The best Linux media players

Jack Wallen
Apr 18, 2009
Updated • Feb 21, 2014

Recently I have had a lot of people asking how to play various media files in Linux. Since most users are migrating over from either Mac or Windows, they are either used to one single application handling their media files or at least knowing exactly what apps handle each media type. When they migrate over all of a sudden there is no Windows Media Player or iTunes. And then comes the bombardment of different applications to choose from! All of this combined makes for some difficult usage.

And so...I thought it would be smart to write about the best tools to play certain media types. Understand that these are the best in my opinion. You might hear differently from every other user.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the best audio and video viewing tools available.




Of all the music managers, my favorite is Rhythmox. Rhythmbox was inspired by iTunes so, as you can imagine, it integrates well with iPods and other such devices. And although you can not use Rhythmbox with the iTunes store, you can download music from both Magnatune and Jamendo. Rythmbox also supports DAAP sharing which allows you to connect to a centralized server. Rhythmbox uses Gstreamer so it supports a wide range of audio formats.


Banshee is another favorite that manages to one-up Rhythmbox by being the first Linux media manager to integrate with the Android-based G1 phone. Banshee offers all of the features of Rhythmbox minus the ability to download music from a "store". Banshee does, however, include stream support. The list of audio files Banshee supports is smaller than that of XMMS mp3, acc, ogg, and wav.



Mplayer is not usually the default video player in Linux nor is it the easiest to install or get running. But when you do get it installed and running it works flawlessly. There are some distributions (such as Elive Compiz) that install MPlayeras the default movie player which plays video files and DVDs perfectly.


VLC is typically the favorite "universal" media player. This little gem really can play it all. And the beauty of VLC is that it's cross platform, so if you know VLC in Windows or Mac, you will know it in Linux. VLC supports MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, as well as DVDs, VCDs, and streaming. VLC is not nearly the installation nightmare of most other video players. If your distribution does not default to VLC, you might want to give it a try before you resign yourself to the idea that Linux and video do not make good bedfellows.


When all else fails, XINE. XINE is one of the more well done, reliable, versatile of the media players. XINE plays CDs, DVDs, VCDs,? and decodes multimedia files like AVI, MOV, WMV, and MP3. You can also install support for mov and mp4 media as well as real player files. XINE is that media player I install when my current distro doesn't play well with VLC or Mplayer.

Final Thoughts

Viewing media files doesn't have to be difficult, even in the Linux operating system. Although this list isn't exhaustive, it is the best of the best IMHO. Any of the above players should work well for you.


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  1. hybrid-kernel said on April 18, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Best video player: mplayer + gnome-mplayer frontend
    Best audio player: mpd + ncmpc fontend

    btw you forgot to mention songbird. users of itunes should feel at home with it.

  2. Anonymous said on April 18, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Talking about linux media players and you don’t mention amarok. What’s wrong with you.

  3. Paulus said on April 18, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    To bad that BSplayer (pro) is still not avalible for Linux, this because i think BSplayer has absolute the ferry best colors/vieuwing result.

  4. Nuri.U said on April 18, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Hey dude where is it amaroK? :D

  5. jack said on April 18, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    hybrid-kernel: Songbird is a good alternative. It has some issues with stability I have found. Eventually that will be the de facto standard in Linux I would think.

    Nuri.U: I left out Amarok for the same reason I left out gtkpod – reliability. On separate occasions I have had both Amarok and gtkpod fubar an entire ipod library. never had that problem with Banshee or Rhythmbox. I also find both Banshee and Rhythmbox compatible with more devices.

  6. BCK said on April 18, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Last I checked RhythmBox supported

  7. truzicic said on April 19, 2009 at 2:39 am

    Lol, where did you left Amarok? Audaacious? XMMS is just plain ugly… We live in 21. century FFS…

  8. ed said on April 19, 2009 at 3:58 am

    audio – banshee or atunes (for features..utube, etc)
    video – mplayer w/ frontend
    just say no to songbird until Mozilla focuses on the song (app) part rather than the bird (artwork/extras)

  9. Billy said on April 19, 2009 at 4:20 am

    What about Totem?

  10. Fu4ny said on April 20, 2009 at 10:53 am

    For gnome, I suggest banshee as the media player, i’m using it and i found that it’s the best music player, at least, it can read my itunes playlist.
    As for kde, i suggest amarok, it’s the best player now, although the 2.0 version is a big failure.

  11. NotZed said on April 20, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Good list. Most of the newer ‘media players’ are rubbish, hard to compile, and don’t
    support the right codecs out of the box.

  12. Olli said on April 20, 2009 at 1:58 pm


    Personally I never had problems with my ipod and Amarok and these days, I don’t bother with the iPods anymore and Amarok still shines :)

  13. Nick said on April 20, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    no Amarok? blasphemy!

  14. eru said on April 20, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    You forgot Amarok and Listen like audio players, there are good programs

  15. thedude said on April 20, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    amarok sucks.

  16. luzar said on May 9, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    @ ed

    Songbird is not Mozilla. It uses to open source xul runner framework that Mozilla develop. Also the songs portion is fine imho. Its plays tracks well, and once it does cd ripping and podcasts I will be using it full time. The fact is though if the songbird team ignored things like album art and other extras It would not stand out at all from any other music player, and this is what the extras are designed to do. There is only so much that can be done on the music playing side without completely reinventing the wheel.

  17. stopthemjah said on June 29, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    amarok 1.4 i’ts the best player, they shold put mashtape on it. like songbird

  18. Christian Alexander Tietgen said on January 6, 2010 at 2:25 am

    Your taste seems to be different from mine. For music I mostly use Amarok and for videos I use the normal video player.

  19. kookcomptuer said on March 16, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    try great music player, faster than exaile. amarok <1.4 is great, but i need a lightweight player and with amarok i get all that stupid kde stuff. cheers

  20. Tom said on May 4, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    From all the new players (bastardized freaks if you ask me, look at Amarok2) name 1 that supports equalizers. Not f*cking Amarok or Rythmbox or Banshee.

    Best of the best my @ss.

    Stupid list.

    1. Linux_Hippy said on May 4, 2010 at 9:50 pm

      @tom. just a little FYI XMMS has ALWAYS had an equalizer, and a quite good one IMHO

  21. jay said on October 14, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    install the binary after installing wine and it runs perfectly and content automatically plays upon tellin it the folder of your choice (very exceptional) and very fast

    1. type this in konsol

    sudo apt-get install -y wine

    and then when that is done visit site and get this media player (binary)

  22. digital media players said on July 12, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you for share .

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