The 8 best audio players tested

Of course, streaming music via Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music is popular, but still: you don't just throw your old MP3 music collection away. And if you do have that collection, you'd better listen to it every now and then. In this test we compare a few good audio players for Windows.

The reasons for using an audio player vary by user. You may have digitized some CDs in the past and saved them as uncompressed wav files and want to be able to play them in high quality. You may not always want to be connected to the Internet to listen to your music files. Or perhaps certain obscure albums cannot be listened to at all via the well-known streaming services. In short, there are plenty of reasons to use a traditional audio player.

Requirements and test criteria

What requirements should an audio player in 2019 actually meet? Of course, such a program must be able to play both uncompressed and compressed audio files. And preferably not only the well-known formats, but also the more exotic file formats that you may have on your hard drive. Of course you want to be able to add album art to your music – or better yet: the audio player must be able to add it itself based on information it gets from your files. It is useful if an audio player can import your old CDs and save them as digital files. Moreover, a modern audio player should also have some conversion options on board to be taken seriously. Collaboration with streaming services sounds good, but in most cases this is virtually impossible in practice: the content of services such as Spotify is protected and therefore cannot be played from another program. To test how the different programs handle a collection of music files, we first import a test library with different formats such as mp3, m4a, wav and aif. Also included are two flac files with different bitrates and sample rates. The test library has complete albums with metadata, as well as material where the metadata or album art has been deleted. We then test the audio player for operation and user-friendliness. Then we test the ability to convert files, add metadata or album art automatically and whether the program has, for example, a party or DJ mode to automatically play certain tracks based on criteria.

MusicBee

MusicBee first asks you in which language you want to operate the player and then offers to scan your hard drive for music files. Of course you can also just select a folder. The program imports all 159 files from the test library, including the two flac files. On the left you will immediately see the available album art displayed. The album art is missing from the A-ha album from our library; You can add this manually or let it be added automatically via the so-called auto-tag option. MusicBee makes it easy to add metadata, and the Sonic Me duplicate song that's in our library under a slightly different name isn't a problem for the program either. MusicBee is very complete in its operation and functions. So you can convert files from wav to mp3 or flac without any problems. The list of file formats that MusicBee supports is impressive: even ogg vorbis, aac and wma can be played without any problems. You can copy songs to playlists and with the AutoDJ option you have music all night long. A bonus: MusicBee can also be controlled with an Android smartphone. To do this, download MusicBee Remote from the Google Play Store.

MusicBee

Price

For free

Language

Dutch

OS

Windows 7/8/10

Website www.getmusicbee.com 9 Score 90

  • Pros
  • Support for many formats
  • Auto-tag option
  • Smart party mode
  • Controllable with app
  • Negatives
  • No

MediaMonkey

MediaMonkey is an old acquaintance. The program has been around since 2001 and is one of the better options, partly because it supports almost all formats. The interface is slightly less clear than that of the competition and it takes a while before you understand where everything is. After importing, only 151 of our 159 files appear to be in MediaMonkey. The two flac files are no problem, but eight other songs are not imported: the bug fix indicates that two files had an error reading in; for the remaining six files it is not clear why they were not imported. Competitor MusicBee simply plays these files. MediaMonkey has an equalizer on board so that you can, for example, increase the bass slightly. Like MusicBee, the program also has a party mode. The program has a lot of features and can convert in all kinds of exotic formats. By the way, ripping a CD in high quality is only possible with the Gold version for $ 24.95. Also the automatic finding of album art is only available for paying users.

MediaMonkey

Price

Free ($24.95 for the Gold version)

Language

Dutch

OS

Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, Linux

Website

www.mediamonkey.com 6 Score 60

  • Pros
  • Support for many formats
  • Lots of features
  • Negatives
  • Not all files imported
  • Interface somewhat unclear
  • Gold version quite pricey

AIMP

AIMP looks neat and also imports the entire 159 titles from the library, including the flac and m4a files. You can choose how the library is displayed and files can be converted in a variety of formats. Labeling songs is possible via the context menu. You can also add songs to playlists and rip CDs in AIMP, but the program doesn't have a party mode like MusicBee and MediaMonkey. Of course you can have songs played in shuffle mode. AIMP also cannot recognize and possibly delete duplicate files. In general, AIMP is a bit more sparse than MusicBee, but the most important functions are all in this player. It also has another great advantage: you can install dozens of add-ons within the program. You can find an overview of all add-ons on the AIMP website. An Android version of the program is also available.

AIMP

Price

For free

Language

Dutch

OS

Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, Android

Website

www.aimp.ru 8 Score 80

  • Pros
  • Support for many formats
  • Many add-ons available
  • Clear
  • Android version available
  • Negatives
  • Cheaper than other programs

iTunes

On the Mac, iTunes is the most logical option, but the program is also available for Windows users. When importing, most tracks from the library come through well; however, the flac files are not read by iTunes. The two files that MediaMonkey couldn't load and gave an error message are not even added to the program in iTunes. The duplicate track in our library is easily exposed by iTunes, because the program displays the metadata as the track name instead of the file name. Conveniently, iTunes provides a lot of information when displaying duplicates. This way you can see how long a song lasts and you can play it quickly. This way you can be sure that you are removing the correct number. iTunes is also very well organized, can automatically download album art if you are logged in with your Apple ID and can convert music to mp3, aac or Apple Lossless. You can also choose a different equalizer setting for each song or album, exclude files from shuffle mode or specify a start and stop position.

iTunes

Price

For free

Language

Dutch

OS

Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, macOS, iOS

Website

www.apple.nl 8 Score 80

  • Pros
  • Clear
  • Strong in organizing
  • Many options per song
  • Negatives
  • Can't handle all formats

Foobar2000

When you open Foobar2000, you immediately choose how it should display your library. Click on one of the options on the left and in the background you can see what this will look like. If you want a different color, choose the one on the right. What is immediately noticeable is that Foobar2000 offers various visualization options, such as a VU meter, a spectrogram or an equalizer. Handy for the audiophiles among us. Strangely enough, when importing, Foobar2000 has problems with a few normal 16bit wav files; the flac and aif files are no problem. The display is very minimalistic and for some it may lack the eye candy of, for example, MusicBee or iTunes, but like its predecessors, the program can do a lot, including rip files from CDs and put songs into playlists. Our duplicate entry in the library does not recognize Foobar2000 and the program does not provide an option to listen to Internet radio easily.

Foobar2000

Price

For free

Language

English

OS

Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, macOS, iOS, Android

Website

www.foobar2000.org 6 Score 60

  • Pros
  • flac support
  • Minimalistic
  • Many visualization options
  • Negatives
  • Fewer features than competition
  • Indicates error on some wav files
  • Recognizes duplicates less well

VLC Media Player

A media player in this audio player test? You probably know that VLC Media Player is very suitable for playing all your video files, but the program is also useful as an audio player. You have to switch to playlist mode for a while to use VLC as a traditional audio player. When importing, VLC proves itself to be an all-rounder: where other programs struggle with some files, VLC Media Player just plays everything. VLC's display options aren't as extensive as the competition: your songs are sorted in a way that reminds you of Windows Explorer. VLC does have other smart features. You can easily play internet radio stations, you have a lot of conversion options at your disposal and the program is available for all kinds of platforms.

VLC Media Player

Price

For free

Language

Dutch

OS

Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android

Website

www.videolan.org 8 Score 80

  • Pros
  • Support for many formats
  • Available for all platforms
  • Good internet radio options
  • Negatives
  • View options

Windows Media Player

Of course, Windows Media Player should not be missing in this test: the program is part of Windows 10. As with Foobar2000, a number of files are not imported; however, the flac files can be found. Windows Media Player is also the only audio player that immediately assigns all album art to the correct albums. By default, the player also displays any other audio files it finds on your hard drive, so you may find some duplicates in your list. You do have to go through your collection manually though: Windows Media Player does not automatically recognize duplicates. You can easily create playlists and have Windows Media Player complete information about albums and songs automatically. Metadata can also be added, but this option is a bit hidden and not as extensive as with MusicBee or iTunes, for example.

Windows Media Player

Price

For free

Language

Dutch

OS

Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10

Website

www.microsoft.nl 7 Score 70

  • Pros
  • flac support
  • Automatically finds album art
  • Negatives
  • Not as extensive as competition
  • Some features hidden

Winamp

Winamp is one of the oldest audio players: the program has been around since 1997. A few years ago it was bought by Radionomy and since then it has been quiet for a long time. Until a beta version suddenly appeared in October of last year. We will therefore release our test on this version 5.8. First you choose a skin and then you add files to the program. What is immediately noticeable is that the graphical user interface (gui) does not adapt all parts well to your screen size. This can be solved by changing a setting in the menu, but then the menu texts become grainy. The program will import all files. It can also open a lot of exotic file formats, such as ogg vorbis and various tracker extensions. The makers indicate that a completely new version 6 should be released this year. Until then, we recommend that you use one of the alternatives.

Winamp

Price

For free

Language

English

OS

Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10

Website

www.winamp.com 6 Score 60

  • Pros
  • Instant retro feel with classic skin
  • Playback functions stable
  • Negatives
  • Display not quite ok
  • Now only in beta phase

Conclusion

We have not dealt with really bad audio players in this test and in terms of functionality most programs are close to each other. To make a choice, it is good to ask yourself which functions are really necessary for you to manage your music library. Do you need full support of all formats? Then iTunes is not a good idea, for example. If you want to change a lot of metadata and be able to change settings per track, iTunes is the best option. Do you want a program to automatically search for album art or easily remove duplicates? Then it is better to use MusicBee or Windows Media Player than AIMP. In general, MusicBee scores well on all fronts: it looks sleek and has a lot of options. That's why MusicBee is our pick for the best audio player right now. Winamp now gets 3 stars because of the graphical problems, but we are eagerly waiting for version 6.

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