l0ner

For some time I’ve been searching for an audio player that would suit me perfectly. What I needed was a clean GUI, Library, possibility of automatic Library cleanups (like automatic copying and renaming of files upon add), id3 tag editor and light and fast feel1. For past 3 years I’ve been using iTunes, since it’s the only application that can be used to manage music on my iPod2. I’ve grown pretty accustomed to it, but it felt kinda slow, and there were things that I didn’t like3. So I’ve begun searching for a replacement.

I’ve noticed while testing that some players sort library top level (Artists) by “Artist” instead of “Album Artist” tag. This led to unimaginable clutter of my music library, since I have many compilation and remix albums, where every track has a different artist. In iTunes those get sorted by “Album Artist” tag, which exist for a reason.

This made me curious. I’ve started to test different audio players to see how their handle this stuff with default settings. Using wikipedia and aptitude on ubuntu I’ve picked a list of media players, both for windows and linux and started testing. For this test I’ve choose 2 albums that are compilations of tracks done by different artists: one containing remixes and one OST.

Test environment:

The albums that I’ve choosen were: Appleseed soundtrack, and Celldwellers “Take it & break it vol. 1” remix album. In both cases pretty much every track on ablum was done by different artist (stored in “Artist” tag).

So, tl;dr: Players should group library by “Album Artist” and not by “Artist”. Let’s see which pass this test. Screenshots as proofs.

Tests:

players for Windows4:

  1. AIMP3 (screenshot)
    groups library by Album Artist. This is the expected behaviour. Can’t say much more about this player, since I’ve never used it before. Passed.
  2. aTunes (screenshot)
    Player written in Java. Strongly reminds my of Amarok 1.5. Groups library by Album Artist as you can see on the screenshot. Passed.
  3. iTunes (screnshot)
    Groups by Album Artist. Not much to test since this was the player I was comparing others to. Passed.
  4. Saw Player
    Our first fail. Allows grouping only by Artist (screenshot0) or by Album title (screenshot1). After playing with it for 5 minutes got labeled as “crapware”. Not even worth trying. Failed
  5. MediaMonkey (screenshot0)
    By default groups by Artist but allows to configure grouping (screenshot1). On defaults it’s a Fail but the configuration options make it a Pass. screenshot2)
  6. Songbird (screenshot0)
    Again: defaults to grouping by Artist and again give us option to change it in it’s configuration (screenshot1, screenshot2). Passed
  7. Nightingale (screenshot0)
    Since it’s a Songbird fork it behaves identically to it’s original. (screenshot1, screenshot2) Passed.

Players availble on Linux and Windows:

  1. Amarok 2.5 (screenshot0)
    Defaults to grouping by Artist but allows for configuration (screenshot1, screenshot2). Passed.
  2. Clementine (screenshot)
    Amarok 1.5 ported to qt4 and stripped off KDE integration. Works same as Amarok, defaulting to grouping by Artist, but allows configuration (screenshot1, screenshot2, screenshot3). Passed.

Players for Linux:

  1. Banshee (screenshot0)
    Defaults to grouping by Artist but allows configuration (screenshot1, screenshot2). Passed.
  2. Bluemindo
    Not starting for me on ubuntu VM, so ??
  3. cmus (screenshot).
    Nice player for CLI. Groups by Album Artist. Passed.
  4. Decibel Media Player (screenshot).
    Groups by Album Artist. Passed.
  5. Exaile (screenshot)
    groups by Artist and does not allow for any kind of configuration. Can show compilations as “Various Artist” field, but still Fail.
  6. gmusicbrowser (screenshot0)
    defaults to grouping by Artist but allows configuration (screenshot1, screenshot2). Passed.
  7. Goggles Music Manager (screenshot)
    Groups by Album Artist. Passed.
  8. Guaydeque Music Player (screenshot0)
    defaults to grouping by Artist but allows configuration (screenshot1, screenshot2). Passed.
  9. Jajuk (screenshot)
    groups by Artist and does not allow any kind of configuration. Failed.
  10. JuK (screenshot)
    In tree view mode groups tracks by Artist. No configuration options. Failed.
  11. Listen Music Player (screenshot)
    groups by Artist and does not allow any kind of configuration. Failed.
  12. Miro (screenshot)
    This one is particular. It does not group media in it’s library at all. Displays them as single files allowing only different sorting options. Failed.
  13. Musique (screenshot)
    I don’t know… Seems it groups by Artist tag and shows only the artists that it can find on last.fm. I’m at loss what to think about this one, but certainly it’s a Fail
  14. pytone
    Does not start. It has started once but was unresponsive. I couldn’t test it, but from what I’ve seen it defaults to grouping by Artist tag. Failed
  15. Quod Libet (screenshot)
    Groups by Artist and does not allow any kind of configuration. Failed.
  16. Rhythmbox (screenshot)
    groups by Artist and does not allow any kind of configuration. Failed.

XMMS2 Clients:

  1. Abraca
    Hard fail. It seems that is has some sort of library, but don’t use it. Failed.
  2. Esperanza (screenshot)
    groups by Artist and does not allow any kind of configuration. Failed.
  3. gxmms2
    Same as above. Failed.

Little note here: XMMS2 clients suck hard. They don’t work as they should IMHO.

MPD clients:

  1. Ario (screenshot0)
    Defaults to grouping by Artist but allows configuration (screenshot1, screenshot2). Passed.
  2. gimmix (screenshot)
    Groups library tracks by Album. Does not allow grouping by Artist. I can’t imagine finding anything in a bigger library like this. Failed.
  3. Gnome Music Player Client (screenshot)
    groups by Artist. Theoretically it hase option for configuring this in it’s Preferences, but it does not work. Button that should allow you to chhose what field you want to add to grouping options by default adds “artist” and refuses to add anything else. Broken. Failed.
  4. mpc (screenshot)
    groups library tracks by Album. Failed.
  5. ncmpc (screenshot)
    groups by Artist and does not allow any kind of configuration. Failed.
  6. ncmpcpp (screenshot0).
    Defaults to grouping by Artist but allows configuration (screenshot1, screenshot2). Personally I think it’s the best MPD client. Passed.
  7. pygmy (screenshot)
    groups library tracks by Album. Failed.
  8. QMPDClient (screenshot)
    groups by Artist and does not allow any kind of configuration. Failed.
  9. sonata (screenshot)
    groups library tracks by Album. Failed.
  10. xfmpc (screenshot)
    groups library tracks by Album. Failed.

Conclusion:

Not much to say here, the tests results are clear. 16 players from pool of 38 passed. The stuation on windows is good (7 of 8 passed) while on Linux not so (10 of 31 passes).

Personally I’ve decded to manually keep my Library sorted using Album Artist/Year - Album/Disk Number Track - Title.extension scheme. For my anime music collection I’ll use Anime'/Anime Title/Year - Album/Disk Number Track - Title.extension and for soundtracks Soundtrack/Year - Album/Disk Number Track - Title.extension scheme. It should keep my library clean and fast for browsing. And I won’t need to worry about the id3 tags correctness anymore5. As player I’ll use Mpxplay on windows (built in directory browsing rules!) and mocp or MPD+ncmpcpp6 on linux.

Footnotes:
  1. So nothing like hour-long waits because player is parsing library or no major hangups. Yes I’m looking at you Songbird.

  2. I know that there may be others. I think i’ve even tried some, but everything except iTunes suck in this.

  3. Don’t ask, I don’t remember atm.

  4. I know, windows is 3vil, but I can’t use linux on my laptop because of overheating problems.

  5. But probably I’ll still spend hours completing and correcting them

  6. Id3 tag correctness will be required.