With XMplay who needs iTunes?

XMPlayPortable_128I’m a simple guy when it comes to music. I want a music player that stays out of my way, doesn’t try to sell me something and doesn’t take up a lot of my desktop. I want it to be able to play any music format I come across whether it’s MP3’s, FLAC’s, APE’s or game music files and convert them into something more useful. And I want this music player to be portable, able to be stored on a flash drive or even a floppy disk, never ask me for updates and be easy to install and customize.

XMplay is all this and then some.

Windows Media Player, iTunes and even the Amazon Music Player want to make a music library for you. They want to scan your hard drive, find all your music files, and report that information back to the mother-ship. They want to sell you new tracks, download tons of background files, and be constantly running in the background even when you don’t need them. They take up 100’s of megabytes of hard-disk space and infiltrate deep into your registry. They are difficult to customize, extend, or get rid of when you don’t want them anymore.

Music playback should be simple and ubiquitous, while still being powerful.

XMplay is easy to install, just download the ZIP file and extract it on your hard drive. The default installation with base plug-ins is 433 KB. For those of you who haven’t seen the kilobyte size in a while that’s about an eighth the size of your average photo from a halfway decent camera. Or about one two-hundredth the size of iTunes. The base installation plays MP3, OGG, WAV, CD-Audio and about a dozen more audio formats.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the default skin, but that’s okay because I can change that:

XMPlayPortable

Before XMplay I used Winamp, and the skinning community on the XMplay site has skins that emulate the appearance of the common Winamp versions.

wamodern

All you have to do is download the skin, and extract it in the same folder as XMplay. When you start up XMplay right-click on the player and select the ‘Skin’ menu to change the appearance of the player to any of the installed skins. There are dozens to choose from and you can even download tools to create your own. Some skins have compact modes which can be toggled by double-clicking on the player.

CompactPlayer

With the playlist hidden you can control playback with just the bottom bar.

Additional audio formats like MIDI (common to composer programs like MuseScore and Finale SongWriter), FLAC (a lossless high quality audio format), APE (the music format for monkeys) and Shorten (SHN, used for old concert files can be added) can be added with plugins. In addition to its own set of audio plugins, XMplay supports many plugins for Winamp like SHN. Again installation is as simple as downloading the plugin from the XMplay site and extracting it in the XMplay folder.

My recommended list of additional plugins:

  • MIDI – Oldy but a goody and be used to convert some older game sound files to music you can burn.
  • FLAC – A lot of game bundles offer both MP3 and FLAC downloads. FLAC is high quality compressed but lossless audio and for real audio aficionados offers a better sound than MP3.
  • RealAudio – Again some older files, but I bet you have some hiding on one of your old computers, and now you can play it again without having to dig up the old RealPlayer software.
  • Apple Lossless – A lot of common Apple formats covered here.
  • AAC Plugin – AAC/MP4 playing audio from common video formats.

You can see which audio file formats the player can play back by right-clicking, selecting ‘Options and stuff’ and selecting ‘Integration’ from the selections on the left:

Integration

With all of this installed, and maybe a couple of skins and additional plugins, we’re still clocking in at under 2MB. And the best part is if you get a configuration you like you can take that folder, copy it to a flash drive, and take it to any computer you connect to. Throw a compilation of your favorite music on the drive as well and you are set for life.

Here’s all I’m saying. We all are used to the name brand software, just like with a lot of other things. We don’t investigate and make other choices because this is just what everyone does. How else do you explain how Internet Explorer has been one of the dominant browsers (at least until Chrome) for all these years? But with minimal effort you can get something that is actually better, and will stay out of your way so you can listen to music rather than manage it.

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