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.

Contents

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     Download.com reviews
iTunes (v7.6)   Apple (previously reviewed 4.7)     Download latest     Download.com reviews
MediaMonkey (v3.01)   Ventis Media       (previously reviewed 2.3)     Download latest     Download.com reviews
Windows Media
Player
(v11.05)
  Microsoft       (not previously reviewed)     Download latest     Download.com reviews

Miscellaneous issues

All
  • They are all free to download, though MonkeyMedia and Winamp will offer some extra features if you pay a little extra. You get most of the functionality for free though!
  • All players allow you to display album art alongside the albums if it exists.
  • None of the programs can loop a single tune continuously if the music is being taken from the playlist. Sometimes, it's nice to listen to a tune twice or more before going on to the next one.

    Windows Media Player
  • WMP allows you to trek back and forth between views inside the player by using Explorer-style arrow buttons.
  • WMP features "TruBass" and "WOW" which certainly seems to help increase bass levels, and widen stereo separation at the slight cost of sound impairment. I'm not sure to what extent the bass increase could be simulated just by adjusting the bass levels in a standard equalizer though (I got pretty close in Winamp by upping the 16hz slider to the top). The stereo separating "wow" sound is really cool.
  • WMP won't allow the mini-mode view to stay on top of other windows, unless going through the options window.
  • WMP has an interesting way of displaying the main library. If you sort by time, then WMP places them in listed categories such as 1 min, 2 min, 3 min etc. whilst if you view by Title, then they are all placed under alphabetical letter headings (a/b/c/d/e...) etc. etc. I like it, but it can mean however you get less real estate for the number of tracks per page.
  • WMP features video smoothing to artifically generate "in-between" frames for an apparent increase in frames per second.
  • Lyrics/subtitles can also be displayed if they're supported in the media.

    iTunes
  • iTunes supports limited scripting if you install the iTunes COM SDK.
  • iTunes allows duplicate music files to be displayed.
  • iTunes has "Coverflow" which can look neat when you're browsing a collection of albums.
  • You can alter the start/end time in iTunes for each track.
  • All players can shuffle tracks, or play them sequentially, but iTunes allows selected tracks to be biased for/against certain albums, artists, or high ratings if you prefer.
  • iTunes allows you to set the equalizer, volume, and beginning/end time for each tune in the metadata. Handy for skipping sections of tunes or loudening that quiet MP3.
  • iTunes can't 'drag and drop' music files onto the miniplayer.
  • iTunes doesn't feature definable hotkeys.

    Mediamonkey
  • Mediamonkey supports scripting! This can be tremendously powerful, and is worth a whole point in itself. Using supplied scripts, or by creating your own, you can add extra functionality relatively easily. Just a few examples include:
  • Mediamonkey crashes when playing certain MP3s like this one (1 in every 500-2000 files?)
  • MediaMonkey has an option to sort by two or more field types. So for example, I can sort by quality with name as second priority. Or sort by name with filesize as second priority. That's gotta be useful.
  • Mediamonkey has a neat "Party mode", where the whole screen is covered, and settings can't be altered. Basically to prevent people from messing up your configuration at parties. See this MM forum thread for lots of examples.
  • It can be a right pain in the neck to resize frames inside Mediamonkey. Winamp and iTunes allow much more leeway for mouse accuracy when resizing.
  • When I switch to another program, I can't get the mini-mode window to appear back again. MM relegates the window to the tray, when the window should stay in the task bar. Unfortunately, even from the tray, I can't get back the mini-mode window (without going painfully through "restore" (to full-mode), and then back to mini-mode again). This problem is 'overcome' by using "always stay on top", or simply using the large standard full mode size.

    Winamp
  • Winamp's scroll handles are always small, even if you only need to drag one more line up or down, or one character left/right.
  • Winamp features a "Dynamic Song Recommendations Playlist Feature" which allows you to play similar songs in your library to a particular track.
  • Winamp features multi-channel MP3 surround support.
  • Although each player supplies an equalizer so you can easily adjust the bass or treble, Winamp allows you to more easily 'draw' the curve.
  • iTunes and MediaMonkey allow the volume level to be adjusted so that tracks are all roughly as the same psychoacoustic volume. (Winamp doesn't seem to, as it doesn't scan the tracks to get at the volume data?).

      Mediamonkey
      Winamp
      iTunes
      Windows Media Player

    Results and conclusion

    And thus ends our investigation! Totalling up the points from the above section, we can see the winner...

    Mediamonkey
    Winamp
    Windows Media Player
    iTunes


    And Mediamonkey pips Winamp to the post! iTunes is left for dust trailing behind by 8 points.

    Should everyone now go and use Mediamonkey or throw their copy of iTunes in the bin then? Not necessarily. Preference of basic program design and usage can be very tricky to judge, since so much comes down to habit, familiarization, and also what exactly you want from your music program. Additionally, one may want to knock one or two stars off from Mediamonkey if the $20 asking price for the 'Gold' version is too much for the wallet.

    Perhaps you only care about coverflow or that you can download the latest podcasts. In that case, iTunes is the one for you.
    Perhaps you're more interested in Mediamonkey's superior tagging and organizational facilities - then that's the one for you.
    Perhaps you're a speed demon that wants all the music formats supported; you can't go far wrong with Winamp.
    Or maybe you're after WMP's TruBass/WOW effects or can't be bothered to download another player; WMP is your pot of gold.
    Alternatively, perhaps you desire slow and unresponsive bloatware as your interface paradigm... then iTunes... er skip that last one.

    In the end, we'll leave the final choice to the reader. Originally on the 10th Febuary 2008, Winamp won this feature by one point. However, after receiving various emails (particularly from Darren Hill - thanks!), I was alerted to features I hadn't mentioned or had underrated (such as scripting and the organizational capabilities of Mediamonkey), and thus updated the article and final scores on 9th May 2008.

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    Winamp (v5.51) Nullsoft     (previously reviewed 5.02)     Download latest     Download.com reviews
    iTunes (v7.6) Apple (previously reviewed 4.7)     Download latest     Download.com reviews
    MediaMonkey (v3.01) Ventis Media       (previously reviewed 2.3)     Download latest     Download.com reviews
    Windows Media
    Player
    (v11.05)
      Microsoft       (not previously reviewed)     Download latest     Download.com reviews


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