Linux offers a wide variety of audio players. Here are my observations on those I’ve tried.
There are many different takes on the concept of an audio player, so I should begin by defining what I look for in an audio player:
- Full support for the composer tag, a necessity for any fan of classical music
- Online stream support, a.k.a. Internet radio
- Open source (of course)
Most video players for Linux can also play audio files and people less picky than myself find them to be perfectly adequate all-in-one multimedia apps.
Many audio players are front ends; the heavy lifting is usually done by Gstreamer or Xine, common multimedia backends in Linux. All are good, and the casual user need not worry about backend selection.
Amarok: Qt/KDE using your choice of Xine (default) or Gstreamer. A heavyweight, full featured audio player. Considered by many to be best of breed, and was my preferred player for several years. Supports the composer tag. Good online stream management. Many plugins. Allows you to “label” your files and filter your collection with them. Like other KDE applications, it stores its metadata in a KDE-centric manner, making migration to another player without losing metadata challenging. When I switched to another player, my many hours of labeling were lost.
Audacious: The successor to XMMS, BMP, and BMPx. Attractive and not overweight, but my installation of audacious-3.3.4-1.24.x86_64 on openSUSE 12.3 was unstable.
Exaile: GTK. Attractive and reasonably lightweight, but my installation of 0.3.1.1-1 on Mandriva 2010.1 was unstable. Its tabbed playlists are very convenient. Supports the composer tag.
Quod Libet: GTK using Gstreamer. Multiplatform. Unusually flexible yet easy to use. My current favorite on both Linux and Windows.
Rhythmbox: GTK/Gnome, and the default player for many Gnome-based distros. Heavyweight, but fewer features than Amarok. Bogs down under even my modest collection of 1,000 titles. One reviewer described it as “eternally unstable”, which matches my experience with multiple releases on multiple distros. Supports streams. Does not support the composer tag. Many plugins.
GNOME Audio Player Shootout