Tried and Tested: Top 5 Free Media Players for your PC
We want a full featured media player for our music listening and video watching enjoyment. Here are five which underwent my scrutiny, and they are all available for free.
No system is complete without this
These are applications you and I can't do without. They can play mp3s, downloaded videos, audio and video CD and DVD. In addition, they can record external media sources, rip audio CDs, organize your music library, find and play internet radios, and even serve as a platform station to stream music over the internet, making you an internet radio DJ.
A reliable multimedia player is a must for our audio-video enjoyment. Many media players are offered for free, though there are options to upgrade to "PRO" or paid versions. Here are the free ones which I have tried and tested, looking out mostly for versatility, functionality, easy to customize and user-friendly interface. The following are my top picks:
1. Winamp - Dubbed the "ultimate multi-media player" for a number of good reasons. It is one of the most popular and most feature-extensive media players. Some of the highlights of this player include a well laid-out interface, lots of customizable skins, tons of plug-ins and add-ons, compatibility with a wide range of audio and video formats, support for flash, built-in browser, support for cover art and meta-tagging, capability to search and play internet radios, and probably the best graphical sound visualization. That's just for the free version. For the past three years, Winamp has been the platform for my internet radio station JJeFM. With Shoutcast as my free netcast host together with a Winamp digital sound processing plug-in, I am able to stream jazz music (from my mp3 collection) over the internet. Yup, Winamp and Shoutcast enables me to become an internet radio DJ, allowing me to share the music I love with online listeners from all over the world. The Winamp site boasts a dedicated community of users and add-on developers, and its forum is quite informative and helpful. The latest version is Winamp 5.6 available for Windows-based PCs and Android devices.
2. VLC Media Player - Fanatics swear this is the best media player. I personally put it at par with Winamp. Don't be fooled by its plain looks and lightweight size. VLC will play just about any audio and video file format. A feature teaser on the VLC site says: "Plays everything: Files, Discs, Webcams, Devices and Streams". That's saying a lot for a portable program that also runs on all platforms/operating systems. It can even do media conversion and streaming. This is one powerhouse of a player! VLC's simple interface follows a modular framework. Its core module can launch one or many interfaces, or non at all. The latest version VLC 2.0.0 was released on February 18, 2012. No need to upgrade. Since its launch in 2009 after 13 years in development, VLC has been completely free.
3. AIMP - Aside from its sleek and professional-looking interface with command buttons well-placed for easy navigation, this player produces one of the best sounds. It uses 32-bit audio processing for clear, clean and crisp sound output. Tweak to your taste the 18-band graphics equalizer (with 10 built-in sound effects) and you get a satisfying sound experience. It supports 30 audio formats, can capture sound from your PC's audio device, and you can even add Input and DSP plug-ins from Winamp. Internet radio search and play is now a standard function on all popular media players, but AIMP ups the bar by adding a surprising feature - internet radio capture. Much like the analog cassette tapes we used way back then to record music on FM stations, AIMP has the ability to capture what's playing on internet radio and save them as OGG/WAV/MP3/AAC/AAC+ files on a designated folder. This is way cool! Current version is AIMP v3.00 released on December 20, 2011. No PRO version here, AIMP is totally free.
4. MediaMonkey - If other players only rip, this one can rip and burn! You can burn audio CDs using the integrated burner or burn data CD/DVD to back up movie and music collection. Aside from being an efficient music files manager, MediaMonkey can also record and convert, identify tracks, tag files, organize and rename files, create playlists, search and play internet radios, download audio content using the built-in Podcatcher, or download media files from any website. It can also sync with most audio/video device and even allow you to backup the content of iPhones and iPods and any other MP3 player. Latest version is Media Monkey 4.01 released on December 16, 2011. Also available is the Gold version.
5. MusicBee – What got me into trying this music manager and player was how fast it searched, organized and added to its library thousands of music files on my internal and external hard disks. It was powerful, speedy and potent in its task. I was impressed. Other features include the ability to tag, connect to the internet, synchronize and rip, customize the look and feel with an extensive array of skins, colors, lay-outs, panels and plug-ins. For efficient file organization, I would choose either MusicBee or MediaMonkey. Current version 1.4 was released this March 2012. MusicBee is freeware.
This list is far from comprehensive. There are many other free media players such as Foobar2000, Media Jukebox, Songbird, KM Player, GOM, BS, Quintessential and Media Player Classic. But I will reserve my reviews until such time I have actually tried them out. Meanwhile, pick out any or all of the above. They are freebies anyway. Not only will they provide you with a satisfying music-listening and video-watching experience, they’ll also tidy up that messy media collection of yours. Finally.