You could hardly find a better and more adaptable music player.
Starting our fourth decade: Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously online since 1983

Best audio player for Windows

Jnauary 25, 2015

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2015, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2015, The Post-Standard

All good things must come to an end. I wasn't surprised when Winamp, the premiere Windows audio player, slipped into mediocrity after the software was sold and resold over the last decade or so. Once the original creators of anything -- software, motorcycles, kitchen windows, you name it -- cease working on it, decline is inevitable.

It was a big loss. Winamp literally turned millions of Windows users into MP3 fans. The MP3 music format was born just as Winamp was created, and the two made a perfect marriage. It became exceedingly popular -- my guess is that 100 million Windows users had Winamp on their PCs at one time or another. Apple finally saw the light and rushed its own player, iTunes, to market in 2001, three years after Winamp showed how it should be done.

Ever since Winamp's decline, I've searched for candidates for a new "best" in audio playback software for Windows. My judgments obviously are subjective, but they're based on my experiences in audio production and my frequent comparisons of superior audio software for the Mac with equivalent Windows software.

The software that made the top of my list is AIMP3, from www.aimp.ru. It's free and able to play the most important audio formats. For the technically minded, it sports accurate left and right level meters, an impressive graphic equalizer and an option to use custom audio "engines" rather than the one built into Windows.

But all that is just window dressing for those who get the chills, as I do, when listening to first-rate audio. The sound quality of AIMP3 ranks at the top. You could hardly find a better and more adaptable music player.

AIMP3 is a spectacular example of world class software, and, perhaps surprisingly, it comes from Russia, the butt of jokes around the industry for its official indifference toward both commercial piracy and private hacker cells. But times seem to be changing, and I'm thrilled that this cooperative project among Russian software developers has turned out so brilliantly.

If you've ever downloaded a music file with an unusual file type -- an M4A file, for example, or an MPC recording, or any of dozens of others -- you're automatically familiar with the limitations of typical Windows music players. They simply refuse to deal with anything but the "approved" file types (WMA and MP3, for starters).

AIMP3 turns this on its head and supports about 50 different audio formats. You'll be able to play FLACs (lossless audio), Apple's various file types, oddballs such as Monkey's Audio and "Tom's lossless Audio Kompressor" files and that darling of audio purists, Ogg Vorbis files. And, of course, all the regular formats, too.

AIMP3 can even play MOD audio, created by "tracker" software and still popular in Europe long after fading from American tastes. (Read about MOD files in this blast from my past at www.technofileonline.com/texts/bit060601.html.)

Mac audio players are improving, too. I'll tell you about some outstanding Mac programs later this year.

Write to Al Fasoldt at afasoldt@gmail.com. You can read any of Al's thousands of past columns at www.technofileonline.com.