Free Music Player Overview
There are heaps of music players for the Windows operating system. Even if you discount all media players that support music playback as well, you are left with hundreds of free players for the operating system that you can use for the purpose.
This overview takes a look at some of the more popular choices when it comes to music players.
Before we dive into the review we are going to establish some criteria. Instead of looking at the usual like supported formats, we are going to look at the player's resource usage and feature set as a whole.
In addition to that, we highlight what the developer of the application says about the application, so that you know this point of view as well.
What the developers say:
AIMP is a full-featured music player designed with sound quality and wide, customizable functionality in mind. Over twenty audio formats are supported. Audio is processed in 32-bit for crystal-clear sound. The player features a 18-band graphics equalizer with extra built-in sound effects. You can extend the existing functionality adding Input, DSP and Gen plug-ins from Winamp. All local and global hotkeys are customizable. Full Unicode support. You can convert AudioCD to MP3, OGG, WAV or WMA. Similarly, you can grab sound from any audio device on your PC to MP3, OGG, WAV or WMA formats.
AIMP2 is a very compact music player that comes with a lot of extras build in. The player supports skins, plugins, hotkeys, comes with multiple interface languages, a tag editor, cover art downloader and full playlist support. In addition to that it can record Internet radio, be configured to automatically shut down, and integrate several Winamp plugins into the player. The resource usage of the player ranges from 5 to 12 Megabytes of computer memory.
What the developers say:
XMPlay is an audio player, supporting the OGG / MP3 / MP2 / MP1 / WMA / WAV / AIFF / CDA / MO3 / IT / XM / S3M / MTM / MOD / UMX audio formats, and PLS / M3U / ASX / WAX playlists. A load more formats are also supported via plugins. When XMPlay was first released in 1998, only the XM format was supported, hence the name "XMPlay".
XMPlay is probably the underdog in this overview. The developer has not updated the music player since December 2009 (but plugins related to that) which does not necessarily mean that development has stopped. There is only that much one can add to a music player, and once that's done there is virtually no need to update the player, unless other variables change.
XMPlay is a portable application. Like AIMP2 it supports some Winamp plugins, skins, and all the bells and whistles that someone expects from a media player. It's memory usage is among the lowest of all music players in this guide. It uses roughly 6.5 Megabytes of memory.
What the developers say
Not quotes, as Winamp Lite appears to be more of a side project
Winamp, the granddaddy of music players. For this review, we have downloaded and installed Winamp Lite, the least resource intensive but also least feature rich of the Winamp editions. Interestingly enough, it also means that Winamp Lite is the least feature rich music player in this test. It provides basic music playback with everyone would expect, as well as plugin and theme support.
On the resource side, Winamp Lite uses more than 20 Megabytes of memory while playing music.
foobar2000 is an advanced freeware audio player for the Windows platform. Some of the basic features include full unicode support, ReplayGain support and native support for several popular audio formats.
Foobar 2000 for a long time was known as a lightweight highly customizable music player. To our surprise, it used the highest amount of computer memory of all test participants. The mp3 player used more than 32 Megabytes of memory during music playback.
It does however offer a lot more than just music playback. It supports visualizations, audio ripping, a music tagger and converter and more. Having said that, players like AIMP2 have a similar functionality with a lower footprint.
1by1 is a small and versatile audio player for MP3 and dll/plugin supported audio formats like WAV, OGG, MP2 or CD Audio. Without the need for a playlist it plays multiple files from a directory or a whole disk. You can simply start your tracks in an explorer-style file view, load them through the command line (e.g. if associated with file type) or drag them over the window.
QuuxPlayer is a sleek audio player that allows users to import and organize music already on their computers as well as access a multitude of online radio stations. The program combines an intuitive interface with useful features, making it a nice alternative to other popular audio players
Moo0 AudioPlayer is a very simple audio player.
It is very small and simplified for easy use. If you are looking for a lightweight audio player, this may be the one for you. Also, it includes skins in various colors to suit your liking.
Not basic music players, still worth mentioning
Jaangle (formerly Teen Spirit) is a free music player and organizer software. It categorizes your mp3, ogg, wma, avi etc collection and displays it in easy to browse, user interface. It has a quality audio - video player and also an integrated tag editor.
If you are looking for an application geared toward managing extensive music collections, easy to use and with a comprehensive feature set - MusicBee is that application. MusicBee makes it easy to organize, find and play music files on your computer, on portable devices and on the web.
aTunes is a full-featured audio player and manager, developed in Java programming language, so it can be executed on different platforms: Windows, Linux and Unix-like systems, ...
Currently plays mp3, ogg, wma, wav, flac, mp4 and radio streaming, allowing users to easily edit tags, organize music and rip Audio CDs.
Which music player are you using? Let us know in the comments.Advertisement
Martin, You have missed song bird
Hoi Martin, Great article. But on the website(‘s) i can’t find out how many songs the different music player(s) are capable off holding individual. I am right now using the Microsoft music player 12 but he can’t hold not more, than a few hundred songs. What i am really looking for is a music player who can hold up to 5000 or more (mp3) songs. Is one of the players you are mention here above capable of holding such amount? And if not are you familiar with a player who is capable of holding such an amount of songs?
For me Foobar2000 is probably the best there is for music libraries I have around 70,000 songs.
I have a fair few plugins and tweaks running which take around 130mb of memory while playing but as some one has said when machines have 4gb plus of memory it really does not matter.
Plus with a few tweaks here and there you can get your whole library anywhere in your house with the right devices as there is a upnp plugin that sets up foobar as a media server.
well, if you use your computer for just listening to music, open up one or two browser window, and maybe photoshoping a bit, 130MB for a music player is acceptable.
but if u’re like me, I often have to use 3 different browser for work, 2-3 projects opened on visual studio, sqlserver 2008 running all the time, sql server management studio running too, yahoo messenger with all the stupid useless flash ads, more than 70MB for just a music player is unacceptable, no matter how many songs is loaded on the playlist (you’ll only listen to one song at a time).
for these reasons, i found aimp2 have done quite a good job in maintaining small footprint, but yet, great sound, IMHO :D
Paul(us), I have 12000 odd songs. Normally I don’t use Windows Media Player but as your remark about it’s limited capabilities stroke me as unlikely I’ve done the test. On my (rather old) pc, WMP happily handles my collection without any noticeable delay.
i actually never used any music player that can’t hold more than a few hundreds in a playlist, in fact if you use aimp2, u can hold unlimited in one playlist, in addition, aimp2 also can hold unlimited playlist in one simple user interface, and it’s as free as hell
Who cares that an audio player uses 10 or 30MB of ram ?
Nowadays it is not rare to have 4 or 8GB of RAM.
And even with 1GB of RAM, 30MB is insignificant.
It would have been more interesting IMHO to focus on CPU utilization while playing, startup speed with huge playlists, converting capabilities, plugins & community, or other aspects.
I tend to agree with Anonymous
Martin, you missed one of the best out there, MEDIAMONKEY.
Indeed Martin, you have. I too use MediaMonkey with great satisfaction.
Media Monkey is great, still have a Gold copy around somewhere ;) I concentrated on music players, and not those “all-in-one” music managers like Media Monkey or iTunes.
Amorok, Banshee and other Linux alternatives are notable absentees from your list and I’ve found them to be better than the Windows offerings.
In which way?
David, the first sentence of the article says “There are heaps of music players for the Windows operating system”. So it’s quite normal that the linux alternatives are missing.
I use jaangle, it rocks.
AIMP2 is a little bit more professional
I keep XMPLAY with Microsoft media player on my PC
I’m using XMPLAY! :D
Roebie Ireally don’t know how your (rather old) computer with microsoft media player 12 can hold that many files, but main (not so old) computer with Microsoft media player 12 can’t. I have main mp3 files divided in three branches and main Microsoft media player 12 is not picking up all the mp3 files in those three branches even after I named those three branches being the braNches to look in. Maybe the string is excessively to long? But this correspondets about this subject is a little bitty redundant, this because I now have installed foobar 2000 which has no problem at all with 5000 mp3 files.
Enigma thank you ferry much for your tip. Foodbar 2000 works really great. The only problem I still have to get the player, when I have all main maps alphabetical sorted (with the mp3 song’s in them), to go from one map to the next map with mp3s when the last song is played?
Comes with Sound Recorder, Audio Converter, Tag Editor and an excellent and customizable Audio Library.
I use clementine (amarok 1.4 port) for Linux, however it is available for windows also.
On windows I use foobar2000
I probably like AIMP2 the best. Does anyone use the free version of spider player? It is crippled compared to the paid version but still not awful.
you forgot Billy
i firmly preferred winamp – still do, but it chokes on some of my 24-bit FLAC files so i was forced to switch to billy
You forgot to mention Billy. Is a basic music player. Is my favorite music player, simple and clean.
Winamp LITE is still superior in sense of looking very pretty out of the installer, and massive plugins already available for it. Tried all of them Foobar is great but has too many options for my taste, Muscibee and others are just trying to replicate iTunes.
AIMP since 2007. It has all I need and want from a music player, and its BASS engine plays much better for me than WinAmp lite.
Can you say anything about the music players’ ability to write ratings into the tags of files (saving the rating in the music file itself)? This is what drove me from Winamp to MediaMonkey a couple of years ago, since moving your file to a new directory wouldn’t transfer the rating in Winamp’s database :-/
Also, setting the rating in MediaMonkey is compatible with the ratings “details” view of explorer Win7, which is a nice bonus.
More specifically, the interesting parts are which tag is used (POPM e.g.), which extensions are supported and which values are used (1-5 or 0-255 etc.)?
I saw Winamp is messing around with hardcoding rating (v5.58), but only for mp3 at the moment. I tried doing this with Foobar, but it was a bit too difficult for me – I could write ratings to a random tag, but never got it working so I could see the rating in Windows Explorer.
Foobar has more plugins than all other players together.
Thats the point. Not that it uses 32MB RAM…
Zune pc software. Although i wish it would borrow the ‘album stacks’ feature from WMP.
Man, MusicBee is fantastic. Thanks for showing me this. It does everything I need MediaMonkey for, but does it better, and includes more features and is more lightweight.
I use KMPLayer for videos and it also plays audio files just fine.
I love Foobar2000, especially with the CD burning component added, but I could never go without AIMP2 and it’s killer tag & album art editor.
Also, the music player Billy is nice and simple and obviously related to Moo. http://www.leedberg.com/glsoft/billy/download.shtml
I use Foobar2000.
It sounds much better than AIMP2
I didn’t like skins. They are useless
Try Helium Music Manager, its free and organizes your music too.
Been using foobar2k here for years. No DSPs limiters visualizations or equalizers. Replay gain and that’s it. The beauty about foobar is that it barely registers cpu usage while playing media as well as very low I/O making it ideal for gamers, multitasking or for folks with older puters.
I agree.. Foobar2000 is no resource hog, even with visualizers and some of the bells and whistles! Never used the replay gain feature much, always seems to overall mute everything to my ears, but will try it again.
Some good players omitted above:
Quintessential Media Player
I like the new Windows Media Player, I would always use vlc player but the quality has really gone downhill and the music management sucks. Windows Media player has good video/sound quality and excellent organzation and a clean interface.