There are multiple programs out there you can use to manage your music library if you’re on a Mac, but it’s precisely because of the numerous options available that may make it tough for you to determine which player is the best fit for you and your needs.
Yes, there’s the ever-popular iTunes. However, we bet that if you run through the choices on this list, you’ll find another desktop music player that will have you forgetting about iTunes in no time flat. Whether you’re a audiophile with a thirst for feature-heavy players, or a casual listener looking for a no-frills program, we’re sure you’ll find something here that suits you.
Take a look at our side by side comparison of Spotify and Beats Music to see how these services stack up.
Best Free Music Players for Mac
Ecoute is a standalone player that essentially acts as an extension of iTunes. However, Ecoute makes library management easier, and plays back videos as well as podcasts in your iTunes library. Though Ecoute works in tandem with iTunes, you don’t need to launch iTunes in order to use Ecoute.
Ecoute also grabs metadata with iTunes, and is compatible with services like Last.fm, Twitter, and Facebook, allowing you to share what you’re listening to. Ecoute champions simplicity, right down to its appearance. If that speaks to you, perhaps you should give this player a whirl.
Decibel is an iTunes look-alike that attempts to cater to audiophiles by supporting all lossless and lossy audio formats, including FLAC, Wavpack, Ogg Vorbis, and others. Decibel offers gapless playback for lossless audio formats as well.
If you get a kick out of tweaking your tracks, you can use Decibel to adjust the sample rate of whatever output device you’re using, which allows you to minimize any sound quality degradation associated with converting sample rates. Decibel sports an easy to navigate interface, so even if you’re new to making such tweaks, you won’t get overwhelmed.
Decibel requires OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard to run it.
We’re well aware that there’s a significant amount of people out there that just want their tech to work without having to put too much thought into it; no more, no less. If that sounds like you, Play might be right up your alley.
Play was developed by the same crew that made Decibel, which explains why the two look so similar. Not only that, Play also supports the same file formats that Decibel does, and even supports gapless playback for lossless formats as well. That’s where the similarities between the two end though.
Play supports replay gain, which makes your music play at the same volume level, even if the tracks are louder than one another in actuality. This will keep you from having to scramble to turn the volume knob down in cases where you’re on the other side of the house and your playlist just switched from a Bruce Springsteen to a Slayer track, ensuring that you won’t be hearing complaints from the neighbors.
Editing music info is a breeze with Play’s metadata editor, which allows you to edit more than one file at a time. MusicBrainz, a database filled with music information, fills in any gaps in your library’s metadata.
Play is social media-friendly as well. Play supports Last.fm integration, and can even join a listening community specific to Play users.
Like Decibel, Vox plays a wide range of lossless, and lossy, audio files. Its equalizer lets you tinker with audio output, and you can use Vox to convert your tracks to 5.1 or 7.1 format. Vox’s AirPlay support also allows you to listen to your music on any of your wireless output devices.
Though you can use Vox as a full windowed player, you can also scale it down to give it a more minimalist appearance. Like other programs on this list, Vox offers Last.fm compatibility, and also supports MusicBrainz to fill in metadata gaps in your library.
Vox requires OS X 10.7 or later to run. If you prefer a feature-filled player over the more simplistic ones on this list, Vox might be what you’re looking for.
Tomahawk (Mac, Windows, Linux)
Tomahawk is available for OS X, as well as Windows, Linux and Ubuntu, but that’s not what makes it stand out. Once installed, Tomahawk scans for and imports the music already on your computer, making it easy to start listening right away. You can also upload any new music through scheduled scans, or by dragging and dropping them in to the Tomahawk library.
Tomahawk allows you to sync other music services with it, including Last.fm, Grooveshark, Spotify, and Rdio by installing “revolvers” in Tomahawk. When you search for music, Tomahawk sifts through your local music library as well as the services you sync with it, and when a song plays, the app will tell you what source the song is. Artist specific searches will produce info pages, lists of popular songs from that artist, and suggestions of bands similar to the one you’re listening to at the time. These features help Tomahawk stand apart from the bunch.
Akin to messaging programs like Trillian that allow you to connect to multiple services with the use of a single application, Tomahawk is perfect for those who want to combine their music services with only one program.
Winamp (Windows and Mac)
Winamp, a child of the 90s, supports most audio formats, as well as CD playback and CD importing. During installation, Winamp scans your computer for media files and sorts out video and audio, separating them from each other.
Winamp allows for retrieval of cover art, and prompts you to confirm the validity of the cover before uploading. You’re also given the ability to customize the look of the application with a seemingly endless library of downloadable skins.
Supported by a dedicated community of users, and a constantly updated forum, Winamp is sure to be a fit for a wide range of music lovers.