Monday, October 7, 2013

Best free MP3 software: 11 programs for playing and managing your music IN DEPTH Move beyond Windows Media Player with these top free programs

Best free MP3 software: 11 programs for playing and managing your music
If you just want to play a few MP3s, create a playlist or two, then Windows Media Player will help you get started.
Otherwise, though, the program is probably the worst of all worlds - not particularly powerful, or easy to use - and most people will be better off with something else.
What, exactly? That all depends on your needs. There are programs to help automatically tag your music, download album art and more.
Others will clean up even the messiest MP3 collection, quickly organising files into sensibly-named folders. And of course you'll need a great player, to ensure your music sounds its best.
This doesn't have to be complicated, though, because there are plenty of free tools around which can do all of this (and a whole lot more). Just keep reading for our pick of the best free MP3 software to download.

1. iTunes

Download iTunes
ITunes is a player; a media browser and organiser, and a tool to help set up your iPod, iPhone and iPad. The iTunes Store helps you to discover new content, and of course you're able to buy some of it, too.
The latest version is more stripped down, too, with a simpler, cleaner interface. Most of the key playback options can be controlled from the Mini Player, creating and managing playlists is easier, and the store works more like it does with iPhones and iPads.
ITunes is all about Apple devices, of course, and it does its best to get you into the store (you can't get album art until you're logged in, for instance). But if you don't mind that, this is an excellent player and organiser, and now easier to use than ever.

2. MusicZen

Download MusicZen
If your Music folder is a real mess, with MP3s scattered everywhere, then getting them properly organised can seem like a real challenge - until you run MusicZen.
Point the program at your folder and it can scan all your MP3s, reading their tags, then copying (or moving) them to new folders based on the artist, album, song title and more.
The files will be consistently renamed, too, so those odd mixes of upper and lower cases, the dash and underscore separators will disappear.
And the program is incredibly simple, with no complex settings to master - you'll have your MP3s reordered in seconds.

3. MP3jam

Download MP3jam
There are plenty of YouTube search tools around, butMP3jam is a little different: instead of accessing videos, it's all about music.
Just enter a search term - an artist, a song or album title - and it'll quickly return any results (complete with album art, in some cases).
Each song title has a "play" button, allowing you to stream it from the web. You can alternatively download individual songs or entire albums, and the program automatically organises these into folders for you.

4. Winamp

Download Winamp
After 16 years of development, it's no surprise that Winampis one of the most capable music players and managers around.
The program supports 60+ audio and video formats. It can quickly scan your PC for audio files (or import your iTunes library), then organise your music in many different ways, you can create playlists, update and edit your MP3 tags, read more about your favourite artists and access thousands of free audio and video channels.
If you need more, there are thousands of plug-ins to explore, and even an Android app.
All these features do make for an occasionally complex interface, and it'll take a while to figure out how everything works. But if you need a powerful player then Winamp remains a good choice.

5. MediaMonkey

Download MediaMonkey
ITunes is great, if you want to work with iOS devices. If you also have an Android phone or tablet, though - or you're just looking for a better organiser - then it could be time to give MediaMonkey a try.
The program quickly imports even the largest music libraries, and can then automatically rename your MP3s, moving them into a logical folder structure, automatically fixing tags and alerting you to any duplicates.
There are lots of playlist options, while the core player offers lots of features and can be extended with a huge range of effects.
If you want to share your music, it's easy to sync with Apple or Android (and other) devices, or UPnP/ DNLA devices (TVs, Blu-ray players and more).

6. Advanced Renamer

Download Advanced Renamer
Advanced Renamer is an amazingly powerful tool for renaming, copying or moving files. If your MP3 library is a mess, then it can give your files new names from their audio tags, change the case of a file name, add or remove text, change a file's attributes or timestamps, maybe copy or move MP3's to new locations based on their tags (specific folders for that artist or album, say).
Advanced Renamer
All this power comes at a price, though - Advanced Renamer has a steep learning curve. Experts will love its configurability, and the program isn't only for MP3s. It works just as well with images, videos and other file types.

7. Foorbar2000

Download Foorbar2000
If other MP3 organisers and players seem too bulky and complicated, you might prefer Foorbar2000.
Just like the competition, the program helps you build and organise your music library, create playlists, sort out your tags, and more.
The interface is very configurable, while a strong core player supports lots of formats, gapless playback, and Replaygain to level out volume across tracks, and more.
Yet despite all this, foorbar2000 requires only 7MB of hard drive space (Winamp needs about 10x more), and can even be installed in "portable" mode, so it won't touch your Registry or install any other components at all.

8. Freemake Audio Converter

Download Freemake Audio Converter
Just as its name suggests, Freemake Audio Converter is an excellent tool for converting audio files into a more useful format.
There's support for writing MP3, WMA, WAV, FLAC, AAC, M4A and OGG files. Various audio settings (bitrate, sample rate, channels) help you get the best compromise between image quality and file size.
Freemake Audio Converter
The program can join audio files together, or export its conversions directly to iTunes, and it's even possible to extract and convert the soundtrack of most video files.

9. MP3tag

Download MP3tag
Changing the tags of one MP3 file is easy (right-click, Properties > Details). When it's hundreds, maybe thousands of tracks, though, you'll need a tool like MP3tag.
The program can automatically import data from various web resources (Amazon, discogs, freedb, MusicBrainz, more), replacing tags in multiple files without you typing anything.
Or you can apply your own rules to tweak tags however you like. Tags can then be used to rename files; there's support for downloading cover art, too, and all this works with a range of tag formats (ID3v1.1, ID3v2.3, ID3v2.4, MP4, WMA, APEv2 Tags and Vorbis Comments).

10. Audacity

Download Audacity
Audacity is a capable and feature-packed audio editor, yet is still relatively straightforward to use.
Import an MP3 and you'll see the usual waveform-type display; it's easy to zoom in and select the area you need, and then you can cut or delete it, perhaps copy or paste it elsewhere.
If you need more power, clicking the Effects menu reveals 40 options (Change Pitch, Compressor, Equalization, Normalize and more).
There are useful tools to strip off (some) vocals, or clean up recorded audio by removing clicks and other noises.
If this isn't enough then support for LADSPA, Nyquist, VST and Audio Unit plug-ins allows you to extend the program even further.

11. VLC Media Player

Download VLC Media Player
If you're looking for a player which is simple, easy to use, but also has some power when you need it, then grab a copy of VLC Media Player.
You can use the program as a very simple, on-demand player. Select one MP3 or an entire album and it'll begin playing, and the interface can be reduced to a single toolbar, maybe some album art.
The program works with just about every media type, though (music, video, CDs, discs, devices, streams). There's simple media library management, playlist creation and tag editing.
A graphic equalizer, compressor and spatializer help deliver great sound, the interface is extremely configurable, and plug-ins add more power when you need it.


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