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Software music players

By Jean-Claude Elias - Jun 11,2015 - Last updated at Jun 11,2015

Playing music from a computer or computer-like device has become the most common way to listen to it and by far. Time-honoured radio broadcasts still play a role in our life, if only while driving, audio CDs aren’t dead yet and TV does its part too in pleasing our ears with exquisite sound, but all existing means combined represent very little compared to computer music payback.

The trend continues unabated with Apple’s announcement this week that a streaming audio service will soon be made available by the company. This will be different from Apple’s iTunes that makes you download and save the music on your device first before being able to play it back.

Whether streaming music directly over the web or saving it on your device first after download, the fact is plain to see: we now mainly use computers, tablets and smartphones to enjoy music. Soon there will be hardly any other means. CDs and the like will belong to the past and will probably remain in the playground of a few die-hard nostalgic collectors, just like vinyl LP records are now.

To playback music with a computer-like device you need a software application or programme — an app to put in trendier terms. We’ll just call it a player to keep things simple.

Whereas some web channels have their own integrated player, like for instance YouTube that alone accounts for a huge part of music streaming (albeit with video too), you typically need to choose a player.

With a Windows-based computer the easiest choice for those who like simplicity and do not want to bother looking for another product, is the player that comes built-in the system, being the well known Windows Media Player. The company also has a more advanced version called Windows Media Centre that has been around for more than 10 years now.

Interestingly Microsoft seems to have abandoned its Media Centre in the upcoming Windows 10 operating system. Perhaps because it never reached the popularity it was supposed to and because of many other similar products that are available from third parties and that do a very good job.

Among other players that are highly rated with Windows (and Mac too) is J River’s Media Centre (JRMC). This is as close as possible to the perfect player with extensive settings, top quality audio sound especially if connected to high definition external audio systems, customisation, easy and fast search, and so forth. The latest and full version of JRMC is not free and comes at $50. It is worth every dollar.

There are a few other good players that come free for Windows and Mac, and then there are countless ones for portable devices like tablets and smartphones, be it Android or iOS. There are actually too many out there and the choice is overwhelming. VLC, JetAudio, Poweramp and SoundCloud remain easy to use and very popular. They all do the same thing more or less and the choice is a pure matter of personal taste.


I am writing this article while at the same time I am looking at the Technics turntable I bought back in 1981. It was the last turntable or record player I would buy. It still sits here on the bookshelves of my living room, inert, idle and disconnected from the audio amp next to it, like a sweet reminder of the way things were.

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