Listen is a lesser-known media player that (if I understand correctly) grew out of Quod Libet, which is another lesser-known media player (see below). It has been in the beta stages of v0.5 for some time now, and seems to be the province of a sole developer, which may explain the stagnation.
Listen is a visually gorgeous client, chock full of GTK+ goodness and well-placed icons. I think it’s playlist approach, while perhaps not the most clear, looks really fantastic. As one can see from the screen of the main player window, there’s a lot going on (this view is customizable, mind you). Part of the problem, though, is that it’s not always very intuitive—perhaps I’m merely an imbecile, but when I changed views to see Wikipedia information for the currently playing artist, it took me 10 minutes to get the player back to the default view.
Listen has typical customization options: it allows a system tray icon, it allows an OSD via
libnotify, it allows for Audioscrobbler/last.fm support, and it has working filesystem monitoring (though I suspect this may increase its start time).
Listen is, to no one’s surprise, written in Python, and utilizes SQLite to store library information. As before, this is perfectly fine for small libraries, but the player became unresponsive and sluggish when trying to handle my large music library.
Listen uses Mutagen for its tag editor, giving it functionality similar to that of its peers—no player really shines in this regard. It uses gstreamer as its engine, giving it as wide a playback support as your installation allows.
Part of the problem with Listen is that it has so many features, and limited real estate. The default player view is horribly cluttered, leading to confusion at a glance, and truncated artist, album, and track names. Its album art handling is fine, though the process is largely automated and not very configurable (points to Exaile for bucking the trend).
Depending on your needs, however, you may be drawn to Listen’s podcast support or internet radio support; you may crave its Wikipedia lookup; you may want six billion panes open in the main window. If those are your preferences, and you don’t mind the peformance slowdown for large collections, Listen probably constitutes the most fully-featured player for GNOME.
I was a little leery of including Mesk in this review: it’s not technically a media manager, as it has no support for creating libraries. However, I thought that it might fill a niche market for users who don’t want a dedicated jukebox just to open up a playlist.
Mesk is a small program written in PyGTK, with a gstreamer backend. It’s a single-paned player with playlists as tabs across the top. As you can see from the About screen, it’s still a very immature player, but it is advanced enough to offer the usual Audioscrobbler integration and automatic album-art display.
Otherwise, it offers very few options, and does very little else but play a playlist, with rudimentary track controls like Repeat and Random. It seems primitive compared to some of the other players in this review, but for those who are used to small players like WinAmp or foobar2000, for which media libraries are something of a secondary function, this might be the perfect little program… especially when it’s polished a little bit.