There are a wide variety of free music players out there for Linux. Some of the most popular ones for Ubuntu Gutsy are Rhythmbox Music Player, Amarok, Banshee Music Player, and Exaile Music Player. All of these players are in Add/Remove (Applications -> Add/Remove…) and are ranked very high. We will also review Songbird; to install go to their website and extract files, then click on the songbird executable. If that does not work you can always try the Ubuntu community way, however, it is a little outdated.
Rhythmbox is already installed on Ubuntu Gutsy 7.10 so it is no wonder that it is on the top of the list for music players in Add/Remove…. It has a simplistic way of organizing your music; it has three categories that reflect each other – artists, album, and track. Rhythmbox has four radio stations preset when you install it. You can add more station easily but most other music players have an extensive amount of stations or has the option of getting stations from SHOUTcast or another type of software. The podcast section in Rhythmbox is very easy to use. It is very easy to download and update all feeds but it lacks options like ‘Download current’, ‘Only keep the 5 most latest’, as seen in the ever popular iTunes. Sadly, Rythmbox can only handle audio podcasts so you can not view some of the most popular podcasts such as Ask a Ninja which are only available in video format. Rhythmbox also has a pretty big list of plugins. Without most of the plugins, Rhytmbox would not be able to compete against most of the other music players. There are two store options in Rhythmbox plugins – Magnatune and Jamendo. Magnatune is great because CDs start at $5 and 50% of the price goes directly to the artist! You can either download the files or buy a physical CD. The only bad thing about Magnatune is that it has less than 300 artists and 9,000 songs, but they give you a free song everyday. Jamendo is where artists allow everyone to download and share their music. It’s free, legal and unlimited. They have about 6,500 artists and 60,000 albums. Both music services allow you to preview the song before you buy/download. Rhtymbox’s notification blends in with your system theme quite nicely but does not pop up when a song changes etc;. Also, you can not close Rhytmbox and have the music still playing in your system tray like most of it’s competitors.
Overall Rhytmbox has a clean feel. It is made for those wanting organized music.
Amarok is built for KDE but it still works on Gnome machines (sorta). While updating my music, I encountered a fatal error; apparently Amarok cannot handle .wav files? It also can not handle video files for podcasts. It will play the audio from the video so it is not a total let down. There are a billion things you can configure in Amarok; shortcut keys, appearance and color (green in screenshots), toolbar, and even the engine it uses. Another cool thing Amarok gives you is information on what you are playing in the sidebar. Amarok is connected to Magnatune so you can buy music (for more on that read above). It also has an extensive radio list and easy to use album art manager. It’s notify feature is extremely nice as it is in the system tray. When you quit if fades the song, too.
Amarok is a great music player, but it is better suited for KDE. It is extremely customizable.
Banshee has the best options for podcasts but not the best support; it doesn’t play video. One great feature I like is what it does with Last.fm – it recommends what artists you will like depending on what you listen too. Banshee has a slim list (22) of radio stations though. It does have CD options so you do not have to use Sound Juicer CD extractor. Banshee can also be run in the system tray and it looks good while doing it.
Sadly, Banshee does not have many features, but when they do incorporate a feature it is done right.
Exaile is based on Amarok but built in/for GTK+ (Gnome). I personally do not like how it organizes files, but I am sure it is easy to get used too. It puts the play/pause items at the bottom like Amarok. Exaile has AWN support via plugin; Exaile has a butt-load of plugins with a total of 24+. It has video podcast support too, but it does not show the entire feed, just the latest ten. Exaile is very big on playlists; something that is different than all of the other players and can be difficult to get used to. The tabs add up very quickly. On the plus side, you can change multiple tracks information. On my computer, Exaile crashed multiple times, but you might have better luck than I. It also appears as if Exaile can not be closed to the system tray; it has a mini-mode plugin though. There is no store in Exaile but it does connect to Shoutcast radio or any other radio streams. If you can get used to the different way of organization Exaile is simple and a great player.
Songbird is more than just a beautiful music player; it has the backbone of a Firefox. This means you can play video (youtube) and audio files on the web in Songbird. Songbird is podcast ready which includes video support (File -> New Subscription…). It however boshes the names pretty bad (it takes the exact file name). It also puts all of your podcasts into your library. Some may like this feature, but when I put my music on shuffle it also plays the videos. It doesn’t have podcast options either. Songbird does not have an official store, but it does have access to the web so it is not that big of a deal (Amazon store). This is yet another player in which all of the plugins (or at least most of them) should be downloaded. If you do not like the dark theme you can download a lighter theme; or you can create your own. There is an Ubuntu theme but I don’t like it. Songbird does not have a radio section but since it has the internet built in it doesn’t matter. Songbird cannot be closed to the system tray but it has a mini player and song notification plugin. The next version of Songbird should be very good and actually feel completely right out of the box, and I hope it will be in Add/Remove… for Hardy. Songbird is a beautiful media player with access to the web; with the web it can do anything.
Out of all these music players I like Songbird and Exaile the best. This is because I am very into video podcasts but since this is a review of MUSIC players, I would think most people would like Banshee or Rhythmbox. If you are using KDE, Amarok is the best bet for you. If you haven’t tried KDE, I suggest you do; it is free just like Gnome and is available in Kubuntu.
If the sound is not playing for any of these players go to System -> Sound -> Device Tab -> Sound Events -> Sound Playback -> Autodetect.