GNU · KDE · Linux · Ubuntu

Ubuntu & Me: Sound & Video

I’m starting with this category only because it’s easy to get excited about. Even if you aren’t an audiophile or a film fan, most people appreciate certain features in their media players. A few things that set many Linux players apart from the rest:

  • Obviously they’re opensource
  • Default integration of’s audio scrobbler
  • Smart playlists* (more on this later)
  • Intuitive but complex GUI

Linux users want the customization we loved with Windows and the reliable sensibility provided by Apple. This is where it gets tricky. Because the software is user-created, it’s user-centric. These players want you to pirate media and certainly won’t require or encourage any music service aside from Transmission, KTorrent, or whichever suitable client you choose. However, this tends to flood the world with media players designed for ultra-specific needs. For example, if Linux Developer #1 wants a music player, he isn’t getting paid for his efforts so he will probably include the features he wants, and no more.

I, like many users, want a product with all the bells and whistles that meet my personal needs as well. In this search I’ve tried atleast 10 different players but for the purposes of this entry I’ll just describe my faves:


1. Rhythmbox (default)

If you miss ITunes, here’s your player. I never did, so I just use it for a few utilities from time to time, like CD ripping and Ipod support. Since I have a Creative Zen and it was finicky about that I branched out.

2. Amarok

A perennial favorite among Linux users, because of its previously attractive design and plethora of features, Amarok got hideously ugly and clumsy with its last update. I’m too shallow to forgive them.

3. Audacious

Since I missed Winamp instead of Itunes, this was perfect for me. It supports winamp skins, plays WMAs (this is actually a big deal) and takes up as much or as little space on your desktop as you’d like.

4. gmusicbrowser

This worked well for a while, but I was discouraged by its inability to play WMAs or make custom playlists. This player did introduce me to smart playlists* however, which are a total blast. Gmusicbrowser is also fully customizable.

5. Exaile

This is my current player of choice. It meets my needs in an attractive package.

Why it’s the best:

  • Intuitive GUI
  • Native windows
  • Smart playlists*
  • Custom playlists
  • Great album art fetcher


1. MPlayer (default)

A default player. Bare bones. Nothing special.

2. Codeine (default)

See above.

3. Totem (technically also default)

See above again…

4. VLC Media Player

Plays more codecs in a prettier package. And it has this beautiful traffic cone as its icon. Cute!

5. Kaffeine

Plays as many codecs in an even more attractive package. As the name implies it is written for the KDE desktop environment.

Why it’s the best:

  • Multiple codec support
  • Attractive format
  • Plays audio
  • Rips CDs
  • Easy to use intrface
  • Simplicity without feeling limited

A few notes:

*Smart playlists allow you to create a playlist based on essentially any piece of information. You can, for example, make a playlist called “HIPSTER///PARTY” which includes all songs in your library with a genre that includes “House,” “Dance,” “Electro,” or “Funk,” and includes all songs by an artist that includes “Kanye,” but that also rejects any songs with the word “Skit” in the title.

Here’s an example:

In Exaile, of course. Beautiful! Look at those options!
In Exaile, of course. Beautiful! Look at those options!

UPDATE: I tried out Songbird. Powered by Mozilla and completely skinnable, it sounded promising, but I found the interface to be illegally similar in setup to iTunes. Not interested. If you ever had or preferred iTunes, however, I would recommend it as a viable substitute. It’s a bit glitchy still, but it’s pretty new, so look for more stable releases soon. Pros: hypemachine search engine built in, support, lyric scroller, skins/feathers (lol.)


2 thoughts on “Ubuntu & Me: Sound & Video

  1. VLC was so awesome like 4 years ago when it was the only existing free download for an avi player. That traffic cone is cute, too.

  2. Nice.
    I’m not that into Linux though. I just switched to mac from pc and I’m lovin’ it.

    Keep writing. I simply love to read your posts.

    ps. You (actually) twitted abt my first comment??

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