Not all audio players progress at the same time, and it’s unfortunate that so many players have to keep solving the same problem over and over again; why, for instance, do some players handle diacritical marks well and others don’t? I just filed a ticket for the new Qt-based Clementine player, which did not yet handle such diacritical characters correctly (luckily, the solution seems to be as simple as using Qt’s locale-aware string object).

As such, new players often show the same problems that old players had several years ago; in other words, there’s a fair amount of the same stuff being churned about. It’s tough to find a player doing something new and exciting in a desktop whose normal usage case appears to be grandmothers and Apple fans—in other words, a conservative desktop environment which tends heavily to abstraction and minimalism.

My biggest surprise of this comparison was GMusicBrowser, which has apparently been doing its things for many years now, but which far and away outperforms most other audio players on the basis of features and customizability alone. I realize this approach isn’t for everyone: refugees from the world of Windows or OS X who miss their iTunes may want to stick with the familiar, smooth interface of Banshee. Amarok fans may still prefer Exaile’s layout (or you can always use Clementine and count on Qt’s excellent GTK widget emulation). Power users will still probably prefer Quod Libet or GMusicBrowser, although I have a little more faith in the former’s tag editing capabilities, since the engine in question is tried-and-true.

The inclusion of a Java (Swing) program in this year’s comparison further underscores the lackluster GTK integration of Java’s Swing code; it gets about 90% there, but that remaining 10% is very obvious and very ugly. On the other hand, the Java program in question (aTunes) makes us remember just how different Java is from the typical GNOME program: it’s got a superfluity of features, almost too many, compared to the minimalism of a lot of GTK+ players. It’s a trade-off, and a decision that you as a consumer have to make.

It seems as though I’m being a little unfair to the GTK+ ecosystem and GNOME in particular; my opinions about GNOME, its development vectors, and its HIG notwithstanding, I will say in its defense that among the many things which recommend a GNOME desktop against others are the fact that one has so many choices with respect to media players. Were I to do a similar shootout for KDE, I would be limited to Amarok, JuK, and (recently) the aforementioned Clementine. And that’s basically it for library-aware music players; compare that to GNOME, for which there are so many players (admittedly, some of them half-developed or abandoned) that I had to pick and choose which ones to review.

Ultimately, your choice of media player has much to do with your intended aims. Depending on whether you favor programs with built-in utilities, or favor music store integration, or can’t live without your Shoutcast (Rhythmbox will get this support soon), or really, really want to know the vendor string of your encoded files (see Aqualung), you will necessarily favor one flavor of player over the other. I can’t make that decision for you. I can say that despite its faults, GMusicBrowser is my new personal favorite media player, both for its full-featured UI and its powerful utilities.

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§5650 · August 29, 2010 · Tags: , , , , ·

7 Comments to “GNOME Audio Player Shootout v3.0”

  1. Fips says:

    Feel free to delete this rather unconnected comment, but the one plugin which very much keeps me by foobar2000 is the CUE Playlist Filter. Took me ages to discover, but it keeps a tab on all those folders containing files referenced by .cue files and prevents them being loaded into playlists twice.

  2. anonymous says:

    As a peer music-lover I would suggest you actually give yourself more time to use Guayadeque (now on version 0.8 and about to produce mp3 player support). I can easily agree on icons and that but in my view Guayadeque is in fact the best music player/organizer for Linux. I really think this is not an overstatement. For the last few years I’ve been looking for and trying all the others and have never been satisfied (and very often deeply dissatisfied) with any of them. Once you find YOUR layout (and believe me it is there for you to find) and have your files properly tagged; once you’ve created your dynamic playlists and filters you’ll be hooked into how fast/responsive/flexible/powerful this software is. I won’ t give all the long list of features you have not mentioned (other than support for composer tag) and I’m really assuming that you just don’t gave yourself enough time to discover this program. I’ve never actually used myself either itunes or foobar200 but in the ubuntu thread where most of the support is happening there are plenty of former foobar users which are thrilled to finally have found a worthy substitution.
    Best regards

    • Ben says:

      I believe you that Guayadeque is powerful, and I’m happy that it’s continuing to receive developer love (do you mean v0.2.8?). I will disagree with your implication that my files are somehow improperly tagged, though. I should not have to cater my tagging scheme to a particular program; rather, the program should be intelligent enough to handle my tagging scheme, provided it’s not too esoteric.

      I’ll definitely be checking up on the program periodically—I think it’s one of the most promising players out there.

      • anonymous says:

        I didn’t mean that you don’t have your files properly tagged (how could I know!). I apologize if I seemed to suggest that. I was just stating the obvious: to use effectively this programs (or any other similar) the music files have to be properly tagged.

        But I was also pointing to a really good feature here (not so obvious): Guayadeque supports labels. Labels can be apply at three different levels: artist, album and track and you can apply as many labels as you want (a label can be any thing you want). The implications for sorting/organizing your library, creating filters/playlists etc. are obvious.

        So Guayadeque has a tabbed view (which I find excellent): library, browser, file manager, playlists, lyrics,, jamendo, magnatud, podcast, radios, but these are services it provides; if you don’t use them don’t need to have them there.

        Just out of curiosity: what player/manager do you actually use?

        My main point remain though, I had the feeling that you

      • Ben says:

        I think perhaps I misread your original tagging comment as speaking to my common complaint about the composer tag being a second class citizen, which, now that I reread it, it appears you weren’t.

        As to my current software layout, I use foobar2000 on Windows and (currently) Clementine on Linux.

      • me says:

        I have also tried many players until I found Guayadeque. Of course it’s not perfect, but in my opinion it’s the best linux player.
        And I agree that when you fist open it, it looks awful, but with a bit of simple customization it improves a lot.

        But for me the best thing is how responsive it’s developer is. I’ve seen some bug fixed and feature request implemented in a matter of hours.

        There is also a new official site with forums and soon there will be a wiki and a manual.

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