The sad state of media players, part I

I’ve been looking for a media player/manager for Linux for some time. And during that time, I’ve become increasingly frustrated. Isn’t there _one_ such application that doesn’t suck fiercly?
In this first part of a two-part blog entry, I’ll cover the requirements for a media player/manager.

h3. Requirements
I have a few very simple requirements:
* The application must be able to manage a database of considerably more than 8000 songs (roughly the size of my current library). And by manage here, I mean:
** Must not choke on importing
** Must not choke during startup or shutdown
** Must not choke if the database changes when the application is open.
* Must *absolutely not* have a toy-like user interface. Read: It *must* feel integrated with my choice of desktop enviroment, Gnome in this case.
* Must *absolutely not* alter any of my music files, except when asked to. And when I ask it to change a file, it should actually change the file, and not just its own database. If I (or rather the person who submitted it to FreeDB/CDDB) mistagged something, I actually want it corrected everywhere. Not just in the media player I happen to be using when discovering it.
* It must absolutely have a proper search.
* Quick filters are not search, but it should have them too.
* It should be able to play just about anything I throw at it: Ogg Vorbis, MP3, FLAC, WMA.
** Except DRMed content. I “don’t have any DRM-infested media”: on any of my computers, and I don’t plan on adding any.
* Must support Audioscrobbler. Either natively, or as a plugin.
* It must have meaningful playlist managment.
** Multiple playlists.
** Automatically generated playlists based on search criteria is a bonus.
** Dynamic playlists based on my “ profile”: is a huge bonus. I’d love for this one to be combined with the previous feature.
* Must be keyboard navigable.
* Must *absolutely not* have a toy-like user interface. Read: It *must* feel integrated with my choice of desktop enviroment.
* Should support my Rockbox-enhanced iPod as a regular mass storage device. No. Make that a _must._ I don’t ever use my iPod with the original firmware, because — well — Rockbox *rocks* and *Apple’s own firmware sucks.* Fiercly.
** Playlist syncing with removable mass-storage devices is good.
* Should support all common tagging formats for MP3 (ID3v2, ID3v1, APE)
* Meaningful mass-tagging features, on-par with “EasyTAG”: is a huge plus, but if it doesn’t have them, tagging support for manually tagging multiple files is required.
* Need not have support for ripping CDs, but if such a feature is there, it should work every bit as well as for instance “Grip”: — Paranoia support and external encoder support is a must. Further, if there is a ripper without such features, I should be able to remove it from the UI.
* Lyrics support is a nice bonus. Same with cover art and Wikipedia integration. But none of these features are on the list of musts or shoulds.
* If there is podcasting support, it should be meaningful:
** It needs to actually _work_ — a number of the players I have tried fails to download the podcasts automatically. Other players I have tried fails to even download the podcasts. One player (that I will identify in Part II) deleted the podcast subscription itself when I tried to delete old episodes.
** Automatic deletion and expiry policies is a huge plus.
** Podcasts are timeshifted radio. A media player should be able to automatically sync podcasts to removable mass storage devices (such as the aforementioned Rockbox-iPod.
* Regarding radio: Yes, support for streaming media is on the must-list. Integration with “Streamripper”: would be an added bonus, but it’s not a must as I already use cron to timeshift the shows that are on when I’m sleeping.
If you have a suggestion for a media player, make it here, and I’ll try to include it in the planned follow up, where I comment on a number of media players.
*Update:* I’ve posted “part II, with reviews”:

Leave a comment


  1. Kildor

     /  2006-11-26

    I`m not a nix user, so I can`t really advice anything…

  2. Bill

     /  2006-11-26

    Maybe the problem is your use of Gnome ’cause Kde has Amarok, and Amarok may just be what your looking for. If your not familiar with Amarok then you haven’t investigated Linux media players as it it the best, there’s even a Gnome project that is trying to copy the functionality called Exaile.
    I’m not sure your requirements are ‘simple’ or ‘few’. Your requirement list seems to be all emcompassing and you give no example of an existing solution under any os including Apple or Microsoft. Nor do you give examples of products that you’ve tried and the reasons they were not satisfactory, though that could be part 2.
    If this was a discussuion of desktops I’d point out that when you want/need/crave many options/choices/customizations then Gnome is not where you want to be.

  3. __Reynald__

     /  2006-11-26

    Amarok can be used under Gnome without problems (same goes for other KDE applications), no need to use KDE.
    That said, Amarok is the best option, it has almost everything you listed and is quite stable managing huge collections. The main problem (other than the lack of desktop enviroment integration) is that it is quite heavy on resources.
    Banshee, Quod libet, Listen, FUplayer,… don’t suit my needs but you could try them. BTW, Exaile lacks many features present in Amarok and it is very buggy.
    If Foobar2000 could be ported to *nix…

  4. Jeff

     /  2006-11-26

    You’ve made your iPod non-stock with special firmware (something about 1% of iPod owners do) and adopted a specific flavor of Linux (Gnome claims to be used by 30% of Linux’s ~15% market share, so let’s call it a 5% market share platform) as your platform of choice. Yet you want the marketplace to bend to your needs. What’s wrong with this picture?

  5. Laurent

     /  2006-11-26

    Like other’s, I’d suggest AmaroK. It’s for KDE so it might not be integrated in the Gnome interface but AFAIK it does most of what you’re asking for.
    Funny though, it’s under Windows that I have the same issue: Is there somewhere a media player like Amarok for Windows? Because everything that I looked at sucked big time.

  6. Jeff: Absolutely nothing is wrong with Arve’s desire to have a media player that works the way he’d like it to.
    I’d like to challenge calling it a “sad state”, though. I am willing to wager a very large sum that even amongst iPod owners that use Linux with GNOME, the Rockbox firmware usage is in a minority, and that the iPod Linux firmware is more popular. If I were to write a media player supporting iPods, I would make sure support for Apple’s firmware was implemented first, regardless of what I thought of it.
    Other than that, I agree with most demands. This is simply how it should work, and most of these are no-brainers.

  7. cornelius

     /  2006-11-26

    I’m sure foobar does everything you’ve mentioned, you can even get rid of every feature that you won’t use. Such a shame it’s windows only.

  8. Jeff: Regarding the iPod: The iPod _is_ already a mass storage device, but a particular problem shared by many (all?) media players is that they recognize it as an iPod, without the option to treat it as what it is, rather treating it as the proprietary device it is. Which is a shame, really, since some of the same players are able to treat non-iPod mass storage devices as audio players.

  9. Tollef Fog Heen

     /  2006-11-27

    Somebody mentioned quod libet in a listing of multiple ones up there; I would second that recommendation. It might take a little bit of time to learn, but it’s wonderful and handles big music collections just fine.

  10. Asbjørn Ulsberg

     /  2006-11-27

    I have no idea how it actually performs or works, but have you considered “Banshee”: