Saturday, October 26, 2002

I've been revisiting computer MP3/WMA/Ogg player/managers. I have used Sonic Foundry's Siren for a long time. In many ways it is the most expansive and well thought out of all the players out there. Unfortunately, Sonic Foundry stopped developing the product. I tried out recent versions of Winamp (ver 3) and MusicMatch (ver 7.2). Each had odd flaws that utimately led to my uninstalling them.

In the case of Winamp, despite it's claims it has poor support of WMA files. For instance, it will play WMA files but it will not properly retrieve WMA headers and display them in the Music Library. This makes it unusable for WMA in my book. Their response is WMA sucks, use MP3 or Ogg. Well the "WMA sucks" point is debatable. MP3 needs more disk space for equivalent WMA sound with a smaller file. Ogg is ok but is still too new and is not supported by any portable players. With DRM turned off, WMA is quite satisfactory. I don't know if WMA 9 will change things?

In the case of MusicMatch it too has a problem with WMA files. The default player install doesn't include support for WMA. One has to download and install a separate WMA "patch". Once installed, WMA files play but again there is a catch. Using the library, WMA files do not display their Track Number embedded in the header. Again this is deal killer. I don't understand what these companies are thinking? It seems more political than technical. Siren doesn't have these issues. It supports WAV, PCA, Ogg, MP3, WMA, and more.

This makes me wonder why there are no truly well designed MP3 players in production for the PC?

I look longingly at iTunes on the Mac. I've only played with it at stores but it appears well designed when compared to PC products. The iPod combined with iTunes seems like a killer combo that has no competition in the PC world. I wonder if Apple will ever embrace Ogg?

I suppose I may look at MS Windows Player 9 when it ships. Even so, out of the gate it is limited by slavish support of WMA only and using the lame All Music Guide for lookups. One can add MP3 support but I do not know of a way to add other codecs like Ogg?

It's surprising how little is written about the poor state of players for the PC?

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