I’ve found my perfect music player: MusicBee

Screenshot of MusicBee, playing Opeth "In my time of need" from Damnation (2003).
Screenshot of MusicBee, playing Opeth “In my time of need” from Damnation (2003). Click for full-size screenshot.

For as long as I can remember that I’ve had an internet-enabled PC (I got a Windows 98 machine in late 1999) I’ve been using WinAmp for listening to music. Last week I moved to the lesser-known MusicBee and it is perfect for my requirements. I can’t believe just how good MusicBee is.

Your mileage may vary

I had a long conversation with a friend of mine on Facebook the other day about how everybody’s music player requirements are different. A lot of factors influence your decision about a digital music player, e.g.

  • How much music you have.
  • How/if you tag your music.
  • When you listen.
  • Where you listen.
  • On which device(s) you listen.
  • Whether you need to share your collection with other devices on the network.
  • Whether you prefer visuals (e.g. album art) or text-based interfaces.
  • etc.

How I used WinAmp

I used WinAmp primarily for two things:

  1. Listen to music.
  2. Rip CDs to MP3 format.

I used WinAmp like a CD player (I’d load one album and listen to it) or a radio (I’d load it all 23,000+ files and listen to them on shuffle). I used very few other features to be honest.

A while ago WinAmp switched off its access to the Gracenote database. That’s a service that allows you to query the names of the album title and tracks of a CD you are ripping to MP3 (other formats are available). For my 195 metal CDs project that’s pretty important to me.

It was time to try to find something else that might let me make the most of my music collection: find stuff that I’d not listened to in a long time, better make use of my tagging of albums (I use the excellent mp3tag).

The contenders

Despite how popular it is to listen to music on a computer, there are surprisingly few mainstream players:

I opened Windows Media Player… and promptly shut it down again. I then reached for foobar2000, which a number of friends had warmly recommended to me. “I think you’ll love it,” said one. I didn’t last much more than an hour with it.

Tomahawk was installed, and then uninstalled within an hour too. I liked the idea but I don’t share music playlists with friends, I don’t need to find out what other artists sound like the one I’m listening to. I didn’t need all the connected stuff, I just wanted to better manage what I had.

I then tried Apple iTunes for a few days. I’d used iTunes as my main player at work for a while but I found it too bloated and quite unintuitive in places and so returned to WinAmp. What I liked about iTunes this time was the albums view.

Grid of album covers. Selected album shows a list of tracks beneath it.
I like how iTunes lists albums in a very visual way.

But what I found frustrating was how it handled metadata and artwork.

MusicBee

Which was when I found MusicBee and it is perfect for me. Within an hour I had customised the user interface to just the way I would like it:

  • I’m using the beautifully clean DarkGREEN Metro skin, which I find highlights the artwork.
  • I have lists of genre, artist and album on the left-hand side.
  • In the middle I have a grid of album artwork (very similar to how iTunes handles it).
  • On the right I have playlist and other metadata displayed.

Having pulled in my entire music collection, I discovered errors in the way that I had tagged some of the music, and how few tracks had album artwork embedded.

A few hours later, staying within MusicBee, I had a lot of the tagging sorted out, and MusicBee even pulled in the missing album artwork for the rest of my collection.

This would have taken me weeks to sort out using WinAmp and mp3tag, or iTunes on its own.

Android remote

My last PC had an infrared remote control for my Creative soundcard; I’ve kind of missed that with this PC. I discovered that some kind chap has written MusicBee Remote for Android which is also clean and simple.

MusicBee Remote for Android.
MusicBee Remote for Android. (Click for full size)

Conclusion

This hasn’t been a full review, just an immediate ‘gush’ about how wonderful this music player is.

I really couldn’t imagine going back to WinAmp now. Already this has helped me discover a number of CD box sets that I ripped to MP3 and then completely forgot to listen to all the way through.

If you fancy a rediscovering your music collection and are a Windows user then I wholeheartedly recommend MusicBee.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 46 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. Currently on sabbatical. I am a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir.

9 thoughts on “I’ve found my perfect music player: MusicBee”

  1. I stumbled across your gush when I was looking for reviews and write-ups. Funny how different people come to use and like particular sofware. For years I used MusicMatch Jukebox. When development stopped I moved to JetAudio which did and does pretty much everything I want. I have also used dBpoweramp and Switch Audio converter. Day to day though I use JetAudio and it’s also available for Android. I pretty much rip everything in flac these days which with classical music I would say is essential, although the debate as to whether you can tell the difference is ongoing. Depends on the quality of the speakers or headphones I guess. The only real reason I am looking in to MusicBee is for managing my collection which over the years has mushroomed to a point where if software can help then I am all for it. Anyway I’m going to give it a go. Thanks

  2. Totally agree. After years of itunes. Found your review and gave musicbee a go. Ticks all the boxes and yes I’ve rediscovered box sets that used to be buried in itunes.

    Musicbee, where have you been all my life?

  3. Well, glad I found your review. After 5 years (perhaps more…) of using iTunes (both on my Mac and PC), I finally made a move to MusicBee and boy, was I right! It is really lightweight, the themes are really good and flexible (you can change the layout to whatever you want!) and also the library management is so easy and fast, unlike my old iTunes which was suffering to manage my 14 thousand songs library. May be a bit problem is this app doesn’t work with spacebar keyboard shortcut to play/pause music (only ctrl+p, but perhaps I overlooked the setting for the keyboard shortcut). Anyway, really glad to use this music player.

    1. Thanks Arya, I think you could probably change the keyboard shortcut in Preferences > Hotkeys. Change the Multimedia: Play/Pause hotkey to Space and click Assign, then Save. That should probably do it for you.

  4. Thank you for your interetsing review. I fully agree that MusicBee is probably the best player around by its logical and efficient GUI, and it can look vey nice also. I considered as an alternative MediaMonkey but quickly gave up with it since it is so incredibly complicated to customise and therefore quite unfriendly to use.
    The only problem I have with MusicBee -and that is a serious one- is that I have just switched from Android to Windows Phone and I have not found an equivalent of MusicBee Remote for Windows Phone. And I am definitely not going back to Android, so I just cross my fingers in hoping for a solution to come….

  5. Thank you for letting others know about the amazing features of MusicBee. I agree that the interface is much smoother than the other competitors like iTunes. The mechanics of MusicBee and the additional features are what really tops it off and puts it above the other competitors. It was great that you shared this information!

  6. Totally agree with comment above, “Musicbee, where have you been all my life?”
    I have downloaded, and eventually deleted so many crappy music players, that offered so many bells and whistles, without providing basic functionality to search my library, create, edit, and save “Now playing” list. MusicBee does EVERYTHING I want, and is totally intuitive and simple to use. I can finally delete Foobar2000, which I struggled with for well over a year. Now, if I can only find a comparable app in Android. Ironically, GooglePlay Music comes the closest, offering “Go to album” and “Go to artist” “Play next” and “Add to queue”, but is so annoyingly aggressive in trying to get me to use streaming audio. Ugh. The search continues.

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