This is a guest post by James Adams
The world has no shortage of media players, and most of them are free. If you just started out listening to music and are looking for some guide to help you filter out all the noises. We have got you covered. To figure out what combination of tools best suit your media needs, check out a few of these great free media players.
The king of free and open source video applications, VLC is a bulletproof media player with a long history of frequent and thorough codec updates, and a list of features long enough to be its own article. For movies and other video clips, this is the one to get.
While iTunes is the world’s most popular music software, it comes with a long list of features that make it one of the biggest, slowest, most nagging applications you can have on your desktop. For those craving a slim, snappy, highly customizable audio tool that plays music without constantly begging for updates, foobar2000 is the perfect place to start.
On oldie but a goodie! Winamp is one of the oldest names in music playback, and have always been a top choice for highly customizable looks. Due to their long history, Winamp has attracted a huge developer community focused on creating plug-ins to enhance your media playback and tweak your interface.
4. Real Player
Real Media used to have a bad reputation for being bloated and full of privacy and security concerns. Today, it’s a highly versatile media platform with heavy integration in to today’s most popular web applications. It features cross-platform support and Flash support, as well offering a small array of editing tools for when you need to make small modifications to your audio and video without searching for specialized tools.
Originally an application for turning the XBox into a streaming media center, XBMC has become one of the most popular tools for making your media available throughout your home network. Its easy setup has enabled thousands of people to set up simple systems for playing all their video and audio from a single centralized server across several PCs and other media devices. It also serves as the foundation for other popular media-streaming tools like Boxee and Plex, so if you like the idea of XBMC but want a new interface beyond what its robust skinning tool provides, you can investigate its derivative products.
Amarok is the gold standard in mp3 playback applications for Linux. The Linux community has had an awkward relationship with mp3 playback since the world’s most popular music format is not free and open source, so developers have been hesitant to create tools for playing music. Amarok has done admirable job of bringing the popular format to Linux, and making it look good and work simply. It’s available for Mac OS X and Windows as well, so you can keep your playback experience consistent across platforms.
If you run Windows, you automatically have Windows Media Player. Gone are the days when it was always missing the codecs you needed and its interface was slow and difficult. The lastest versions of Windows Media Player have learned a great deal from the competition, and it is now a seamless one-stop application for video, audio, and streaming media playback. It’s faster than ever before, and features a very slick, attractive interface that simplifies your total media management.
Editor’s addition: Songbird
This one is my (the editor) personal favorite and I think most people will swear by it too. Based on the Mozilla code, it is a media player, as well as a browser, and it comes with plenty of extensions/themes that you can install to extend its functionality.
The best of all, it syncs your iPod so you can make do without the bulky iTunes.
These are the top media applications available. While there are dozens more, these are the standards by which all other media players are measured.
Which is your favorite media player?
Image credit: Dalla*