Best Free Music Player and Organizer

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Introduction

This article compares audio software that enrich the music experience or enhance everyday listening, and provide impressive music centric features. The best MP3 and audio player ought to quench our passion for music, such as by inspiring us to rip or download music, organize our music libraries, learn more about our favorite artists or music, or just listen to music.

The reviews evaluate products on sound enhancements, usability and unique features, support for common and useful audio formats (MP3, WAV, FLAC, WMA, and others), performance, security and privacy.

Thanks to our faithful followers, who have been pitching their favorite players and organizers, we have a set of carefully considered selections. We have more than 25 listed music players and counting!

Index:

Full Music Managers
Light Music Players and Organizers
Micro Music Players
Cuts: The Other Players
Notes on Sound Quality and Lightest Players

 

Full Music Managers

The following are the best for managing music files and creating complex music libraries or play lists. They don't have light resource efficiency but on modern computers they could serve as primary music players.

MusicBee  

A musical Swiss Army Knife


Our Rating: 
5
License: Free (Private/Educational use)
All-in-one music manager without the shady background connections, excellent tagging and music managing features, many sound enhancements.
Some tag categories not updated. Not much else, but it's still a bit buggy - online help didn't always connect, memory use jumped extremely high (in very rare instances), experienced a few bug/error messages (without program crashes or data loss).
Read full review...

MediaMonkey  

A music manager excellent for organizing complex music collections


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Limited features)
All-in-one music manager, excellent for organizing complex music collections, user friendly navigation.
Heavy on system resources, simplistic mini-player.
Read full review...

Foobar2000  

A very technical, serious and obedient music player


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Extremely customizable interface, native Windows appearance (consistent, fast and predictable), many extra components and a forum at the official site, typical library capabilities, includes all necessary tools for building and maintaining a collection in detail.
Not very flashy design, no mini player, somewhat steep learning curve and requires moderate to advanced computing skill.
Read full review...

Light Music Players and Organizers

The following have light resource efficiency while impressing us with music centric features. They were the best candidates to be our light music player and organizer, satisfying avid audiophiles for daily listening. They aren't the best for managing music files (ripping, converting, tagging), but they often have unique advantages over bulkier programs depending on your tastes and needs.

Jaangle  

The personification of a music player and organizer


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Attractive and easily customizable interface with large album art, artist's photo, bio and easy access to lyrics.
Doesn't display some some extended tag info, not yet fully 7 compatible.
Read full review...

AIMP  

A sleek looking player that is all about the music


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free
Visually stunning design, special focus on sound enhancement features, excellent mix of features and light design, comes with two other utilities (tag editor, online radio browser), decent library and history features.
Security concerns, requires patience finding features, most support materials not in English.
Read full review...

Micro Music Players

There are also basic and further stripped down music players that either didn't make the cut for the main review or don't fit the review criteria. They are listed in order of impressiveness (for sound enhancements, usability and unique features, support for music formats, state of development, performance and security).

  • Winamp Lite: I recommend the separate lite download (you have to scroll to the bottom of the download page) since the lite installer doesn't have the controversial OpenCandy, but it still has a pre-checked option to send off your usage stats. Privacy issues aside (just be sure to carefully inspect all the installation options), it plays an impressive number of audio formats for such a lightweight and resource efficient player, and mimics the wide array of options and feature richness of the full version. It lacks a library for organizing music (unless you already have the full version and use the 'Winamp classic' skin). Quick tip: save your eyes and use 'Double Size' from the options.
    Note from site:  "Winamp.com and associated web services will no longer be available past December 20, 2013. Additionally, Winamp Media players will no longer be available for download. Please download the latest version before that date"

  • XMPlay: Has a wide range of sound enhancements (gapless output, 32 bit output, DSP and MOD settings), additional downloads (skins, visualizations, ASIO), and hidden capabilities (Internet streaming). It didn't support my primary music format (FLAC), but the site has many additional 'native input plug-ins' that expand XMPlay's compatibility. A minimal library sorts by various categories based on tag information (use control + A to select your folders and drag and drop them into the play list or queue or library).

    The negatives: a scattered interface (with many independent components) may not be to your taste, and the random play feature didn't work (random play only worked for me by manually right-clicking the play button each time, which I would only do to test whether it works). Developed by un4seen (known for the BASS audio library and MO3 audio format). Portable installation, very lite download.

  • Spider Player: Solid 'middle weight' music manager and player. It uses the trustworthy BASS engine, has many impressive enhancements (32 bit output, DSP effects support, 9-band equalizer and many presets, cross fading) and music managing tools (CD ripper, converter). One of the most interesting capabilities is an auto lyrics down loader, which displays lyrics in a pane next to your play list (you can manually save lyrics to tags), and an Internet radio player and recorder. If only it came with a library organizer it could have been a contender. And I couldn't pretend that a 'favorites editor' was good enough since I ran into error messages with it. The Pro version is now free and unlocks many extra features (mentioned above).

  • VUPlayer: Plays many audio formats and has a simple and user friendly interface (though some of the icons seem outdated). Comes with several sound enhancements (32 bit mixing, gapless playback, adjustable cross fade, 9-band graphic equalizer, and MOD/MIDI mixing) and other tools (converts files, grabs/rips CDs, retrieves freedb tags). In the forum some users report that it works in Windows 7. But it hasn't been updated since 2007 (it uses an old BASS library version) and has 1 moderately critical Secunia advisory (related to opening un-trusted play list files).

  • Winyl: Refreshingly simple and lite BASS player that is well worth watching for future improvements. For now it has a few basic enhancements (32 bit processing, equalizer) and tools (tag editing). More interesting is the care that went into its design. The library comes with long lists of radio stations and a few 'smartlists'. The smartlists automatically display your most played or highest rated songs, and you can create additional smartlists. The 6 skins that come with it are diverse and useful to fit your taste. To further please music fans, Winyl needs to work on additional sound enhancements and play options (I'd also like a random play option or perhaps better play list access).

 

Cuts: The Other Players

Here are music managers and players that are impressive enough for a quick mention, but not quite enough to get featured in the review:

  • Quintessential Media Player (qmp) had great potential, but testing was mired by equally great difficulty in finding a FLAC plug-in. Otherwise, it surprised me with a small download size, a thorough MusicID updater, and feature richness. Massively edits tags, renames files, and writes MusicID info to tags (or updates its library info from tags). It has flashy visualizations, three mode sizes, and automatic online radio lists.

  • JetAudio: Surprisingly lightweight and efficient for such a feature rich, flashy, and capable music/media player. It has many features to help build and manage your media library. Rip, Convert, Record, and Burn all in one program. Use countless auto play lists (the most I've seen, but some are based on tags you must create) in its library, view a simple lyrics windows, get radio stations (many languages), browse to music stores and fan sites from within the player, and choose between several unique skins. However, I found its separate media center/main window setup confusing (the media center does not reduce to a mini player and I kept accidentally exiting the whole program). Other negatives: limited tag editing, no 32 bit output capability in the free version, and 1 'less critical' Secunia advisory (and four past advisories in a previous version).

  • Songbird: An open source, refreshingly simple interface that highly integrates to Internet resources like a browser (integrating many Mozilla Firefox features). One advantage is the ability to expand and customize it through add-ons, but the underlying interface is still the most bulky and inefficient of all tested music players (nearly as heavy as Firefox and getting heavier all the time). But I keep going back to it, so maybe they have something for the future there. It's in constant development, with nightly Beta versions for testing. See its "Roadmap Wiki" for information on its ever growing list of new features.

  • Winamp Full has privacy concerns and now includes the controversial OpenCandy in its installer. Read its privacy policy to see if you agree with its automated data collection of non-personal information (some of which you can only opt out of by hiding or not using certain features). Privacy concerns and nags aside, the program is popular and professional with excellent support for many music file formats, good integration with Internet resources, and top-notch library and music organizing features (it's somewhat incorporated as the media library in The KMPlayer).

Some of these have fans, but didn't impress me in comparison to other players in the review. The quick negatives beside each aren't comprehensive comments; visit the respective sites for plenty of positives. Listed alphabetically.

  • 1by1 — High I/O bit activity, limited support for music files.
  • Billy — High I/O bit activity (esp. for WAV files), limited support for music files.
  • Clementine — Stealthy association of files.
  • Cool Player — Unpatched Secunia advisories (related to using un-trusted play lists and skins).
  • Cool Player+ — High memory use (near Media Monkey size).
  • Evil Player — Simplistic interface, problems running in a standard account.
  • iTunes — Ad-supported: promotes purchasing Internet products as an essential feature.
  • J. River Media Jukebox — Ad-supported: promotes purchasing Internet products as an essential feature.
  • Moo0 AudioPlayer — High CPU use, limited support for music files.
  • QuuxPlayer — Poor interface design/usability.
  • Trout — Problems with interface usability (slow loading of audio files, error messages).
  • Xion — Problems with interface (CPU spikes, crashes), Secunia warning (un-trusted play lists).

 

Notes

Note 1: Sound Quality

Occasionally I see claims that a particular piece of software has superior sound quality, and I too would want the player with the best sound quality (regardless of its features or lack thereof). Sometimes I've played individual products and thought “gosh that sounds crystal clear and rich”, but then found that the volume was maxed on the player's initial settings (and that other players sounded the same at their max volume settings).

It's difficult to rule out wishful thinking and inexact comparisons until you try out many players on your sound system to judge for yourself. I've opened music players side by side, gone through their settings to ensure equivalence, and found that it's seemingly impossible to detect sound quality differences on the sound equipment that came with my computer (Foobar's FAQs and forum posters make this argument as well).

However, Gizmo noted in some of the first comments on this article that sound enhancement plug-ins, such as ASIO, have a noticeable improvement in sound quality on expensive equipment. Note that your sound card must support higher output settings, or the settings could degrade sound quality. And if you maximize the settings on your sound card, then music players will use significantly higher system resources.

 

Note 2: Lightest Players

Here is a list of music players with the best average of three measures: CPU use, I/O bytes, and RAM. The overall test list included MP3, FLAC, and WAV files (using Process Explorer and Vista Ultimate to measure).

  1. Cool Player
  2. Evil Player
  3. XMPlay
  4. Winyl
  5. VUPlayer
  6. Winamp Lite
  7. Trout
  8. Foobar
  9. AIMP
  10. Jaangle
  11. JetAudio
  12. Spider

The lightest player above was measured as an MP3 player (and is included because no other product did better as an MP3 player).

Some micro players (that are light on RAM memory) didn't make the top 10 (they often have high CPU or I/O bit activity).

By the way, mini player modes and tray icon modes (that shrink or hide the visual size of a player's interface) don't decrease the consumption of system resources, but some players have graphics that subside when the player loses focus (resource hungry visualizations were disabled for this comparison).

 

Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

Download Music

Manage Media -- Rip, Tag, Convert, Burn, Record

Audio Editor and Music Creation

Play and Organize Media

Related Hot Finds and Articles

Guides

 

Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Jojo Yee. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Comments

"... MUSICAN is an Audio-Player and organizer for Windows operating systems supporting most common audio formats ...": http://www.musican.net/ http://www.musican.net/en/screenshots
"... Meson Player is a very convenient music player if you don't need any flashy GUI to control playback or manage playlists. You just run it and then forget about it. The player is running in background. Switching tracks, volume control, loading and saving playlists, all of this performed by using hotkeys. Therefore, you can control the player while working in any application ...": http://sourceforge.net/projects/mesonplayer/
"... Butterfly is an advanced, yet simple and very lightweight music player for Windows ... There's no nags, adware or spyware. Just the experience of blazingly fast and lean player. No bloat ...": http://www.butterflyplayer.org/

The link doesn't seem to be working. Tried with IE, FF and K-Meleon. Even links on Googled sites don't seem to work.

Yes, not opening here too.

Songbird is no longer actively developed. (To my knowledge)
However there is a fork of the program called Nightingale which has a small niche community.
Nightingale, just like Songbird is a hybrid browser/music player.
It has addons and supports special themes called feathers.

More info is available on their site: http://getnightingale.com/

CloudTunes - open source, web-based music player for the cloud: https://github.com/jakubroztocil/cloudtunes
OooPlayer: Features: - Very low resource usage - Easy to use - Supports mp3, aac, ogg, opus, flac, alac, ape, mpc, tta, wv, wma, ac3 audio formats - Supports m3u, m3u8 playlists - Available as portable software: http://sourceforge.net/projects/oooplayer/ http://www.softpedia.com/get/Multimedia/Audio/Audio-Players/OooPlayer.shtml

Music Bee was for me interminably slow and heavy. Doum PotPlayer the same. Foobar I don't have enough scipt skills or inclination to learn about that. Jaangle is very buggy and doesn't support playlists, which wouldn't be such a problem except that desired tracks are not easy to find because there aren't good filters for the columns. VLC crashed all the time. iTunes does bugger all; is virtually crippleware if you don't use teh bonjour service or patronise their damned shop.

The only media player I'll ever want, or at least that's done the job best by a country league up 'til now, is [commercial software edited out] which I can't have because you have to have their soundcard to use it, so it's far from free. It did everything I needed [rip, query files, burn, search/filter beautifully]

Maybe I'll give MusicBee another go and see if something in particular is causing it to be so cumbersome and resource-hungry.
Or maybe MediaMonkey.

I think your system is pretty much messed up. MusicBee being slow, VLC crashing, PotPlayer being slow... Been using codec packs?

Concerning 1by1, I have to say I use this one a lot and rate it very highly.

Where it scores over other minimal players for me, is that it works like a Windows Explorer window, i.e. an explorer tree view on the left and file view on the right, with no need to load files or playlists. It's essentially a file explorer with audio playback.

As such, it's an excellent player for browsing directories and sub-directories full of audio without having to use any open/load dialogue.

The only other player I know of that operates like this, is Resonic (http://resonic.at/) which is also excellent, but 1by1 is a bit quicker and lighter on resources (1by1 @ 1-3% CPU, 15MB RAM vs. Resonic @ 20-25% CPU and 25MB RAM). There's not much in it really ... Resonic has a nice waveform display and VU meter while 1by1 has a native Windows GUI with editable colouring plus some basic fx like EQ and compression and optional VU. They both allow basic file operations via the context menu.

File support for 1by1 can be expanded with decoder plug-ins.

There are some great players if you just want to listen to music and have playlists, visualisations and other frills but for browsing large collections of music and samples I think these two beat all of them.

(I forgot there's also Sonic Explorer (http://www.kvraudio.com/product/sonic-explorer-by-proxl) which is pretty good but as far as I know it's been abandoned for some time now and it's hard to find a download location for it.)

Just a quick note on the 20-25% CPU: Resonic is multi-core optimized, so this kind of CPU usage usually only happens with a large visualization area (analyzer, etc.) on medium-performance processors. For plain playback CPU usually ranges from 1 to 5%.

To ensure openness it would help if you disclosed your association with this product. MC - Site Manager.

Lead developer here, trying to clarify things :)

Thanks. Your interaction here is very much appreciated. :)
Hmmm ... I have posted Resonic a while ago and it was deleted (by unknown entity :) ) since it is still in alpha stage ... Looks like as superviser likes you more (or you are just better with bribing than me) ... :)

Oh yeah, I'd forgotten it's an alpha sorry (used it for ages with no problems). I don't know what's happening with it at the moment, there were quite a few updates in a fairly short space of time, then a major update to final alpha 0.999 in January but nothing since then.

Perhaps Jojo's not seen my comment yet : ) Too late to edit myself now.

999 was the final Alpha and Resonic has been in heavy development all year.

The major move to the Beta is coming up next.

Nulloy: Features: - Waveform progress bar - Skins - Most audio formats supported: MP3, FLAC, OGG, WMA, AIFF and many others - Tags reading - Showing Cover Art - Cross-platform http://nulloy.com/

Just giving it a test drive right now, I'm really liking it.

Nice minimal but good-looking GUI with no superfluous frills or features, just a simple portable Qt audio player.

I've only found one issue with it really... on normal priority it uses about 10% CPU on my W7 laptop but doing anything else (e.g. scrolling/loading webpages) causes the playback to skip/drop out briefly. Manually setting the process to high priority has fixed this at the cost of upping CPU usage to 25-30%. RAM usage is about 50MB either way.

A basic EQ would be welcome but it's not a deal breaker.

Nice find Panzer, thanks for sharing. I have quite a collection of minimal audio players but I really like this one at first try.

Jojo, I'm not sure what you mean by transition between screen modes?

Thanks for the good suggestion Panzer. A quick try of the features in Ubuntu looks quite impressive even in its current alpha version. Transitions between screen modes are found not smooth enough on my PC though.
Miam-Player (beta): Features: - Easy to use - Fully customizable: themes, icons, fonts, colors, size of items, etc - Read and Edit tags inside the player (including cover). Do it by batch or by single file - "Jump to" bar to navigate quickly in your library - Support drag & drop from your filesystem to the player. Also, drag from one playlist to another - Nice built-in file explorer in case your files are not tagged properly - Plugin system to extend possibilites of the player: on Windows 7 and 8, support thumbnails buttons to control the player, progress bar, overlay icon - Cross-platform: Windows, Linux, OS X - And fast! - Developers: it's free, open-source, based on Qt, with few depencies, and easy to build & run!: http://sourceforge.net/projects/miammusicplayer/

I finaly registered and i have two reasons for that first one to say ty for all you work and as i wanted many times before new foobar review.Im happy that we have great review now cose i love foobar alongside MusicBee and AIMP.

Setup im using right now :http://br3tt.deviantart.com/art/DUiTunes-beta3-412700925

Now AIMP main page. http://www.aimp.ru/index.php [no aimp.us its fake site !]

Its in my opinion best light player u can find.It works like charm have great customization with skins,icons...u can organize playlists in tabs.Im using AIMP for ages now and its great.AIMP have great community forum and u can find many many skins at DeviantArt Aimp category : http://www.deviantart.com/customization/skins/media/aimp/

Im using ZiX right now : http://www.deviantart.com/customization/skins/media/aimp/

"I don't recommend downloading from the main website because it links to a download site (Brothersoft)" well this is false info there's no Brothersoft at all,they always had their main download on Programki.net an russian site for software download, and its clean and safe.

There's download page at FileHippo : http://filehippo.com/download_aimp/ so its not that hard to find good download link.Never had AIMP setup bundled with something other than clean music player.

"Security concerns, requires patience finding features" also i don't know from where this came from its easy to use as any music player there's menu and subcategory for everything.

Overall i think its ***** software but as i sad its my opinion.

[Moderator's note: Direct link to download of file removed. Not allowed as per rules.]

Thank you for your input which is appreciated. :) This review needs a new editor so the content won't be changed until someone offers to take it over. Maybe you would be interested? MC - Site Manager.

Im honored with that offer but i don't have much free time to test all those music apps but maybe sometime in future if i find some spare time.

I noted the comment about file associations and Clementine but I have installed it in preference to Jaangle and for me it is far more intuitive, and much faster.
It has a dedicated Android app which allows you to use your smartphone as a remote.
It took around a second to download playlists, database, album art, the lot and works flawlessly.
If the stealthy file associations is in fact a problem(no signs so far), for me it is a small price to pay!

Please evaluate "Clementine". The player was designed for Linux but they do have a windows version. I have used this player for years now and really like it. I use it as a replacement for AIMP.

http://www.clementine-player.org/

"... BZR Player is a sound player for Windows with the primary goal being able to play a lot of different file formats, currently over 480 different ones ...": http://www.softpedia.com/get/Multimedia/Audio/Audio-Players/BZR-Player.s...

I have a fairly brief question- which is the best music player with true randomize function? I use VLC on my computer and mort player on my tablet- these I use primarily as they don't reorganize my music and VLC serves as a multipurpose player of DVDs etc also. However, neither really have a true randomize function, they seem to get jammed on particular albums or even songs.

My music is organized in Windows by artist/album folders within folders of similar style/years, which would be playlists in other formats. I don't want to alter this method of organization- it suits me. So basically all I want to be able to do is add a folder containing numerous other folders(albums) of similar style and press randomize. Any suggestions?

Just installed MusicBee player. Superb and without doubt the best player I have used. Skins great, tagging superb, library organisation very easy, blows WMP out of the water and it really does look great.

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