Linux Media Player Roundup - Part 1

by Steve Lake

There is a vast number of tools available for Linux that provide the end user with access to a rich multimedia experience that is both satisfying, but also useful.

There are tools that play audio files, cd's, dvd's, have fancy interfaces, or even work from the console. Some have applications in DJ'ing, while others can be used to create custom built media kiosks or stand alone media players. But what are some of these programs and how can they benefit you? Let's look at each of them and what they offer for you.


Amarok is a feature rich Linux music player that has a lot to offer the end user. It has a music catalog management system that allows you to gather your CD's together by name and artist, and organize it quite effectively, and it gives you the option to include CD cover art in your catalog if it's available. The program itself comes with two basic interfaces. A Winamp and an iTunes style interface. The iTunes style interface is on by default.

There's also options to pull down the lyrics and artist information if it's available as well. iPod support is spotless, and it also does a decent job supporting other media players as well. Playing with Amarok almost makes you feel like you've found the Swiss army knife of Linux media players. But that would be incorrect.

While it's a good player, it's got some rather nasty failings.

The first of these is its stability. I found it a bit flaky at times. It had problems such as lockups and other issues that required a hard kill to fix. The second is file support. While it does a decent job supporting a lot of different files, it doesn't do enough, or it chokes on files such as WAV, FLAC, ASF, WMA and several different kinds of MP3 files. There are likely other formats it doesn't handle well, but I didn't have more to test with. It does play Ogg beautifully, aside from occasional hanging issues. Performance wise though, it's pretty snappy.

Amarok also supports streams. While its support of isn't bad, it could be a lot better. Another interesting feature is the ability to burn custom CD's. The catch though is that it uses K3B for the burning software. If you like K3B, then you're all set. Amarok comes standard in KDE, but is also available for install from your favorite Linux software repository.


Audacious is a Winamp clone. It's a fork of Beep Media Player (which we'll be covering later), which is a fork of XMMS, the original Linux Winamp clone. The player's only real claim to fame is it's roots and the fact that it allows for more audio formats than its parent or grand parent. You're still stuck with only one playlist, and only basic song management, but if you like simple, Audacious has it. It's also got better eyecandy than any of its predecessors.

One of the things I found bad was that the washed out white interface caused some rather ugly issues with trying to navigate the program. However, since it supports winamp 2 style skins, you can easily fix this by reskinning it in your favorite winamp skins. Another problem is that it doesn't handle ID3v2 tags very well. Support for them is rather buggy and causes the program to do all kinds ofweird things.

A third thing that bugged me was that while Audacious supports skins, it doesn't support them right. Double sizing the player, resizing the player, windows or the playlist either won't work, or will cause some very strange and eratic behavior.

One advantage of Audacious though over its predecessors I believe is the much better organized playlist. There's support for adding actual internet streams, cd's, and networked and local files very, very easily. Support for other files besides Oggand MP3 is either sketchy or non-existent. However, some of this can be overcome by simply applying some plugins.

It's a decent player overall, but it's got some growing to do.

Audio Overload

Audio Overload is a rather interesting program with a very specialized use. It's designed to play video game music audio files. While the number of formats supported is quite impressive, the support offered isn't totally up to date.

Currently, the only formats supported date from the early PS2 all the way back to the Commodore and the Amstrad CPC. Now if you've got audio files from old games written for these systems, then you'll have no issues getting them to play. But more support for modern sound files will be rather hard to come by. The player itself is only available through the developers homepage.


BMPx is a media player that mixes quite a few different music playback and management tools together to provide you with the best possible experience for you while enjoying your music. But BMPx isn't just another clone. Despite its name, it is no longer a derivative of the BMP (Beep) media player. It has been completely rewritten from the bottom up, shedding everything that made up BMP, save for a few Xmms core files which were used in some of the audio decoding. So in almost every way, BMPx is a whole new program with even more to offer you than its estranged former parent. While it's still somewhat unstable and classified as being in an early beta stage, what the developers have done with it is quite phenomenal.

The first thing that amazed me was the library system. Using ID3 tags included with each song, the player sorts your music by artist, album, song, and more depending on your taste. And if you don't like the way the songs are sorted, you can easily resort them by simply editing their ID3 tags and changing them to your personal preference. Playlists are also easy to setup, and quite flexible in what they can do. You can create them from local files, or from Last.FM through the included Last.FM support. BMPx also has incredible support for large audio collections, easily tackling my 2500+ song collection as though that were just the warmup.

BMPx also includes an extensive streaming internet radio selection of stations. And when I say extensive, we're talking about being to the point of near insanity. The number of available genres alone is well over 250, which doesn't count the total stations under each genre. I couldn't get an estimate of exactly how many there were, but I'd easily say there was in excess of over 2000 streaming internet radio stations. So you should be able to find one that is to your liking. support isn't bad really. Neither is it's podcast support. Those both seem to work very well.

Audio cd's are also handled so well that playing, ripping and managing them is a breeze. You also have your selection of formats to rip the files to, including ogg, mp3 and flac. It also contains basic video playback for your podcasts. I couldn't find anything that indicated that it had iPod or other player support, but considering how far they've come with such a low numbered beta, I suspect that'll be coming in the near future, as well as online music purchasing.

BMPx is available through most major distributions, or by going to their homepage and downloading the latest SVN version.


While this is the end of part 1 of our roundup of Linux Media Players, don't think it's the end. There's still a lot more ahead, and many of them will be screaming, jaw dropping, eye popping pieces of Linux media player goodness. In part 2, we'll be covering Banshee, Baudline and several more! The objective and goal of this roundup series is to show you just a taste of what's available out there in the Linux media player world. And we won't be covering just audio players either.

We'll be diving headlong into Linux movie players too. While we won't go into an exceptional amount of detail, what we do offer you, we hope will stir your curiosity to give each of these players a try until you find one that meets your needs.

I've discovered over the years that no matter how much I tell someone about something, ultimately it's up to them to choose what fits them right. I hope I'm able to do that by opening your eyes to just a slice of what's out there and then let you loose to explore on your own. :)

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