Finding a good music player for Linux is not an easy task. A few big name projects, like Amarok and Songbird, have come and gone throughout the years, but none of them have been stable enough to match the staying power of iTunes, Winamp, or any of the other music players available to non-Linux users.
Fortunately, the issue isn’t one of availability; there are dozens of music players out there in Linux land. The problem is finding the ones that are modern, feature-rich, performance-friendly, and easy to use.
I’ve done a bit of searching. Here are my findings.
Not to be confused with Audacity, which is a well-known audio editor, Audacious is an audio player which has no relation to the former except for the fact that they’re both free, both open source, and both excellent.
This wonderful program actually got its start back in 2011 but was often overlooked in favor of big name alternatives in the past. Those giants have since fallen asleep and Audacious is the perfect tool to fill the vacuum that was left behind.
Audacious is marked by low resource usage and a minimal interface. It’s not ugly by any means, but if you’re used to the kind of visual flash offered by modern media players, you may feel underwhelmed by this program’s simplicity.
It comes with plenty of advanced actions that are all tied to keyboard shortcuts, making it easy to do whatever you want without much effort at all. There’s also a surprising amount of customization available, considering just how simple it tries to be. As for the interface, it can be toggled between GTK Classic and Winamp.
But the best aspect of this music player has to be its plugin system, which allows for extensibility through third-party code. The community of Audacious developers isn’t all that big yet, but if you’re interested in hopping along, check out their plugin development forum.
The way we use the web has changed so much in the past few years. Isn’t it about time that the way we manage our music has caught up? That’s the exact line of thinking that sparked – and continues to drive – the development of Tomahawk, a music player for the modern generation.
Music has recently shifted away from local playlists and shifted towards streamed services, which are popularly known as Internet radio. And if you’re like me, you don’t just stick to one or two of them; you listen to this one or that one depending on your mood, whether that means Soundcloud, Google Music, Spotify, Rdio, etc.
And that’s exactly why Tomahawk is so awesome. Not only does it manage and play local music files like any traditional music player would, it also incorporates some of the more popular streaming services available today, thus allowing you to enjoy all of your music in one place.
The ability to connect to these various streaming sites is due to Tomahawk’s plugin system, so you can toggle those features on or off at will. Tomahawk will also watch your indicated music directories for any changes and update your library automatically.
As far as the interface, you’re either going to love it or hate it. It feels very modern, but modern in a way that’s reminiscent of the Modern style that’s been used by Windows since the Zune days. In general, though, the layout is very simple, easy to navigate, and the aesthetics are quite pleasing.
Do not be put off by this program’s strange name! I almost overlooked DeaDBeeF because of its unconventional name but I’m glad I didn’t. Truly I wish for it to be rebranded because it’s such an awesome program and it’d be a shame if it never gained traction due to something as trivial as a name.
Long story short: if you prefer something lightweight like Foobar2000, you’ll probably love this one.
DeaDBeeF is not meant to be a music library manager. Rather, much like stanard Foobar2000 affair, you just create separate playlists that you fill up with whichever music files you want for said playlists. That’s about as simple as it could be.
However, if the out-of-the-box functionality is too basic for you, you can always expand on it through plugins. DeaDBeeF comes with a lot of built-in plugins that are disabled by default, such as a LastFM scrobbler, a global hotkey manager, and even an alternative interface.
The only downside was that DeaDBeeF did not integrate into my native desktop environment, so I couldn’t control it using the volume panel. It wasn’t a big deal for me, but it may or may not prove irritating for you, so beware.
Nuvola Player is a bit of an outlier on this list. It completely foregoes the idea of local music storage and focuses entirely on cloud-based music streaming. In that sense, it’s like Tomahawk but more specialized.
The goal, as described by the developers, is to provide Linux users with a native application that interfaces with as many streaming services as possible in order to make the user experience as clean and straightforward as possible.
At first glance Nuvola feels like an extremely basic web browser that loads each service – e.g. Pandora, Rdio, Google Music, etc. – as an actual webpage. Indeed, my first thought was, “Why the heck would I use this when I can just load it in my already-open browser?”
As it turns out, because Nuvola ties in with the operating system, it can be controlled directly through the desktop environment when you want to skip songs or change volume. It also has native popup notifications on track change. It’s a very niche program, but a useful one if that niche describes you.
Out of the box, Nuvola supports Amazon Cloud Player, Bandcamp, Deezer, 8tracks, Google Play Music, Grooveshark, Grooveshark Mobile, Hype Machine, Jango, Logitech Media Server, Pandora, Rdio, Spotify, and This Is My Jam.
Which Music Player is Your Favorite?
In a past life, back when I was enamored with Foobar2000’s minimalism, I would have fallen for DeaDBeeF and its surprising similarities. These days, however, I need a little bit of eye candy in addition to functionality because I’m looking for a balanced user experience, which is why I think Tomahawk is the best.
What about you? And I’m sure there are plenty of other great music players that I missed, so don’t hesitate to share your favorites with us in the comments below!