12.04 Music Player Review – My top choices

I fortunately don’t have enough time to properly finish my review of the other music players out there (I may elaborate about why in a different post).   So this post will be more of a brain dump about the remaining music players.  You’ll have to go to their websites for pretty screenshots.

Audacious – rocking originality

I could keep using Audacious, in fact, I stopped reviewing for a bit and just kept using it.  It actually has two interfaces, a more traditional (or more modern?) windowed interface and the Winamp like interface (you can just use one).  It is the most minimalistic in some ways, while at the same time is still quite configurable, with just enough graphics touches to not be dull.

It uses the least memory, and it was in the good tier of CPU usage as well.  In fact, the one area that it didn’t score great on so far was power usage.  The developer contacted me about this and is looking into it.  It’s the default music player on Lubuntu (generally considered the lightest Ubuntu derivative) and it is what I would pick given Lubuntu’s requirements.

While it has many plugins to extend it, the plugin interface could use some redesigning with regard to what is presented to the user (at least).   It shows the path of the plugins instead of a description by default, which doesn’t make much sense to me.    It’s best used by people who like managing their music via playlists, but it does have library functionality.

Audacious Website       Get it for Ubuntu

Clementine – Rediscover your music

It is one of the best players for learning more about the artist you are listening to.  Of course the usual artist info and lyrics, but also song information from last.fm and more.

Amazing depth of options when it comes to playing music from online sources.   A bunch of preloaded stations.

It is one of the best music players available and (in true KDE style) is insanely feature-full.  I would actually turn off features before using it, sometimes they can clutter the interface.  The search feature absolutely rocks.

Clementine Website    Get Clementine for Ubuntu

gmusicbrowser – ultimate shape-shifter

Has many, many, many different layout options, I think it has the most of any player I’m going to review.  You can customize it to look like you want it to.   It has many options for sound output, including streaming.    It also has a “Reorganize files and folders button” which I did NOT try, but I know some people want this feature.

It is designed to handle big libraries and it shows.  Again, it has a great search experience.   It can load from multiple folders into one library.

It has all the features you would expect, with one exception – not all of the layouts have volume control, which actually makes a little bit of sense for some of them.

Oh right, and it has this warning on the website;
warning : I use my own mp3/ogg/flac/mpc/ape tag library for reading/writing tags … use at your own risk.

gmusicbrowser website      Get gmusicbrowser for Ubuntu

Guayadeque  – interesting

The “random” play is an automatically generated playlist.   So you can skip through the upcoming random songs if you want.    It also has the ability to blacklist songs from being played.

It has good radio and other online music support.   It also has fade in and out of songs.  Fully configurable, the default is a bit odd for most tastes.

I just don’t like the icons they use, which is my oddest complaint ever.   Sorry.

I also had some crashes with it and it scored quite badly on powertop.

The website is a bit odd as well, but it does have screenshots.   This doesn’t make my cut of players to recommend trying, but take a look at the screenshots to see if you might find it to be worth trying.

Guayadeque Website             Get Guayadeque for Ubuntu

Musique – modern minimalism

It just works, as is, and you have pretty much no options.   The benefit of that is it looks really good.

One annoyance is that it informs you when an update is available instead of updating through Ubuntu’s mechanisms (I installed it from Ubuntu’s packages).

Musique website         Get Musique on Ubuntu

Quod Libet – “What Pleases”

A great music player that won one of my previous music player reviews.   It offers many different views that make it quite powerful.  It really hasn’t changed much since then, it’s still a great player.

Although, gmusicbrowser now has more layouts than Quod Libet.  They are definitely competing with each other.   Quod Libet is also designed for big libraries and has good support for tagging music.

Quod Libet Website            Get Quod Libet for Ubuntu

Rhythmbox – The Default

It’s the default for a reason.  It just works.  In fact, my wife uses my machine with Rhythmbox to manage her music on her iPod because it works quite well (and Apple iTunes is a hilariously buggy and bloated).

If you haven’t tried Rhythmbox (maybe not using stock Ubuntu), then it definitely is worth a try.

Rhythmbox Website             Get Rhythmbox for Ubuntu


Linux has a lot of great music players available.
So what should you try if you are looking for a new music player?    The defaults are always good choices: Rhythmbox, gmusicbrowser, and audacious.   Clementine and Quod Libet are my other go to music players.  Musique was the most interesting newcomer to me.

Initial 12.04 post    Memory Usage     Power Usage       CPU Usage

But I’m stuck on Windows…

Well then install Ubuntu!  Or…  Clementine, Quod Libet, Audacious, and Musique (paid on Windows) all have Windows versions, which are great for transitioning someone from Windows to Linux.  Transition their programs on Windows first so that when they make the switch they have some familiar programs to use.

So what reviews are next?

I feel like my reviewing of programs in this way is getting a bit outdated, seeing that the Ubuntu Software Center gets you reviews in a much easier format.   I prefer doing powertop/memory/performance reviews more anyway…  so next time (Ubuntu 14.04 era), I’ll do the top players and look at just those metrics instead.

Again, sorry for the brain dump nature of this post.  I hope it was useful and didn’t have many errors. Please comment and add corrections below.

Database Compression Options – Compared

This is the best way I found to visualize this data.  Each compression method (bzip2, gzip, etc) starts at 0 or 1 (least compression on the left) and goes up to 9 (most compression on the right).   Except for xz -e which just does the odd numbers and 0. They are all compressing the same size file (it was a 32 GB database).

I think this graph nicely shows why xz (which is the same compression as LZMA2/7-zip) is getting so much traction.

Take a look at the raw data.
Technical notes: I actually divided filesize (from ls) by 10000000 because it worked out better for the graph. I truncated the seconds.

12.04 Music Player Faceoff – Banshee vs Rhythmbox


Banshee – It was the default on Ubuntu for a bit. (Eventually they went back to Rhythmbox).  Reasons to try it include it are it manages videos too, including syncing movies to other devices.
Rhythmbox – It’s the default on Ubuntu.  It’s a solid well-built music player.  It’s very clean for packing in so many features.
My Recommendation: Stick with Rhythmbox unless you want the video management.  This post is just a Banshee overview.

The Online Media seems like it just opens the websites in it’s internal browser and provides some integration to connect to it.   It does make it easy to discover a podcast, but Radio presets are not auto-filled.   For actual music management it seems quite similar to Rhythmbox except that it shows album art by default.   There are many plugins available for both to extend what they can do.

I’ve run into a number of bugs while using Banshee, I can’t exit the program on my desktop.  I guess it’s designed to integrate with Ubuntu’s indicator applet and minimize to it by default?   It also did crash in my testing.  I think it is related to the fact it needs a full browser for the Online Content.

Banshee’s underlying technology has been somewhat controversial in the open source world.  It’s uses Mono which is an implementation of Microsoft’s .NET/C#.   I considered it a bad idea because we have so many great programming languages that are community driven.  Why do want to accept Microsoft as a though leader?   One of the other big reasons was that it wasn’t as efficient memory wise.  Banshee back in the day was certainly guilty of this.   But this recent release shows that they can make a mono based memory efficient music player program

12.04 Music Player Faceoff – Clementine vs Amarok

Summary:  Amarok I would only recommend Amarok to KDE users, only.  On KDE, Amarok starts up nice and fast and certainly fits best with the KDE experience.  It’s quite customizable and easy to use.  Amarok is an entirely different experience on non-KDE desktops (really slow startup, huge memory usage, high cpu usage).

Clementine is faster and lightener, and has a lot of the same features, it moves on to the next round!  Clementine will be reviewed in more detail in a future post.

Amarok Playing
As you can see below, the default Amarok playing screen makes it very easy to get more information about your music.  The default install starts off by showing you the Lyrics (which automatically scroll).  There are also easy buttons to access guitar tabs, wikipedia information, upcoming artist events and a MP3 store.  They certainly stand by their moto of “Rediscover your music”

Streaming Options:

Amarok is an incredibly powerful music player with a ton of options to customize it.  Unfortunately in my testing it was quite buggy on my machine.  I tested it with 2 Ubuntu 12.04 livecds.  It started up amazingly fast on the KDE one and everything just worked.   On the other, it started MUCH slower.

12.04 Music Player Review – CPU Usage

Similar to my previous year’s post on CPU performance, here is 2012’s version.

The task: Playing 2:44 seconds of an mp3, then switching to another one
Tested with: MONITOR=cpu.usage,cpu.freq phoronix-test-suite benchmark idle, which monitors cpu usage and frequency.   Also important to note is that I set maxcpus=1 for my quad-core machine.

First up, which programs needed more than the default 800 Mhz?  This graph shows the average over the 3 minute time frame.

I believe guayadeque made it to this list because of mouse movements on my part, misclicking to play the second song.  Amarok and banshee have no such excuse.

CPU Performance – CandleStick

This is one of the charts I love to show this information the line up and down goes from the minimum amount of cpu used to the maximum.  And the line going to the right from the vertical line indicates the average CPU used.

Overall, Amarok is the only clear loser and for the first “VS” match we will be looking at Amarok vs Clementine.  If you’d like some more charts and raw data, click on.

Continue reading 12.04 Music Player Review – CPU Usage