Skytopia > Projects > Technology/science articles > MP3 Player Giants Rematch     (article massively updated on 31st January 2008 (first created on 27th March 2005).

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(WMP vs Winamp vs iTunes vs MediaMonkey)2

This article was first created on the 31st January 2008 and updated on 10th Feb 2008, and again on the 9th May 2008.


Page 1 - Overview & File type support
Page 2 - Searching/Filtering/Playlists & Tagging
Page 3 - Interface speed & Bloatware analysis
Page 4 - Library maintenance & Extras
Page 5 - Miscellaneous issues & Results + conclusion

Winamp (v5.51)   Nullsoft     (previously reviewed 5.02)     Download latest reviews
iTunes (v7.6)   Apple (previously reviewed 4.7)     Download latest reviews
MediaMonkey (v3.01)   Ventis Media       (previously reviewed 2.3)     Download latest reviews
Windows Media
  Microsoft       (not previously reviewed)     Download latest reviews

Searching/Filtering and Playlists

Windows Media Player, Winamp, iTunes and MediaMonkey can search one or more keywords, rummaging deep inside the metadata to see if any matches appear (the AND operator is used by default).

However, MediaMonkey goes DEEPER. For a specific keyword ("konami"), I searched through the 6000 odd music files on my HD, and MediaMonkey found 69, while Winamp and iTunes only found 42 files (the same 42), and WMP found 39 (it missed some middle phrases in the filename from some of them). After some research, I found out that MediaMonkey searches almost all data inside the MP3 ID tag (despite not having these tags available for view!). This proved decisive in fields such as "orig. artist", "copyright", "encoded" and "url" etc. which iTunes, WMP, and Winamp ignored (actually iTunes managed the "url" field). Oddly though, Mediamonkey skips searching of the comments tag which is a shame.

Standard search
iTunes, can also search according to the Artist, Album, Composer and Song fields (fewer than MediaMonkey). Unfortunately for iTunes though, the filename goes ignored in any search.

Winamp can't really search in any special criteria using the simple search. At least it (and MM/WMP) can handle phrase searching (ala Google) though. Unfortunately, iTunes still can't. (This wouldn't necessary be a problem for the casual collector, but when you start to build up tens of thousands of files, then making sure the words are in the correct order can filter down hundreds to just a few candidates).

It's good to see that MediaMonkey can now look in all tags for multiple keywords (*as well* as phrase searching with quotes either side, which was forced on us before - perhaps they took notice of what we said last time!). Mediamonkey, WMP and iTunes also support searching through the current selection (such as from a Playlist), as well as from the entire library - unlike Winamp. In MediaMonkey, you can even search via most of the individual attributes, though with an AutoPlaylist, and a few more clicks, the other three can manage that also if you see below...

Smart Automatic Playlist Viewstm
Each player has their own version of the so-called "Smart-list". Winamp calls it a "Smart-view", Mediamonkey and Windows Media Player calls them "AutoPlaylists", and iTunes claims them to be "Smart Playlists". Whatever they're known as, they are great tools to filter down your giant collection to suit a mood or occasion. All four players allow you to filter by various attributes, and each can combine these conditions to allow sophisticated filtering. Let's take a look at each one in turn:


Winamp has probably the most advanaced search/filtering system out of the four. As well as the usual attribute and operator filters, Winamp boasts a logic-complete query system allowing you to use brackets on top of AND, OR and NOT. This allows subtle filtering possibilities that just aren't possible with the other three MP3 players. (Well maybe not quite impossible; one can use an autoplaylist as the basis for another autoplaylist in Mediamonkey and iTunes, but it's a kludge. Also, one could use something like the MegaDJ extension with Mediamonkey).

That's the good news. The bad news though is that Winamp doesn't support the "Any" tag, so it won't search in all attributes, only each tag individually (iTunes and WMP suffers the same problem, and it's fairly unforgivable). Also, the filename and extension tags in Winamp aren't supported (despite them being tags in the main library view). Silly oversights. Furthermore, you can only see a couple of tags in the Playlist view (time and title). Last but not least, Winamp annoyingly keeps a track name in the Playlist if you try to delete it from the "Now Playing" view, even after you've physically removed the file from the computer.

Finally, all four players can open up sub-lists so you can see the Genre, Album, and Artist seperately from the main list. From this clever menu, you can filter a song down by selecting the Genre, then the Album, then the Artist. However, Winamp goes a step further and allows any combination of Genre/Artist/Year/Publisher/Album art etc. to appear for several filtering possibilities. (However^2, Mediamonkey can supply this kind of flexibility too and more if you're prepared to install an external script (Magic Nodes), and spend a little time customizing it).


iTunes allows all the attributes to be searched, and also features nice autocomplete functionality for the text fields. However, like Winamp, the "Any" tag isn't supported. Also, only standard playlists allow tracks to be dragged higher or lower, this isn't allowed with iTunes' Smart Playlists. (updated 21/12/2008)


The free version of Mediamonkey allows you to search through a lot of the important attributes. If you want the full searching power available, then the Gold version (about $20) will bring up this window you can see above. A nice touch is the ability to sort the final list according to an attribute.

Although it's not internal to MediaMonkey, our own MegaDJ plugin will actually give you more power than even Winamp's search (though it's slightly more tricky to use than the regular search). Another great example of MM's scripting ability.

Oh by the way, Mediamonkey and iTunes are the only players under review that feature 'folders' for playlists. This is handy if you start to build up lots and lots of playlists, and need to categorize them.


Overall, it would seem WMP features the most primitive search out of the four players, since it forces the AND operator, with no option for OR. However, support for all tags (apart from "Any") is given.

Standard playlists are also supported by all four players, where you can select arbitrary tracks to be collected into a playing session. Winamp supports saving of pls, m3u, (oh and m3u8). Mediamonkey does too, but can't seem to export pls (only m3u). iTunes only seems to be able to load in m3u playlists, and can't seem to export out via m3u or pls (only text and XML are allowed (?)). Finally Windows Media Player can import and export m3u, wpl, asx, but no support for pls is given.

It's clear that this round is much more even. Unfortunately, it would seem that none of the players support the full use of wildcards or regular expressions. Using something like "*" to replace a letter, or "**" for the rest of a word, or *** for any amount of letters, isn't possible with any of them. Finally, even Winamp can't support OR, AND, or NOT in the regular non-smartview search.

Lowdown for Search:

  Windows Media Player

Mediamonkey gets a strike back, but iTunes is still lagging behind. Let's see how they all fare in terms of tagging...

Tagging and metadata





They each have all the most important attributes, but excuse me while I begin with a rant....

<rant mode>
</rant mode>

Let's rank some tags by order of how roughly important they are, and see which player lack any:

MediaMonkey Winamp iTunes Windows Media Player
Title * * * *
Artist * * * *
Rating * * * *
Album * * * *
Timestamp / Date modified / File time * * * *
Date / Release year * * * *
Played # * * * *
Comment * * *
Last Played* * * *
Date Added * * *
File name * * *
Extension + * *
Genre * * * *
Length * * * *
Last updated* * *
Composer * * * *
BPM * * *
FilePath * * *
Track # * * * *
File size * * * *

They have most of the important tags. Winamp forgets the "Date Added" tag, which may be useful. iTunes on the other hand lacks proper extension info (many filetypes are lumped under the category "QuickTime movie file", whether it's a MIDI or MOV - typical). iTunes also lacks the Filename and Filepath which we spoke about earlier (to see the file+path wouldn't be important in the long run, but in the initial stages, it's very handy to see where the file is so you can add tag info more easily). Last but not least, WMP omits the useful comment tag! What were they thinking...

One thing to mention is how Mediamonkey has 11 rank values (or 100 internally) instead of the 5 stars for iTunes, Winamp, & WMP. This gives much more legroom for distinguishing your "incredible" tracks from the merely "excellent" ones. It sounds trivial, but believe me, when you have tens of thousands of tracks, and love music enough to know how the quality can differ by several orders of magnitude, you begin to appreciate the extra possible ratings available.
Winamp, WMP, and iTunes can emulate this by using up the "comments" or "custom" tag, and putting the ranking inside there. A kludge, but better than nothing.

One other thing that iTunes and Winamp are still lacking (which Mediamonkey and WMP feature), is the option to *not* modify the timestamp when updating tags. If you just update say... the album name, I'm not sure it's ideal to overwrite when you first saved the file to your hard drive.

Mediamonkey, WMP, and iTunes handles multiple file tagging nicely with all the tags available to change. Winamp only presents a few of the tags in this mode unfortunately, but at least it's fast (iTunes seems much slower).

I'm skeptical how well each player handles metadata for particular filetypes. For example, MIDI files leave the comments and author/artist field blank, despite the fact that this data exists in the standard Windows metadata. Often, they would look inside the MIDI for any data. Yes, such data can clash, since each metatag is effectively duplicated, but it should still display both, and give options to unify the tags (batch copy/move a tag to another tag name) to avoid clutter.

Winamp has a cool feature to automatically tag files which are missing tag info. For this, it uses the excellent "Gracenote media database" (right-click, and select "Send to: -> Auto-Tag..."). Unfortunately, it crashed half way through tagging the files, and was also quite slow. In any case, Mediamonkey's autotagging feature seems far more limited from the tests I've done, and iTunes lacks autotagging altogether. WMP may have some limited form of autotagging.

Winamp still lacks the ability to slowly double click a tag's field to edit its data. iTunes can, but is *dead* slow. Kudos to WMP and MM here.

Finally, Winamp and Mediamonkey have the annoying habit of using the filename as the Title if the Title tag is missing. I can see the motive behind it, but it means that you can't easily see if the Title tag is really missing from a track.

Windows Media Player
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