After Songbird and MediaMonkey there is another animal in the business: MusicBee. It is actually an animal! It has countless functions out of the box and can be a really powerful program. The best thing about it: this program is totally free.
Probably I cannot write about everything because there is just too many and you do not want to read hundredths of pages. ;-)
Download and Installation
As said before MusicBee is free (MediaMonkey or J.River's offer a payable edition but there is not any payable version of it (hopefully it will be free in the future)).
At the installation process you have the option either to install it as usual or as a portable version. If the portable version is located on an external drive MusicBee can be used on every other PC which runs windows.
Let me begin with the import of files into the library: there are various options how to do it. The most simple thing is probably to select the folders to scan. After this you will be asked if you want to import the statistics from iTunes or Microsoft's Media Player (You can also import the whole libraries).
If you have used MediaMonkey before and want the same library in MusicBee, no problem: Just use the script “Export to iTunes library.xml” and now you can import it simply.
Quite nice: you can manage many libraries on one computer. It is easy to switch to a different library with two clicks. I didn't find a way to delete one library though.
To keep the library on track there is an option to scan continuously or on the program start up only. The scan itself does not take really long (about 6mins for 14000 tracks from an external hdd. Compared to MediaMonkey it is much faster. The first scan takes twice as much time.
There are four different ways to browse through the library: Via the Library Explorer (which reminds me on Foobar), a Track Browser (has up to four user specific lists), a A-Z Jumper or the normal Folder Browsing.
Every way is fast and smooth. So it is basically up to the user which function is used.
The search function is surprisingly quick. On my library (about 14000 songs) was only a small delay for displaying the results.
There are numerous tagging tools. It takes from auto-tagging (with lyrics!!!) off the web to sync the play counts from LastFM (of course, a scrobbler is integrated). This works actually really nice because compared to other play count importer it differs between studio and live tracks. It took only 2mins. Also you could import your “loved” (favourite) tracks off LastFM.
At the bottom is a bar with the playing controls which can be placed also on right the side. It shows the basic information while a track is playing: Artist, Song, Rating and position/length (if you have LastFM you can enable the “love button”). There is also an “i”: If you hover the mouse above it more information are displayed.
The Bee contains a Mini Player (which I never use because I do not see the sense of it) and it is possible to close the player to the task bar while playing. When it is minimized you still have the whole control: Still you can jump to other artists, genres or albums.
The program has like every other music program an equalizer. I played with it around and I it is actually useable. Not perfect but useable. If you like sound enhancer there is one on board but of course you can use a different ones.
edit: The player actually supports gapless playback without any cross fading features. It works pretty well and mostly you won't recognise a break between songs. But there is also crossfading of course.
Too bad that there is not any automatically rating. I would like to see songs which are played often get a higher rating and the other way around. Of course there is the play count but I like playlists with the ratings of the songs.
Podcast and Radio
I don't want to write much about Podcast. Only that it worked for me. I do not have much experiences in this theme so I guess you have to try it out on your own.
Radio: MusicBee supports many different sources for radio: Icecast, Shoutcast and LastFM radio (there are still more but those are the well known I guess) When I tried it out everything worked pretty well.
There are different ways to create playlists. Either you save your now playing list or you send specific songs to a playlist. There are also auto playlists which can be added by the user actually. Also there is a possibility to import your LastFM playlists.
You can get access to portable devices through the navigation panel. It does not matter if you have a MTP or MSC device. It reads out the music files and will show up on the main Panel. As usual you can browse through them like in the library.
Copying files to devices works also pretty easy. Just mark the tracks you like and then send to “device name”. Unfortunately I could not find any way to transfer playlists.
At this time there are not really plugins out there. The community is still growing and hopefully there will be some people who like to develop some plugins. But you can get extensions from Winamp to work (I tried out some and they worked).
Skins and Customization
There is actually only one skin. The different skins vary only in colours.
Customization is a big word in MusicBee. Almost everything can be arranged differently. It is a bit difficult though because there is no drag and drop for the panels. Either you arrange it through the “View” menu or right click on the panel you wish to arrange. Maybe that's something for the next versions.
The looks seems to be quite minimalistic without much eye-candy. But on the second sight there is a lot to discover. Next to to Album Art while playing music is a tab for lyrics for example. Another example is the integrated artist information: It's shown in a new tab or at the bottom of the main screen. You can also add any other website you want to show some information (LastFM, Wikipedia and Youtube are sources from the beginning.
Some people like to not have hundredths of programs on their computer for music, so they just rip the albums with their music program (Often this is not the best solution when it comes to space/quality). MusicBee, like Songbird, has an advantage because it supports AccurateRip (for people who do not know: http://www.accuraterip.com/ ). You need to download Lame separately though because of license reasons. There are presets of the bitrate which make sense so novices do not have to think much about the options.
Some people in this forum were complaining that the rips were not accurate. I compared the outcome of 5 different rippers by the same LAME.exe and the same settings and only the file of Exactaudiocopy was different. So I guess the accuraterip works properly with MusicBee.
Next to MP3 there are also FLAC, ACC, Ogg Vorbis, WAV and four other formats. So no one should complain about the variety of the codecs.
You are able to view some Statistics of your Library but you cannot save them. It shows the most important columns but only six results per list. There could be an option in the future to do it more user specific because you are not able to set any preferences in the statistics.
Edit: On the main view the statistics only show six results but if you click on the header than the coloumn will expand to 25 results.
Actually I got only two words for the performance: fast and smooth. I didn't get any crashes during the testing period. Only a few small freezes (which were only for max five seconds). But that's alright compared to other players. The program itself takes about 40mb of your main storage (I've got up to 55 when artist information were enabled).
For some reason at my two tested PCs, games were a headache while playing music in the background. The frame rate dropped always underneath 25fps. With other music programs everything is fine.
I've not found any important ones. Sometimes the columns were not sorted right on start up but that is all.
In my opinion MusicBee is worth to give it a try. It does not matter if you are an expert or a novice. It is simple to use and everything makes sense in this player. The best thing about it, it is is for free.
It has many, many features which want to be discovered.
To compare the Bee with other players: It has the simplicity of foobar, the tag management of MediaMonkey and many built-in features which other players have only for plugins (so perfect for newb(i)e[e]s). I do not want to compare it to Songbird because I think this is a bad player. Way too overloaded and too slow.
Maybe you have noticed that this piece of software has many connections to LastFM: So if you are a member of that community then you will take a big advantage of it with this player. If your system crashes, no problem: just import the play counts. Also as described there are other ways to import existing libraries.
There are only a few things which could be handled better: the performance at gaming while listening to music and the “complicated” way to arrange the panels (there are a few more things but this are the most frequent ones).
To come to the bottom line MusicBee is not know well (yet) but it has learned from other players and did many things better than others. Probably one of the best players out there for free. I would give it 4 of 5 stars.
Last edited by kredig; 05-07-2011 at 05:01 AM.
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