I recently saw a blog post, tweet, or other social networking entry that led me to discover the MusicBee music manager and player. Over the years I’ve tried out quite a few such beasts including iTunes, Winamp, Songbird, Media Jukebox, Media Monkey, and a few others which I’ve since forgotten. Of those I’ve tried, there has never been one that I’ve been entirely happy with. As a result they get used for a while then I hit some annoyance and my frustration with it builds to the point where I through my hands in the air, rant at the assembled pixels of the interface and flee to Google in search of a replacement.
Until about a year ago, Winamp had been my longest serving music library application but then it decided that my requests that it burn music CDs were to be ignored for no apparent reason. After exhausting the usual cycle of update, uninstall, reinstall, replace drivers, try different brands of blank CD, I ditched it in favour of Media Jukebox which had no such qualms about producing CDs. And Media Jukebox has been doing a very good job up to now – although its UI is sometimes slow it plays all the music formats in my library (flac, mp3, ogg, etc) without complaint and has been free of glitches to date. So I had no plans to replace it until I started using Subsonic and consequently began looking at integrating it with the music manager on my PC.
MusicBee has a solid set of features for managing and playing music, synchronizing external devices, and CD ripping, though it currently lacks CD burning support. I think it also looks pretty good (click the image below to see it in more detail).
But what really got my attention was the post on the MusicBee plugin forum about using it as a Subsonic client. Download a dll, copy it to the MusicBee Plugins folder, restart MusicBee, enter your Subsonic details and start browsing and streaming from your Subsonic server. Sounds good to me. So I downloaded and installed MusicBee (no problems there) added the plugin and soon had a Subsonic link available in MusicBee (the little yellow submarine which you should be able to make it out in the above picture). Clicking on this expands a tree which shows the folders available on a Subsonic server which you can then browse and play music from. And what’s more, MusicBee plays the tracks back from the Subsonic server gaplessly – something that’s very important to me as many of my digital albums are live recordings where gaps between songs are not to be tolerated. At all!!
So now, despite the lack of CD burning support (which will hopefully be added soon), MusicBee has become my music library manager of choice. And the more I use and configure it the more impressed I become. For example, there’s a nice little feature that allows you to search the interweb when you spot that an album cover is missing. This search will return image results from last.fm, Amazon, Google, and discogs and you can then pick the best one to download and fill your album art gap. It scrobbles to last.fm (though I don’t know how much longer I’ll be sticking with that service). In addition to music you can manage podcasts, audio books and internet radio stations. And lots, lots more.
Playback of non-Subsonic tracks (i.e. those stored locally) is excellent and a wide range of formats is supported (flac, Ogg Vorbis, wav, mp3, etc) though support for the AAC format has to be added by downloading an extra dll. The same range of formats is supported for encoding but, due to licensing restrictions, you need to download encoders for encoding to mp3 and AAC – all of which is explained on the MusicBee Help page. There is also an Equaliser, a set of DSP Effects, Crossfade, and Replay Gain support so you can get just the right sound level and balance to suit your taste.
Overall, I think MusicBee is an brilliant music player and manager which will only become better when CD burning support is added. Top marks and a gold star to the developer.
Why not download it and give it bash. You will not be disappointed.