Linux Media Player Roundup - Part 2

by Steve Lake

Today we'll be covering a few more Linux Media Players and showing you each of them and what makes them special.

But first, I'd like to add a few clarifications from part 1. One of our readers was kind enough to point out an extra feature in Amarok that I was unaware of the first time I tested it. It has the ability to add "pluggable" back end support for a variety of different multimedia engines, such as Xine, Gstreamer and more. I didn't find this the first time, or simply overlooked it, but I did find it the second time, which means that its issues with media playback should be solvable by simply changing the multimedia engine that it uses.

The second comment was that I had mentioned about how BMPx would eventually rival Amarok, iTunes and more. To clarify why I had said that, I believe that BMPx will eventually rival them based on its layout. The way it handles files, albums, playlists and more is not only logical, but it's also more intuitive and much easier to navigate through. BMPx feels so comfortable upon first use that anybody could pick it up and use it right away with no troubles at all, and no need to go through any kind of learning curve. Just start, click, and enjoy. It's so much easier to get where you want to go and do what you want to do that I feel it'll easily overtake the other media players similar to it, such as the aforementioned iTunes and Amarok.

Ease of use will trump complex features any day because it doesn't matter how powerful a media player is. If it's not easy to use, most people will opt for an equal, or even lesser featured player that's easier to use. Why do you think so many of the greatest features ever produced have also been some of the least used? Because despite their power, they were too difficult to use for the average individual. Simple, yet powerful is always best, and I feel BMPx has done a splendid job of achieving that. Now that I've clarified those things, let's look at our next batch of Linux Media Players.


Banshee is somewhat of the new kid on the block. Currently at version 0.12.1, it's still very green around the gills and has a long way to go before it's ready for prime time, but it's an upcoming superstar in the Linux Media Player world. Initially, it started off as nothing more than a basic media player. Then, as it has grown, new features have begun to appear, such as a podcasts feature, streaming radio broadcasts (which doesn't yet work and will cause some ugly crashes to occur), as well as a better, more enhanced media information system. The box appears and disappears, based on which song you're playing and whether or not it has any information to show you that's related to the current song being played. The information is quite good at this point, and looks to grow even more detailed in the future.

Playback is decent, although I don't think it'll win any medals just yet. It does, however, have a decent list of supported formats that should grow as it grows, although it currently only appears to be able to properly handle wave, ogg and mp3, as well as some limited streaming formats. It also comes with a complete plugin system to allow you to connect to, do music sharing, cd burning, podcasting, and much more. It's ability to be expanded is quite good, making the player very flexible, and opening up a large range of possibilities for the future. The interface also lends itself to a great deal of "ease of use", which for the average person is great. There's also a plugin to allow Banshee to be minimized into a very small player so that it's out of the way, while still being right at hand should you need it.

Right now, I don't suggest this media player for regular daily use, but I do highly recommend that you install it anyway. Why? Because the developers would love your feedback, and the best way to provide that is to use it regularly. How else are you going to suggest new features or report existing bugs?? So help out the developers and take it for a regular spin. You may even fall in love with it. I know I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Decibel Media Player

This player is one of the new kids on the block (currently at version 0.06.3) as far as Linux media players are concerned. Despite its early alpha state, the player itself is fairly stable. It might take a little bit of fussing to get it installed, as you'll have to install it from source, but it can be done if you'd like. The biggest premise of the player is that simplicity is best and that's exactly how the player works. It's very simple to use, and the interface works nicely, although the program itself is a bit flaky at this point. However, that's to be expected from an early alpha.

As it matures a bit more, it should not be surprising to find that it'll slowly lose its simple interface, but gain many great features that will make it a must-have player for those who like to organize their media but don't need a lot of pop and fluff in their player in order to do it. Currently the only supported formats appear to be wave, mp3, ogg and possibly flac but I couldn't get the last format to play. It does support streaming, and includes an instant messenger option to update your online status indicating what you're listening to although I'm not sure where it sends that information. My guess would be your page. The player itself is light and simple, so much so that there's really not much to say about it. There's the normal play, pause, shuffle, sort and other common features you'd expect in a media player but little else. The only real distinguishing features are its UI layout and the file manager on the left side of the play window, but I wouldn't let that stop you from trying it. The only thing that should stop you at this point is if you need it as a full time media player since it's still in its early alpha stages. However, if you'd like to help in the development of this project, then by all means head on over to and see what you can do to help the developers out! Even something as simple as digging up and reporting bugs is welcome.


The Exaile media player is a Linux music player that has so much incommon with Amarok that it's actually surprising. The biggest difference is how the player front-end is laid out. Otherwise everything is pretty much the same. It does album art, connects and interacts with, has artist and album information, etc.

There are some things that Amarok has that Exaile doesn't, like an integrated Magnatune store and a context function, but Exaile makes up for that by providing you with several distinct features, such as the ability for you to download song lyrics, tabbed playlists, a built in shoutcast directory browser, and blacklisting of tracks.

There are a few other tools that are included with the program that can provide you with some useful options such as iPod and iTunes interactive support but that's really about it. Format support is also fairly typical with just wave, mp3 and ogg formats supported. The program is currently in early alpha development stage, the latest version of which is 0.2.11, so if you try it, you may find some stability issues with the player.

For more information on this Linux media player, check out


JuK is a simple jukebox application found in KDE. It has the full set of features users have come to expect in a media player, but also allows for basic management of playlists, updating ID3 tags for both MP3 and Ogg, delete or renaming of files based on their ID3 tags, search and a few other things. The tagger is interesting because it operates in a similar manner to ID3-Tagit, but not with as many features. It's not as powerful, but it still does a decent job.

Its design is focused around simplicity, only giving you what is believed by the developers to be the bare minimum you need in a player. It tries its best to be unobtrusive and does so very well. It also does automatic importing of playlists via directory scanning, or m3u files. Really, it's the only player so far I've found that supports the Winamp m3u file.

It also supports an intriguing history feature that tells you which files you have played and when. I'm not sure why you'd want that, but I can see where it might come in handy for some people. JuK supports MP3, Ogg and Flac media formats. JuK is part of the KDE Multimedia Package and comes with KDE by default if you also install the Multimedia Package.


Well, that's all for part 2. In part 3 we'll be diving deeper into the rabbit hole and bringing you more media players, but not just audio players this time. We've got a few to show you that are multi-purpose players (will play DVD's, movies, and much more.)