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Linux audio player comparison (nit-picking)

Given my inability to use Amarok 1.4 and my lack of desire to use Amarok 2.0, I tried loads of music players and for now I've landed on aTunes.

It's not perfect. It's far from perfect. But it's the best of the bunch. These are the features I MUST HAVE for a media player and which aTunes possesses.

  1. integration. aTunes has probably the best integration I've seen in a player, without going over-the-top and stuffing a whole web browser into the app.
  2. System tray icon, right-clickable with song controls in the menu.
  3. Commandline interface.
  4. Able to display CJK fonts. In Arch (or in Gentoo using the icedtea6-bin VM) CJK fonts are displayed as empty boxes, but in Gentoo using Sun JVM, it works fine.
  5. Tag editing. aTunes has a pretty nice tag editor for single songs or multiple at once.
  6. Amarok-like tree of albums/artists/genres/whatever I want. I want a single expandable and collapsable tree-list, not 3 panes I have to click between.
  7. Equalizer.
  8. Skins are nice; aTunes has these.
  9. "Collection" support and folder-watching/auto-updating when I dump music into ~/music. aTunes does this very well. Scanned a few thousand files fairly quickly, and does updates very fast.
  10. Amarok-1.4-like spreadsheetish playlist layout.
  11. Lightweight build process. No gstreamer. aTunes provides Mplayer and Xine backends and has few to no other dependencies (besides Java). The Mplayer backend didn't work out very well for me, but Xine works beautifully.

It also has some other nice bonuses, like the elegant way it uses the Album Artist tag for albums with multiple artists, the interesting statistics and bar graphs it can produce from your song listening history, playlist tabs, and so on.

Things I dislike about aTunes... well it's a Java app, so it takes a decade to start up. It also has horrid fonts and the widgets are clunky. But it's responsive once it's running, and I don't care how it looks as much as how sane the layout is. Searching is also clunky. But these aren't show-stoppers.

Here's a list of other players I tried, and why I didn't use them.

Amarok 1.4

  • I'd use this if I could. :( It compiles and runs on my Gentoo box but too much stuff is broken due to bit-rot.

Amarok 2


  • It wanted to pull in about a billion and a half Gnome dependencies. This is not fun for a KDE user.


So close. This is probably second place behind aTunes. It has a great plugin system, it's skinnable, the layout is extremely functional and compact and easy to use and customizable. But...

  • No system tray icon in Linux! This is a show-stopper. There's alltray but it doesn't let me right-click and have song controls.
  • It has a clumsy commandline interface which makes setting global KDE keyboard shortcuts annoying.
  • Bloat. Do you really need a full-fledged web browser in your media player?
  • XUL, ew.


This is very customizable (almost absurdly so) and looks promising. However...

  • Still a bit beta-quality.
  • Crashed on me a couple times in the short time I used it.
  • Interface has a kitchen-sink feel to it. Too many tabs and widgets all over the place. I couldn't find a layout I liked.
  • Looks pretty good, but no real compelling reason to use this.
  • Written in Perl?


  • Alpha-quality PyQt4 clone of Amarok 1.4. Looks promising. I will keep an eye on this.


Last time I tried MPD was years ago. If aTunes doesn't work out, I'll try this next. But aTunes has kept me going for a week now, and I have very few complaints.

If they do a complete rewrite for aTunes 2.0 and destroy the interface, I'll jump off a bridge.

This post is related to Amarok 2.2: DISBER GROGTH GROCKS
November 12, 2009 @ 2:18 PM PST
Cateogory: Linux


Quoth gregf on November 13, 2009 @ 12:07 AM PST

Using MPD with gmpc and a few of gmpc's plugins you'll get everything you wanted minus the skins. And of course theres a good number of other clients gui and cli. Great roundup regardless.

Quoth Jason on November 13, 2009 @ 12:30 AM PST

I suppose I'm kind of strange, but there's pretty much only one feature in a music player that I even care about: It must support automatically rating tracks based on my listening habits (e.g. how long I play a given track, whether or not I tend to skip it, and so on).

Up until recently, I'd been using IMMS attached to Audacious, but the plugin no longer compiles with the newest version of Audacious (or perhaps some other library that changed). It's a shame this project seems mostly dead at this point. Its well-written plugins are for XMMS and deriviatives (BMP, Audacious), and the Quod Libet plugin seems sketchy to me.

At some point, I used Amarok 1.4, and Banshee recently cloned Amarok's version of the auto-rating thing, so for now, I'm using Banshee.

Quoth Brian on November 13, 2009 @ 8:14 AM PST

@Jason that's actually another feature I like too, yeah. Except I always like to skip the last 5 seconds of silence in my songs, so the app always thinks I hate all the songs I listen to a lot.

Quoth foo on November 13, 2009 @ 1:21 PM PST

I've found MPD + QMPDClient to be a pretty good combo. You should give it a shot.

Quoth fdafdsafs on November 15, 2009 @ 9:07 AM PST

You might want to give Exaile a try:

Here's a good review (though bear in mind it was written 2.5 years ago, so Exaile's improved):