AIMP3: An Excellent Music Library And Player – Lightweight & Free! [Windows]

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Music players come and go. Yesterday, a particular player might’ve been the #1 music library manager. Tomorrow, a new music player could come out and decimate the current competition. The cycle has always been true and will always stay true. Does AIMP3 offer enough to be that music player?

Let’s rewind a bit. For the longest time, I’ve been a loyal Foobar2000 user. Yes, I’ve used it since its debut all the way back in 2002 and I’ve never used anything else (other than a short stint with Songbird when that first came out). I love it because it’s clean, fast, and minimalistic. Before Foobar2000, Winamp was the gold standard–even with its then-bloated package.

And though I still enjoy Foobar2000 as much as I did when I first found it, I’m the kind of guy that likes change every once in a while. What other lightweight and fast music players are available? Upon hearing about AIMP3, I knew I had to give it a shot. I was not disappointed.

When user interfaces are involved, music players tend to fall into 3 distinct categories: the single window with multiple panes (e.g., iTunes); the resizable single window playlist (e.g., Foobar2000); and the multiple window layout (e.g., Winamp). AIMP3 falls into that last category.

Upon first glance, I thought that the AIMP3 interface looked remarkably similar to Winamp’s own. That might just be a sign that I haven’t seen many other players using the same layout, but I’d say it’s a fair observation. And frankly, I like it. It’s simple, efficient, and clean–everything that I prefer in terms of aesthetics.

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For those of you that like full-window, everything-encapsulated-as-one-unit type of layouts, I don’t know what to say. As far as I know, there’s no way to lay the AIMP3 interface in any other way. If this is a dealbreaker for you, I suppose there’s no reason for you to keep reading.

In AIMP3, you can open up a separate window–isolated from the main player and playlist–to manage all of the music files on your computer. This is aptly named the Audio Library. As it turns out, the Audio Library has proved useful to me.

With the Audio Library, you can build and manage your music collection with ease. AIMP3 has a built-in feature that lets you scan your entire computer for audio files. Once it finds all the relevant folders, you can select which ones you want to include. In a few minutes, BAM! Library built.

Now that you have a working Audio Library, you can use it to drag-and-drop songs and files into various AIMP3 playlists. Or you can just use the Audio Library as its own music player since it comes equipped with its own Now Playing section.

The Audio Library will even track data like how many times a song has been played, which albums you most listen to, how many songs/albums/genres/etc. you have, and more. AIMP3 can generate a simple HTML report that shows you all of this data, too.

If you are a neat freak (read: borderline OCD), then you will love AIMP3’s Advanced Tag Editor. With it, you can clean up your music file tags in a matter of minutes–depending on how many songs you need to clean up, of course.

For me, this feature is invaluable. I’m unusually obsessive about the tags in my music files, and I cringe when something doesn’t fit the templates I’ve created. If you don’t care about things like that, then you likely won’t need to use this amazing tool.

Here’s another one of AIMP3’s cool tools: the Internet Radio Browser. Internet radio never really caught on with the public in a big way, other than Pandora perhaps. Still, there are people out there who have a few favorite Internet radio stations. If you’re one of those people, AIMP3’s station browser might come in handy.

You’re presented with two options: IceCast stations or custom stations. With the IceCast window, you can search through a list of Internet radio stations using the IceCast protocol. Filter, search, and sort by name, song, and format. If you know a few stations that you want to listen to, use the Custom window. Insert the new station (by right-clicking or hitting the Insert key) and you’ll be good to go.

As expected from most music players these days, AIMP3 offers a broad range of customization options. Some are back-end operational tweaks, such as the timeout required for a stop when listening to Internet radio. Others are front-end user tweaks, like which columns to show in a playlist and how the visualization ought to look.

Personally, I don’t fiddle around with music player options very much. The only one I tend to care about are the hotkeys–AIMP3 delivers on this front. You can set individual hotkeys for when you have AIMP3 as your focus window, and then you can also set an alternate set of hotkeys for when AIMP3 isn’t focused. In other words, local vs. global hotkeys.

If you like heavy customization, I think AIMP3 will be enough. At least you can create and download different skins to change the look of the player itself.

Speaking of customization, AIMP3 also allows users to develop and install different plugins. These plugins are categorized into different sections: Addons, Input Plugins, Visual Plugins, Winamp General, Winamp DSP, and Components. I’m not exactly sure what these mean, but I’m grateful that a plugin system exists.

AIMP3 comes equipped with a number of plugins right out of the box. There’s one that automatically updates your Last.fm account with Now Playing information. A few plugins allow you to listen to music encoded with a variety of codecs: AAC, OGG, AC3, TAK, MP3, and more. You can download more plugins on the AIMP3 forums (be sure to visit the English section if you don’t speak Russian).
Go Here: AIMP3 Download Link
All in all, I really like AIMP3. It’s fast and it works. It’s a worthy contender to Foobar2000 and I say that as an avid Foobar2000 user of nearly 10 years. Maybe with more use, I’ll find things that I don’t like about AIMP3–but hey, there are things I don’t like about Foobar2000 as well.

Just give it a try. If you like it, great! If not, no real harm done. If you do decide to try it out, tell us what you think in the comments! Or if you know of any other lightweight music players, I’d love to hear about them, too.

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