Music players in Linux are a dime a dozen. Even if you don’t count the media players like VLC and mplayer, there are still enough that will manage and play your music collection. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried them all at this point…and I still haven’t found one I’m perfectly satisfied with.
To meet my high (and very personal) standards, a music manager has to be three things:
- It must be lightweight/fast
- It has to look good
- It must have a certain set of features I can’t do without.
The first item on that list means no Amarok, Rhythmbox, Banshee, Exaile or anything similar. It’s not that I think they suck, because they dont. They look good, they have all the features I want, but they make me wait, and I don’t like waiting.
The second condition, as usual, boils down to “being able to follow my gtk-theme or qt-theme”. That means no xmms style players (they don’t offer much “management” either), although I do use audacious to test the quality of recently downloaded files.
The features I need are easy enough to list:
- Decent music/playlist managing
- Last.fm support
- Being able to listen to my favourite radio-stations
- Decent tag-writing support.
MPD is an interesting beast. It’s the application doing the actual work (playing your music), but you have to install a different program to actually tell it what to do. There a lot of these programs, or “clients”. And when I say “a lot”, I really mean A LOT.
Problem is, most of them aren’t any good. The past hour I installed about a dozen of them (yes, that’s how serious I take research), and only three of them came close to Sonata: gmpc (didn’t provide an easy way to scrobble my songs to last.fm), ario (looked very nice but doesn’t actually provide any different features from Sonata), and QtMPC (really nice, but still in it’s infancy, and no last.fm support either). The others I tested were a bit of a joke, really.
Sonata on the other hand looks very sharp (it’s says right on the homepage it’s “elegant”, and I’m a sucker for elegant), provides last.fm scrobbling, has a powerful batch tag editor, and provides context-info in the info-tab, in a way that’s really…well…elegant.
It’s not without its faults, though. There are two areas where I find Sonata + MPD lacking, which are database search and playlist management. I have to be fair here, the problems listed probably aren’t Sonata-problems, but MPD-problems.
Firstly, and I don’t know if it’s even possible in a MPD client, but I like my searching to happen “on the fly”, like in iTunes or Rhythmbox. Sonata makes you hit enter every time, and then select the searchbox again for a new search. It seems trivial, but it can get really annoying when you want to fill your playlist with more than a couple of songs.
Also, managing the playlist isn’t really expanded beyond the basic functions either. You can load, add, delete playlists, but editing them is rudimentary: you can only add the (entire) current playlist to an old one, so forget about adding specific songs from your current playlist, or adding them anywhere else than at the bottom of the file. You’d think this would be easy to implement, but apparently mpd doesn’t support it.
Another thing I miss is a “Smart Playlist” feature. Something like this exists as a plugin for gmpc, but it filters only by tags. I’d really like a “play new songs”, or “play 50 unplayed songs” kind of feature.
There are ways to work around all this, but it’s a bit annoying that everything I want is available…but not in the same music player. I guess I’m just a very difficult person.