm not sure what "thumbs down" does, other than play the next track.
Probably the only unique feature in Google Play music is the "Listen Now" feature. Here, it collects music it thinks you might want to hear, and, if you're in a supported country, you can also see your recommended radio stations. While it does put together a decent collection of stuff that would be interesting to listen to when you just need to kill some time, it only seems to list albums and radio stations, and there's no option to just play all songs.
The app only takes up a pretty good 8MB RAM when playing music in the background, but usually doesn't run in the background when it's not needed.
Another big disappointment: No settings. That's right, you can't change any settings in this app.
Coming from Google, I was expecting more, but aside from that, it's a decent app.
TTPod Music Player is next. Probably the first thing you'll notice about this app is its non-native look. And the fact that it uses Japanese. Or Chinese. But more on that later.
This app is skinnable, so you can download different skins to give the app just the look you like. Some of them are very well designed, but there are already a couple of small language problems here.
As mentioned already, TTPod has a well-documented language problem. There's either Japanese or Chinese all over the app. Recommendations and some other online things are all in Japanese, and are useless if you don't speak it.
The albums, artists, songs and genres sections work mostly as expected. There is no album art anywhere - and the scrolling is odd - sometimes laggy, sometimes smooth. Playlists are displayed as sections here. You can set a song as a ringtone, or as a notification tone - something unique to TTPod. You can also edit tags and delete songs. The app always gets the album art from the internet, which is often incorrect, even if have your own album art. There are also synchronized lyrics, but they are always the explicit version of the lyrics.
The equalizer is very good, with 10 bands, with reverb, bass boost, virtualizer and channel balance. The lock screen player depends on your theme, but a lot of them are beautifully designed.
There aren't that many settings (there used to be many more). The shake feature is probably the biggest thing here - shake to go to the next track.
The memory footprint is between 14 and 17MB, which is decent. There aren't any problems with it running in the background when it's not needed. On the other hand, there is way too much lag within the app, especially on the music controls. Recently, it has started adding a whole bunch of shortcuts on my desktop, and giving me random japanese notifications. It's a shame that the developers are doing this.
Overall, TTPod has so much potential... I just wish it didn't have all the language and lagging problems, and that it didn't do so many things that apps are not supposed to do...
Some of the apps above feature lyrics, however, if you really want an app that finds lyrics quickly and easily, MusiXmatch is worth a download. Although the music player isn't great, it can alert you about lyrics even if you're using a different app. You can read more about the app in this Free Mobile App of the Week article.
No matter which of these music players you choose, you might stumble accross some tracks or sounds in your music library that you never put there or that you don't want in your music library. In that case, you can check out the StudioKUMA .nomedia Manager, which basically lets you take folders out of your music library.
Other apps reviewed:
More apps to be reviewed:
Related Products and Links
You might want to check out these articles too:
Rocket Music Player
Cloudskipper Music Player
The link provided is for a forum with instructions on how to download the apk file, as the app cannot be downloaded from Google Play at this time.
Meridian Player Transcend
TTPod Music Player
Google Play Music
This software category is maintained by volunteer editor trainman261. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have by clicking here.
best free music player, top free music player, Android, smart phones, mobile device, music organizer
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