For Mac users, iTunes is the undisputed king of media managment and playback. Every new computer comes with it pre-installed, and if you have an iPod, iPhone, or iPad, then you’ll need it for syncing media and backing up your device locally.
There are valid reasons to dislike iTunes though. The rise of Spotify and other similar services have made iTunes less useful or event obsolete. Another big issue is the lack of ownership in digital media. But perhaps most pressing of all is the fact that iTunes is bloated and slow.
Yes, you can hack iTunes for better usability but it’s not enough for everyone. Unless you’re absolutely tied to the iTunes ecosystem and have no choice but to use it, you may want to consider switching to one of these alternatives.
If you want a modern cross-platform music player that’s feature-complete and smooth as cream, then Tomahawk may be the one for you. We mentioned it as one of the best music players for Linux and that’s certainly true for OS X as well.
The real draw of Tomahawk is that it aims to be an all-in-one solution for all of the various music services available on the web. Why juggle half a dozen different apps and sites when you can consolidate all of them into Tomahawk? It’s just easier that way.
Tomahawk supports plugins that let you “plug into” different media networks, including Spotify, YouTube, Google Play Music, Deezer, and even Amazon Music (which is actually better than we expected it to be). Spotify support, for example, lets you sync playlists into Tomahawk.
If you’re going to use Tomahawk, we recommend going with the nightly release because it’s the most up-to-date and has the most cutting-edge features. The downside is that it may be prone to bugs and crashes. If you only need basic functionality, the stable release may be better.
A lot of Windows-to-Mac converts tend to ask about any good music players that are similar to Foobar2000. Unfortunately, at this time, no such alternative really exists. Vox Player is probably the closest we’ve got, but more so for its minimalist design than its resource usage.
Indeed, Vox Player can be quite greedy at times with CPU and RAM, sometimes even on par with iTunes! But it’s a nice alternative to try because it doesn’t have much feature bloat.
Vox Player comes with all you’d expect in a music player and it’s fast. Not only does it support FLAC playback, but it can also play high-resolution audio files if you’re into that. Music management is clean and straightforward, it has built-in internet radio, and you can also connect it to SoundCloud and Last.FM. There’s a lot to love about it.
One other feature to note: Vox comes with a 14-day trial of Loop, a cloud music storage service. With it, you can easily keep Vox for Mac in sync with Vox for iOS, and music you’ve stored in the cloud can be downloaded to either device for offline playback. Loop usage is optional.
For apps similar to Vox for high-resolution files, take a look at this list of the best hi-res music players for Mac.
If you’re looking for a feature-packed but lightweight music player, then you really can’t go wrong with Clementine. This nifty application is all of the power that you need without any of the excess. It gets updated about once a year, which is nice as well.
Music management is probably Clementine’s top selling point. It comes with a cover manager, queue manager, playlist management tools, music format transcoder (with FLAC support), CD ripping tool, and an advanced tag editor for batch editing music files.
Out of the box, Clementine can integrate with about a dozen different internet services, including cloud storage services (Amazon Cloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, to name a few) and music streaming services (Spotify, SoundCloud, Last.FM, Subsonic, plus more).
It’s not the prettiest application, and it’s plainly obvious that it’s based on Qt4, something you’ll recognize if you’ve used Qt4 applications before. You can tweak the appearance a bit, but nothing major so you’re stuck with the clunky default interface. It’s not that bad, but it does leave a lot to be desired.
Do you remember Songbird? It was an open source music player released back in 2006 that drummed up a lot of hype and anticipation due to its potential. It was shut down in 2013, but by then users had already forked the code and created an alternative called Nightingale.
So if you were a fan of Songbird and want something similar, or if you want a lightweight open source music player that still gets updated, then you really ought to give this one a try. It will likely be everything you expect it to be.
Key features include a skinnable interface, advanced library management, gapless playback, replay gain, built-in web browser, and extensions that can add even more features like integration with certain web services. It can also play DRM audio locked by Apple FairPlay and Windows Media.
The one big downside to Nightingale is that development has slowed down since 2014. Yes, it will still work just fine and the important functions are all there, but if you run into any bugs or if you’re looking forward to some other features, fixes will be a long time coming.
Quod Libet has a funny name — it means “whatever you wish” in Latin — but don’t let that turn you away. This open source music player, which was designd to be cross platform from the get-go, was released back in 2004 and continues to receive regular updates to this day.
Not many people have ever heard of it, which is a shame. It’s a simple piece of software and nothing about it will blow your mind, but it’s intensely practical and easy to use. The simplicity of it makes it the closest antithesis to iTunes currently available on OS X.
And it’s packed with features: supports for all kinds of media formats (including FLAC), smart replay gain, ratings-weighted random playback, Unicode tags, built-in Internet radio, configurable user interface, advanced library management, and so much more.
Which Music Player Do You Use?
I know there are lots of valid reasons to keep using iTunes. I don’t want to say it’s terrible and everyone should switch away, because it isn’t. I still use it to manage my podcasts, so I do realize that iTunes has a role to play even despite the bloat and what not. And if you’re using Apple Music, you have no chance but to use iTunes for playback on your Mac.
But if you deal with a lot of downloaded MP3s and streamed songs from lots of different locations, maybe one of these alternatives might actually play out better for you. It’s much more convenient than bookmarking several different internet radio sites, for example.
Which music player do you use on OS X and why? What’s wrong with iTunes? We’d love to hear from you in the comments down below!