Tuesday, March 3, 2009

First Post!

Original huh? Have to start some way I guess! 

I have spent some time lately exploring different music players. This started due to this article at ars about 'muffin'. Muffin uses some music ID algorithm and based on several factors recommends similar tracks. Sounded like pretty neat technology, so figured I would give it a shot.

I have a collection of roughly 9000 FLAC files, all ripped from my CD collection, so I figured that would be a good starting point for it. The collection is pretty mixed, although it has a fair amount of dance music, and also a fair amount of metal... and a bunch of stuff in between. The music recommendation was hugely hit and miss. For more poppy mainstream tunes, it seemed to work pretty well, for songs that are pretty consistent in style all the way through, it worked okay. However, for DJ mixes it was terrible. For anything experimental, or not easily defined, it was hilariously bad. Sure, figuring out what is similar to Stolen Babies or Unexpect or even Mr Bungle is not going to be easy.

Anyway, this got me to thinking that its a really neat idea (however badly implemented currently), and has promise. But... muffin player is buggy. I sent them a nice long email with a bunch of bugs.... and this got me looking for other music players. However, each and every one I tried was lagging features somewhere!

Here is a quick list:
  • Muffin: No album cover art, playback stutters, laggy
  • Songbird: Its big and slow... and uses a tonne of memory. Multi-media keys on my keyboard do not work with it. No album random, no cddb, meta data editing is primitive
  • QMP: No gapless playback!
  • Foobar2000... what I use, and have used for a long time: No album random. Thats about it really.
There are other players such as WinAmp that I have tried previously and ditched for various reasons that I don't recall now. My list of requirements doesn't seem extreme (to me!):
  1. Good quality playback. This is very important, stuttering because I read a file on the same disk as the audio should never happen. Ideally ASIO or Kernel Streaming support. 
  2. Fast response. If I click next track, do it immediately, not in 2 seconds. Ditto with skipping to a section of a song.
  3. Low memory footprint. Really, all you should be doing is playing music and presenting some information about it. Using flash (I'm looking at you muffin) is not helping here. Using something like SQLite as a back end is a great idea. Small and fast. (QMP does this).
  4. Use my multimedia keyboard... the audio buttons are the only thing I find useful on it, especially if I am playing a game or something.
  5. Show me cover art. I went through the pain of finding and downloading it.
  6. Album Random!
Ok so 5 and 6 are not that important, but are nice to have. Foobar actually fits 5/6 of the above, which is why I keep using it. But I would like album random (random selection per album, not per track.... random is really crappy with live mixes).

Note that plugins are not important to me, assuming that the main player does what I need. Oh, I nearly forgot:

   7.  FLAC support!

In case its not obvious, I am talking about windows here. I just use iTunes on my mac -- it has its deficiencies but works nicely with my ipod/iPhone.... and I tend not to listen to music there anyway.... and I haven't booted into Linux for a very long time. 

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