Your vast collection of music, whether you bought physical CDs or Digital Downloads (heck even ripped from Vinyl) is now sitting across your hard drives in your computer. You want to play them back, but depending on the source resolution, built-in standard music players like iTunes or Windows Media Player might not cut it.
Instead of playing your different format files (WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, DSF, DFF, WV, APE, MP3, etc.) across different programs depending on which file type can be read, why not just have one dedicated player that can play all of it?
A player that has playlist functionality, and can re-route music on the player to a dedicated DAC while the rest of your computer goes to another audio output?
A player that can display album information, the cover image, playback visuals, and possibly a file tree where your music is kept?
And most importantly:
(cue sounds of glorious, triumphant trumpets playing)
Yes, there are many players that are free and can play almost all kinds of files. But instead of listing my top 5 or 10 or 23 players, let me list my top single free music player for Windows and one for MAC.
I am mainly a Windows user, and my go-to player for all my collection of music is Foobar2000. A very-customizable music player, lightweight but with many features and community-supported plugins that can enhance your playback experience, this is the player to go to when your wallet is stretched thin from all your music purchasing!
Additionally, you can rename file information on the fly, change around which file information you want to display, set-up playlists, and even do some file conversions in case you need to make mp3s for your kid brother or something (yes you can make those pesky files even if you get a cringe). Set-up right, this player is able to do what you want with your collection.
Also, this program does not eat up a lot of your resources (a problem why I quit Winamp in the past). When you need to listen to your favorite stuff while doing more memory and CPU intensive tasks like video-encoding, school projects, or video chat with your buddy, Foobar will not hog up and slow your computer down.
A Bit of A Learning Curve
Although this player has much functionality, for some users setting up this player can be tricky and downright confusing. You will need to setup plugins if you want to play certain non-common files (like DSF or APE), and also need to experiment on your layout and such.
But when you get the layout you want, the results will be such a pleasure to your eyes and ears, just do a Google search on Foobar setup from others and see how a well a clean setup can be. It is not hard if you know a bit of programming, but there are plenty of tutorials online to help with your setup (I might make one in the future).
AS for MAC users, I recommend the VOX music player. This little free music player has a cool clean layout, can change your music output in-program (as opposed to changing in Apple preferences), equalizer settings, integration with Soundcloud and streaming services, and not dependent on the iTunes program for your music.
One feature that they advertise (and one that I need to take advantage of) is of their cloud storing service Loop for VOX. For $10.99 per month, you can supposedly store unlimited music to your cloud account. If you want another backup for your immense collection, or need your files on demand anywhere, especially when you want to share your high quality songs during your overseas visit.
Although this player can play up to 24-bit / 192kHz natively, your DSD files will be converted to PCM on-the-fly, even when your DAC can play DSD. The issue has been addressed by other Audiophiles and the team will work on it. Since it is a free player, this is not much of a hindrance (a year ago the player couldn’t even read DSD-based files), and the sound quality overall is very good.
There is also a subscription serve for not only the storage function, but for access to more radio stations than on the player. I do not stream much music, preferring to download the lossy and listen before buying music, so I cannot give an opinion for the streaming.
Simplifying Your Music Experience
Now that you have your favorite free music player for your Windows and/or MAC system, hopefully hooked up to your headphone + amp setup, or to your full home-theater room-filling system (and if you need help on your other music components, check out my post on starter Hi-Res Equipment.
There are other music players with better features and more equalization settings, but the good ones I found cost money. I might possibly make another article for that, but for now I want you to start your listening experience-on-budget right.
What Music Player do you use for your listening experience?