The popularity of iTunes has made it the default media player for many users, but it isn’t everyone’s favorite program. It is also a less obvious choice for a media player if you do not have an iPod or iPhone and instead use a different MP3 player or a smartphone with video and music playback capability.
JetAudio Basic is a free alternative to iTunes that should be considered by those who dislike the iTunes interface. JetAudio Basic is similar, and can be set up to look very much like iTunes if you prefer. However, JetAudio Basic integrates more closely with alternative media sources like YouTube and Amazon MP3.
Media Player Basics
Most users of JetAudio Basic will probably want to use Media Player View. This is the view that emulates iTunes most closely. On the left of the program is a tree menu that displays all of the options that are available, while the right of the program serves as a means of organizing playlists and navigating Jet Audio’s features.
And there are certainly plenty of features. Since JetAudio doesn’t have a proprietary store, the Music Store section of the media player instead focuses on eMusic, Amazon MP3 and other alternatives to the iTunes store. The jetToy Youtube download service is included as part of JetAudio, enabling .flv and .mp4 downloads.
You can also access Leo’s Lyric Database and last.fm from within JetAudio through the built-in browser. Some will question the usefulness of this, since it is the laziest way to integrate a service. Still, I find running last.fm in JetAudio to be more convenient when working with many browser windows open.
The Media Library is of course the meat-and-potatoes of the program, and Jet Audio works quite well in this respect. It doesn’t have any fancy tricks, but it organizes your music and videos as well as any other player, and it does so very quickly. Although I did not test it with a stop watch, adding files to the media library seems lightening-quick, and browsing is also snappy.
JetAudio is somewhat less resource intensive than iTunes according to Windows Task Manager – it consumes around 58,000K of memory, while iTunes consumed 82,000K.
The Media Player View also includes a portable device manager that can be used to add files to a portable media device. The program warns that it may not work well with all devices (they’re no doubt making reference to iPod and Zunes) but it had no problems with my Samsung P3 player.
While the media player options available in JetAudio are good, you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to. Instead, you can use JetAudio as a simple playlist player that doesn’t manage your media files in any way. You can set it up this way during installation and you can switch between Media Player and Playlist View at any time by opening the menu and selecting the view you prefer.
There are very few options to mention in Playlist View, which is probably just as well. You open files using the drop-down menu at the top of the window and browsing. You can also open playlists that you may have created in Media Player View.
Ripping & Conversion
In addition to being able to play media files JetAudio is able to convert files between different file types and rip/write CDs. These functions can be accessed by opening the menu and going to Tools or by using the button in the upper right hand corner of Media Player View. You can also record audio and add that audio to a playlist or to your media library.
The Rip CD and Create CD options work about as you’d expect them to. You can rip files to a variety of formats including WAV, WMV and OGG. The CD Creation options let you select the gap between tracks and adjust the CD’s volume. It is also very basic, but it is more than enough for managing your media library.
Conversion features exist for both audio and video. The audio conversion outputs are the same as those available when ripping a CD. The video conversion outputs are most interesting. AVI, MP4, FLV, WMV and MKV are supported (among others). Jet Audio also includes presets for a variety of devices including the iPod/iPhone and Sony’s PSP portable game system.
JetAudio is a solid media player overall and a good free alternative to iTunes. It has a lot of options, views and skins that have a significant impact on how the player looks and operates. Unlike iTunes, JetAudio readily bends to the desires of its user, making it great for users who don’t mind digging into the options and tuning a program to their preferences.