Sunday, May 24, 2009

Comparing Amarok and Songbird

I love the tremendously uncool Windows Media Player (WMP), primarily because it has portable smart playlists. A WMP smart playlist can go with you to a new computer and still find music by the artist(s) of your choice, whereas an iTunes Smart Playlist(TM) will be looking for specific file locations. That makes a huge difference in what you can do with your music.

I've hoped for a while that open source music players for Linux like Amarok and Songbird would implement smart, XML based playlists instead of playlists that save file locations. Unfortunately, neither does yet. But while I was checking out their playlists, I decided to compare Songbird and Amarok on a few other criteria.

In addition to XML playlists, both players lacked a couple of other important features. Neither Amarok nor Songbird showed any interest in syncing music to my SD card, and neither deleted a file from my computer when I deleted it from my library.

After an initially more difficult install, Songbird edged out Amarok for usability. Amarok had too many "little" bugs (like not playing mp3s or scrobbling to Sure, you can probably fix the problems, but they worked out of the box with Songbird. Amarok wins handily in terms of podcast support, but it wasn't enough to put it over the edge as the media player I'll keep.

Pros: Plays mp3s right after install. Scrobbles to right after install.
Cons: Not easy to install. Podcast support not as strong as Amarok's. Doesn't play wav files.

The installation process was not as easy as Amarok's (in fairness, I didn't have to tweak Songbird afterward to get mp3s and scrobbling to work).

I had a brief flash of hope that I'd get my SD card synced by installing the FolderSync add-on. But after installation, I couldn't find any evidence of FolderSync's existence, and I couldn't understand the directions.

Songbird kind of has podcast integration through subscriptions, but nothing showed up with updated Onion or Buzz Out Loud subscriptions. Apparently not all feed formats work.

There are other cool things I haven't explored about Songbird: web pages as playlists, love and ban for right in the player, Flickr pics related to music you're listening to, Twitter integration.

Songbird Summary
Plays mp3s after install? Yes scrobble? Yes, by default
Truly smart playlists? No, just iTunes-style dropdown playlists
Sync SD card? Nothing obvious there by default
Integrated podcasts? Kind of
Rip CDs? No
Delete file when removing from library? No
Plays wav files? No
Apt-get install? No

Pros: Easy install with package manager. Podcast integration better than Songbird's. Plays wav files.
Cons: Doesn't play mp3s right after install; you have to install an extra package. scrobbling requires work.

To get mp3s to play (!), I had to install libxine1-ffmpeg. That's a number 1 after libxine, not a letter l.

Though it is integrated, I never got scrobbling to work. Apparently on Ubuntu 9.04, you have to upgrade Amarok, but after an hour hacking at it, I gave up.

Amarok added The Onion podcast using its integrated OPML database and Buzz Out Loud via pasting in the RSS feed. Both had updated and showed files within an hour.

Amarok Summary
Plays mp3s after install? No! scrobble? In theory
Truly smart playlists? No, just iTunes-style dropdown playlists
Sync SD card? Nothing obvious there by default
Integrated podcasts? Yes
Rip CDs? No (but maybe with a hack)
Delete file when removing from library? I think no
Plays wav files? Yes
Apt-get install? Yes

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Blogger,
What don't you understand with FolderSync (in Songbird)?
You open the bottom Display Pane and select Playlists and a folder (path to your SD card). After that you click at "Start Sync".
Or did you have another problem?