There are plenty of great music players for Windows out there, and it’s nearly impossible to make a general “best” statement that applies to everyone. But that doesn’t stop the powerful, lightweight, and customizable MusicBee to win our hearts for the best music player on Windows.
Our old favorite, Winamp, closed– but that’s not why we changed our minds on this one. “Dead” apps are still worth using if they’re the best– we have just decided, after much testing and deliberation, that Winamp is no longer the best music player in our minds. You will always find Winamp in the competition section at the bottom, as well as in our list of five best desktop music players.
Also note that while MusicBee replaces “best music player” for this app directory, we know that many of you are fiercely loyal to your favorite music player, and for good reason – there are plenty of fantastic drives for Windows. This is a category of apps very much subject to personal tastes and needs, and we understand that. Check out the Competition section below for more information on some of our other favorites.
Platform: the Windows
- Handles all your media and supports a number of formats including MP3, AAC, M4A, MPC, OGG, FLAC, APE, Opus, TAK, WV, WMA and WAV.
- Create and manage “smart” playlists and playlists that update based on custom filters
- Queue songs in a “Now Playing” pane for on-the-fly playlist creation.
- Monitor folders on your hard drive for changes and automatically adjust your library accordingly
- Import libraries from iTunes and Windows Media Player
- Sync Android phones, USB drives, select iPods and many other portable music devices with your library
- Convert files on the fly while you sync them to your devices
- Automatically tag your music using the music databases of your choice
- Keep your files automatically organized in a tag-based folder
- Customize a number of different hotkeys
- Subscribe, download and listen to podcasts, either by searching MusicBee’s podcast directory or by adding streams yourself
- Use advanced audio features like 10-band EQ, crossfade, WASAPI and ASIO playback, and more.
- Customize your player with skins, different layouts and views, and three different players including a mini player and a compact player
- A plugin architecture that allows you to add many features to the player, like additional supported formats, skins, library organization tools and other features (Winamp plugins supported)
- A built-in browser that lets you browse just about anything in the player (useful for browsing plugins, skins, etc.)
where it excels
MusicBee hits the sweet spot between easy to use, customizable, powerful and lightweight. iTunes converts will have no problem getting to know the interface, but will also be able to easily add and move panes for things like lyrics, now playing, artist info and more without the pain of anything like foobar2000. You can sync with a number of devices (though iOS sync is very limited), auto-tag your files, customize a ton of keyboard shortcuts, and perform a ton of other advanced features — or if you prefer, you can just play your music through a simple and beautiful player. And best of all, it’s totally free.
MusicBee has only one active developer working in his spare time, but he is also updated quite often, a a great wikiand one useful forum where the developer is very active.
Where it falls short
As a jack-of-all-trades, there are always other players who will be masters of it, and that’s the case with MusicBee. It’s very customizable, but not as incredibly customizable as foobar2000. It has useful advanced tagging and syncing features, but doesn’t quite match the power of MediaMonkey. If you need to sync many iOS devices, MusicBee will prove problematic (which is more Apple’s fault than MusicBee’s), and you might be stuck with iTunes, MediaMonkey (which can sync more iOS devices ) or a third-party program like Copy TransManager just for synchronization.
MusicBee also has a few other minor annoyances. For example, MP3 and AAC encoders must be installed separately for licensing reasons, but anyone advanced enough to require the conversion features should have no problem installing these separate programs.
As we mentioned up top, your choice of music player is personal, and what we consider “best” isn’t really best for everyone – it just can’t be. Our goal with the App Directory is to choose the best app for the majority of people, especially those unfamiliar with the apps available. If you’ve tried MusicBee and don’t like it, here are some other great options.
MediaMonkey: We debated for a long time between MediaMonkey and MusicBee before stopping on MusicBee. MediaMonkey has a few other features, like iOS sync and DLNA sharing, but it’s not as beautiful or as lightweight as MusicBee. Most important, however, is that some of MediaMonkey’s features, including smart playlists, on-the-fly conversions, advanced search, automatic library organization, and others, require a $25 version license. or a $50 lifetime license to access it. Since these features are all available for free with MusicBee, it was hard to recommend the more limited MediaMonkey as the best player. Nevertheless, depending on your needs, it may be ideal for you.
WinampComment: Winamp may be dead, but it’s still a pretty solid player. It doesn’t do much that MusicBee and MediaMonkey don’t (Shoutcast support being an exception), but if you yearn for the llama whipping days of the 90s or love his long list of skinsit might be worth a try.
foobar2000: Foobar2000 is extremely lightweight and incredibly customizable. It won’t do much other than play and tag music out of the box, but it also has plenty of plugins that allow you to customize its functionality to a ridiculous level. It’s a little harder to use than Winamp or MediaMonkey, though, especially when you start customizing – so it’s definitely a better player for advanced users who want to tweak every dark corner of the player.
itunes: We are not big fans of iTunes on Windows, but if you’re an iPhone user, it’s definitely the easiest way to sync your music, apps, playlists, and other info to your phone (since it was designed to that). That’s pretty much the only reason to use it in our opinion, though, and even then MediaMonkey can still sync pretty well with iDevices, so we’ll try that first.
These are some of the biggest, but there are still a ton more, like Windows Media Playerthe Zune Player, AIMP3, Clementineand even VLC (although we’d be hard-pressed to call it a full-featured music library program). The best thing to do when looking for a music player on Windows is to try a few. If you don’t feel like sifting through a ton of players, though, I’ll eat my hat if you can’t get MusicBee to work the way you want.
Lifehacker’s Application Directory is a new, growing directory of recommendations for the best apps and tools in a number of given categories.