I recently got my hands on a copy of MediaMonkey Gold, the premium version of the free music player, MediaMonkey. This full-featured music manager was once known as Songs-DB back when it first hit the scene in 2001. Since then, MediaMonkey has seen a number of evolutions that have transformed it into a powerful program.
If you’re looking for a lightweight, down-to-the-basics type of music player, MediaMonkey is not your solution. Unlike alternatives like Foobar2000 and AIMP3, which aim to be quick and light on resources, MediaMonkey is more in line with iTunes and Songbird – packed full of features to help you cull and manage massive libraries of music.
Upon opening MediaMonkey for the first time, you’ll be presented with a startup wizard. This wizard does its best to get your music library up and running in as little time as possible. Not that most music management programs don’t have this feature – which most of them do – but at least MediaMonkey’s version isn’t all that bad. At the very least, there wasn’t a sour taste left in my mouth.
The startup wizard also presents you with the option to integrate MediaMonkey into your operating system, meaning stuff like right-click menu options, file associations, and things of that ilk. If you don’t want any of that, MediaMonkey lets you skip it all without a second thought. Thumbs up for a program that doesn’t try to force its own relevance.
The interface is what most of us have come to expect from a music manager–namely, the “iTunes” type of layout where everything is contained in one window separated with numerous panels. This is not like Winamp (multiple windows that are disjointed from one another) or Foobar2000 (a singular playlist-type window).
I was never too big of a fan of this layout structure because I’m a minimalist. However, the interface does look clean and there’s nothing particularly jarring about it. Everything is presented in a logical way and I didn’t find much trouble in navigating the various features. I got used to it pretty quickly.
For a program that claims to be one of the best – if not the best – free music manager available, MediaMonkey sure makes it easy. In that respect, it does a fine job living up to its claims. Here are some of the features you’ll find conducive to managing all of your music files:
- Tag Editor: Nowadays, a built-in tag editor feature (or one that’s available through a plugin system) is almost a necessity for most users. MediaMonkey has it, though it offers much more customization than a typical manager. For example, in addition to IDv3 tags, you can set lyrics, edit artwork, set virtual CD details, and more.
- Auto-Tagger: MediaMonkey has a way for you to automatically tag your files based on context. One method uses the filenames and structure to automatically set tags in your library. The other method looks online for tag and artwork data related to your songs.
- Multiple Collections: Collections are a MediaMonkey feature that lets you have multiple libraries. Instead of being limited to only creating playlists, you can have multiple collections under which you can have multiple playlists. For particularly large music libraries, collections can really help you with organization.
- Volume Normalization: If some of your songs are too quiet or too loud, here comes normalization to save the day. MediaMonkey has 2 types of normalization: Volume Leveling, which plays all of your songs at a consistent volume, and Per-Track Volume, which changes the volume of a particular track only.
Again, MediaMonkey has some great aesthetics (if you prefer clean over flashy) and claims to be able to handle up to 100,000 songs with ease. But what happens when you do have that many songs? How do you ever find anything? Settings up playlists and song rotations can be a giant pain.
I already mentioned auto-tagging and collections, both of which will probably see a lot of use for most people. However, the auto-playlist feature is another one that can be extremely helpful for massive libraries.
The auto-playlist feature allows you to create dynamic playlists by entering and setting certain parameters. MediaMonkey will then find all of the songs from a particular collection that match the parameters you’ve given and insert all of those songs into a single playlist. Extremely useful. I guarantee that once you get the hang of it, you’ll never be able to use another music program that doesn’t have it.
On top of all the awesome things already mentioned, MediaMonkey has a slew of more advanced features that any music enthusiast would love to use.
- Automatic Organization: In your massive library of music, you probably have a bunch of songs and albums whose filenames are completely disorganized. MediaMonkey’s automatic organization will go through and rename those files based on a set of parameters you give it.
- Fast Search: Using the advanced search feature, you can look for a particular song or album using any number of query fields: by composer, by year produced, by beats per minute–anything! Plus, the search is fast, fast, fast.
- Rip and Burn CDs: If you still use CDs (whether you purchase them or burn onto them), MediaMonkey makes life easier. It has built-in functionality for ripping and burning CDs.
- Sync Devices: Just connect your device to your computer and MediaMonkey will most likely recognize it. MediaMonkey can sync right out of the box with most devices, including iPhones, iPods, and Android devices.
- Sleep Timer: MediaMonkey can play your music and gradually fade it out over time, then turn off your computer. This means you can relax in your bed and fall asleep to your music without having to worry about getting up in the middle of the night and turning it off.
MediaMonkey comes in both Free and Gold versions. The Free version is unlimited (meaning you can use the free version forever; it is not a trial) and it has a surprising number of features. Yes, if you use the Free version, MediaMonkey will still be a fully operational music manager. The Gold version contains those non-critical but convenient components, like:
- Multiple Collections
- Automatic Organization
- Volume Leveling
- CD Ripping
- Sleep Timer
MediaMonkey Gold retails for $24.95 (or $49.95 if you want a lifetime license for all future upgrades and versions).
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