It seems Microsoft is bent on moving Windows away from a media provider. While the latest versions of the operating system – 8 and 8.1 – still contain Windows Media Player, the company has opted to make its Media Center package a paid option for Pro customers. And event though Windows Media Player is still available, it has never been an ideal solution, and iTunes has never seemed to get along too well with the Windows operating system.
For a fair number of people, consuming media on the computer is a primary function. So where should customers of the Microsoft operating system look for answers, for a solid app that couples capability with a tiny footprint? Here are three lightweight media players that you may wish to take a look at.
Simply because the app doesn’t bog down your computer doesn’t mean it won’t do anything. Foobar2000 has support for MP3, MP4, AAC, CD Audio, WMA, Vorbis, Opus, FLAC, WavPack, WAV, AIFF, Musepack, Speex, AU, SND and a few others.
It also features gapless playback, advanced tagging, support for ripping Audio CDs as well as transcoding all supported audio formats using the Converter component, customizable keyboard shortcuts and an open component architecture that allows third-party developers to extend the functionality of the player.
The user interface is customizable as well. Layout Editing Mode can be activated either by choosing its option in “Main Menu -> View -> Layout”, or by clicking the appropriate button on the toolbar (if enabled).
While it is not the most lightweight of these three apps, MusicBee features the most functionality, while still remaining quick to launch and keeps memory usage fairly low.
Features include the ability to add and edit tags, the ability to search for additional music information online, creation of playlists, CD ripping, music synchronization, customize features and add plugins (which may slow it down a bit) and a spectrum visualizer that lets you fine-tune the sound quality.
We have saved the lightest for last. MPC-HC is an open source music app and, its latest build has full support for Windows 8.1. The app is, like the previous two, customizable.
The process for opening files is a bit different – to open a file, you don’t get a standard browser window, but a list of recently opened files in drop-down format along with a Browse button that then offers an Explorer window. The app also opens with audio turned off, so you will need to click it on each time.
Media Player Classic, which is what MPC stands for, is capable of playing most major music codecs and is well documented and supported by the community. It has the added bonus of also being an excellent video player.
All three of the lightweight media players named here are very good choices and the decision will largely come down to personal taste. MusicBee is the most feature-rich of the three, while MPC-HC is the lightest. However, Foobar2000 is probably the most popular among Windows users and represents a nice compromise between the two ends.