Quod Libet (v2.0)

When I last reviewed Quod Libet, it was a bit of esotery; at the time, it struck me as little more than a quizzical little player for people who liked to use regular expressions. Since that time, two things have happened: (a), Quod Libet went 1.0, and then after a hiatus went 2.0, which consisted of rewriting important bits of the code, including a new Python-based build system; (b) I realized the value of Quod Libet as a player for the non-mainstream.

Quod Libet is actually two programs/libaries: the eponymous program is the player; the underlying interface to metadata tags is Mutagen, both a library and a standalone program which rivals EasyTag. Visually speaking, Quod Libet is both similar to every other GTK-based audio player on the market and also very different. It’s widgets are largely the same, but its behavior(s) are different enough to merit attention.

First of all, without any special configuration, Quod Libet was the only player tested—indeed, the only player I know of outside of foobar2000 on Windows—that will use Composer as a sortable, indexable field (as a substitute for artist on classical albums). Not even Amarok does this; Quod Libet stands alone. For this, if nothing else, Quod Libet earns my undying respect.

It’s got a lot of plugins (most of them relatively old, I think, but still functional), from the mundane (album art) to the more esoteric (alarm clock, APE→ID3v2 tag conversion, &c.). Its preferences screen is basic but understandably so, considering just how much functionality is delegated to plugins (each with an individual configuration screen). One can set up a library and columns in this screen (right-clicking columns in the third-party Debian package that I tested results in a non-fatal error that results in no actions being taken).

Quod Libet’s album view is the only one it offers (except for different top-level sorting criteria), but the pane itself can be customized with basic HTML—accessible with a single click—so that, for instance, artist comes first, the thumbnail is on the right, &c.

Album art can be downloaded automatically or all at once, utilizing a preview window which shows the result of several data sources.

Surprisingly, QL’s track(s) information window is surprisingly sparse; and, while it shows Performer, it doesn’t show Composer, even though it can sort by it—I chalk this up to a bug and not a fundamental flaw with the program. If I were more motivated, I could probably easily script this window somehow to do what I want.

Therein lies the rub with Quod Libet: it’s powerful, has some of the best built-in tag editing of any existing audio player, and is easily the most extensible, but it does presuppose a certain level of technical expertise on the part of the user. In that same vein, it has only a handful of developers (one primary) who develop in fits and starts; since the program went 2.0 in September, for instance, there’s been only three or four commits to Subversion, while issues pile up on the project bug tracker. It’s not as though it’s the developer’s job to cater to me, but a project without an active base of programmers is doomed to stagnation, no matter how good it is.

Note that most distributions still package 1.0, which might be more stable but has its own set of longstanding bugs. For our purposes, versions 1.0 and 2.0 are materially the same.

In Summary: Quod Libet is an extraordinarily good program, perhaps the best of all the available players (for the enthusiast), but suffers from half-hearted development and a raft of bugs. While it lacks flash, it’s the most technically-competent GTK-based player there is, and would be my personal choice for audio player.

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§2709 · December 19, 2008 · Tags: , , , , , , , ·

4 Comments to “GNOME Audio Player Shootout Revisited”

  1. Fips says:

    Fantastic reviews. Can’t say I have much experience of any of these players, largely sticking to Amarok and foobar2000, but I’m tempted to take some for a test drive after reading this.

    Incidentally, the layout is really nicely done, the multi-page breakup works particularly well (though there’s a slippery &m[d]ash; on the 9th page).

  2. Andrew says:

    I know I’m late on commenting (came from google search), but I’d like to add that while with other players adding/saving your favorite internet radio stations is a pain, in Exaile you can just open the downloaded *.pls file and save the streams into a playlist. Does any other player work well (multiple streams per station, pls file importing) with internet radio?

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