Monday, July 16, 2012

KDE Music Libraries

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat. I've never liked calling software like iTunes or Banshee a music "player" because it gives the false impression that it's goal is like VLC or Bangarang: to simply play media files. But for me, there is another classification for Music apps that not only play but manage your music collection. I call these Music Library apps.

Moving on, there are many, many music library apps out there right now, most of the popular ones being for Windows (Winamp, Foobar2000, MediaMonkey, MusicBee, etc), but there are a slew of them for Linux as well (Rhythmbox, Banshee, Amarok, Clementine, etc). It's much harder to judge these since the quality seems to vary much more, and also that each is designed to integrate into a different Desktop Environment. Some people really won't care, and usually I don't either, but since my last distro was Chakra, which is a pure KDE experience, I really looked into finding a good KDE music library app. The thing that surprised me is there are actually a ton of Qt-based music library apps, some just aren't really mentioned that often.

Wants:
  • Media Database/Library Management (automatically moving/renaming files, etc)
  • Stable
  • Playlists
  • Smart Playlists
  • MP3 capability
  • Mass storage syncing, with playlists
  • (Optional) CD Ripping
Notable Mentions:
Tomahawk
As I've mentioned before, Tomahawk is wonderful. It has a very well-crafted UI, offers many features that other players simply don't have, and is generally just the perfect application if you are the target market: those that listen to their music online. I, however, have my own offline collection, so Tomahawk (at this point), just does not measure up to some of the other choices out there in that regard.

Kaffiene
Definitely not meant as a music library. On top of that, the "Playlist" tab seems like an absolute mess.

PlaybaK
I love the idea, but it is apparently abandoned since I got a message about it being in alpha, and it hasn't been updated on KDE.org since July of 2010.

Qmmp
It's really more of a playlist player than a music library, kind of like Kaffiene.

Yamp
Definitely needs some refinement. Nough said.



Let's do things a little differently. Rather than wait till the end to give my verdict. I'm going to compare as I go along. If I like one more than another it will advance.



Amarok
Even though there is an abundance of KDE music library apps available (as proven by this list, Amarok has got to be the headstone. I've never been a fan, but I've mostly seen it (a) quite some time ago and (b) in the "uber-KDE" themed distros. I definitely owe it another look.

  • Hate that it automatically searches your home folder for your collection. Check that: I hate that it does not even prompt you for where your collection is.
  • Hate the icon. (Picky? Yes. True? Yes. Also, the tray icon is ok.)
  • Love that I don't see the tabs on the side with the text at 90 degrees, because that never made sense to me.
  • Not sure if I am fond of the 3-pane layout, mostly because I'm more used to the iTunes/Songbird/MusicBee method of layout, but also because the whole Wiki-article-in-your-player thing never appealed to me. I bought the music, I know who it is by, when it was released, and all that other stuff.
  • Love that it has Amazon MP3 integration, but when I try to buy a song it ends out opening Firefox (so kind of pointless) and the link doesn't even work. Banshee's integration is much much better.
Overall it's just...it's kinda weird. It's definitely a different paradigm than iTunes or MusicBee. I'll have to come back to it after seeing everything else.


Clementine
Clementine is like Amarok's strange lovechild, so I've been skeptical of it, but let's give it a shot.

  • Love the fact that it has built-in Grooveshark support. (Even if it is for Grooveshark Anywhere.)
  • Hate the clementine fruit image in the background. Amarok had a few that were annoying, but this is just plain ugly and distracting.
  • Love that the Artist & Song Info is segregated.
  • Kind of hate the side tabs, especially the fact that you can't have a plain sidebar without having the text flip sideways.
  • Love the customizable "Pretty OSD" Notifications
  • Love the tabs for playlists.
  • Hate the way it handles playlists? I like that they are each their own files, but I hate that you have to manually open each one.

Winner is: Clementine
While they're both not quite the music library paradigm I'm used to, Clementine is closer. Plus, it looks a lot more customizable. But mostly, it's just personal preference.



Juk

  • Love the extremely simplistic interface.
  • Love the treeview navigation for Artist and Albums. I guess I just love treeviews.
  • Love the Player Queue.
  • Hate that it does not have device support. Oh well.
Winner is: Clementine
I personally like Juk quite a bit more, but device support is crucial to me.


Musique
  • Love the opening screen. Straight to the point.
  • Hate that it takes forever to scan your collection because it is using Last.fm. Do that after you scan so I can start playing stuff already.
  • Hate the interface. More fond of the listview layout, especially if the artist pictures are wrong.
Winner is: Clementine
I can see that this is a well crafted program and I'm sure a lot of people would love it, but it's not for me.


YaRock
  • Love the different interface.
  • Love the mini-mode.
  • Love pretty much everything about it.
  • Hate that it does not have device support. Damn.
Winner is: Clementine
This one would make a good competitor to Juk if both supported mass storage sync, but alas.


Sayonara
Sayonara is recently new, so new that I actually had to compile it from source (something I am still kind of unfamiliar with), but I like the look of it. It's actually something I would be tempted to take a look at the source of, since I'm currently learning C++ in school. But it's not quite advanced enough for everyday use just yet. Like the sound was not working using either phonon or gstreamer.

Winner is: Clementine



So Clementine won out, but even it is lacking compared to some of the GTK apps or Windows apps. It has Android device support, but no syncing: you have to manually drag your songs to and from the device.

Even so, Clementine is by far my favorite Qt-based Music Library.
-Bry

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