Music, of all the media you can play on a computer, has arguably gone through the biggest transformation. From MP3s stored on a physical hard drive, to cloud storage of your own music and streaming of music from massive digital libraries, it has evolved a great deal in the space of a decade, but all stages continue to progress.
While iTunes might be the most well-known music player available for Windows and Mac, it’s by no means the only one. Given the appeal of customizing iTunes, it should come as no surprise that other players exist and use this type of flexibility as a major selling point. Winyl is one of these players, and the name relates perfectly to the evolution of music’s availability, going right back to the older vinyl records.
Winyl’s default interface is dark but inviting; many music players rely on lighter colors and the radical contrast sets Winyl apart very quickly. The skin can be changed, and in a relatively naughty act, there’s a skin labelled “iTunes” that strongly resembles Apple’s player circa iTunes 9, right down to the Mountain Lion-era buttons.
The left-hand sidebar contains numerous options which should prove familiar; “Artists”, “Genres” and “Radio” are all entries that should prove familiar, though there is also a file explorer for guiding Winyl to files you’d like to make it play. The functionality isn’t vital but exists for those who may desire it.
In all probability, the majority of use will be through the “Artists” tree, which expands to display all of the artists in the library. These artists can be expanded on an individual basis to see a list of all their albums, or the individual albums can be clicked to filter out any other entries. As a result, it’s easy to find one album in a prolific artist’s discography.
Should you wish to ignore the individual album lists found under the artists, it is also possible to simply scroll through all of the albums from the artist in question. Doing so will allow you to view all of their songs at once, while the search box quickly cuts through the library in order to find exactly what you’re looking for.
If Winyl makes one iTunes feature look sluggish, it’s the search. Rather than giving a long list of options, Winyl cuts down the visible options in the UI to match searches. Winyl’s developers have also seen fit to include support for the enhanced taskbar introduced with Windows 7. The preview features media playback buttons and album artwork as opposed to the more conventional program preview.
Winyl’s other panel of note can be toggled at will on the right-hand side, displaying lyrics. Lyrics are pulled from sources online, though it is done extremely quickly. The lyrics pane is also adapted to fit with the rest of the skins, should you change them.
While it should come as no surprise to find that Winyl is up to the task of playing MP3 files, it does have a number of tricks up its sleeve beyond an equaliser. For one, it has an ID3 tag editor built in: users of dedicated software like MP3Tag will likely not be blown away by its features, though it is more than enough for the average user.
Winyl also supports storing and reading lyrics directly from the MP3, rather than via online sources; selective users could ultimately find themselves with more accurate lyrics than the majority of Google searchers online.
Also incorporated into the skin design is a pop-up to inform users of the track when it changes; a neat feature, albeit not an entirely necessary one. This can be disabled in the settings, and should you choose to disable it, you will also discover the ace up Winyl’s sleeve: Last.fm integration.
Winyl supports Last.fm’s official client, which the company refers to as the “Scrobbler.” While most major music players support Last.fm as well, the support means that the barrier to change is removed. For those unaware of what Last.fm does, it records your listening history and recommends artists based upon your tastes. Thus, for passionate fans of music, it can be an excellent tool with which to further broaden their tastes.
There is little to dislike about Winyl: it provides a considerable amount of user customizability without the expense of overall usability. Those accustomed to extremely flexible programs like Foobar2000 will likely find Winyl a downgrade, but for those who have not used such extensible and modifiable music players – or who want an easier route to a more personalised piece of software, Winyl is a worthwhile prospect.
Development for it is ongoing, and its future appears promising; for anyone who may have lamented Songbird’s functional decline, this should be an encouraging sign of the future.