Foobar2000: Bring life into your music

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Windows users have a large list when choosing an audio player, but sometimes that can give people an embarrassment of riches and as a result many tend to go for the most popular ones and overlook the rest. Foobar2000 is a slightly geekish free audio player with a clean and simplistic aspect, withholding a comprehensive set of features that might please music enthusiasts with a taste for high-quality sound and functionality.

Foobar2000 Main

Installation & Requirements

The installation of Foobar2000 might take a while, based on the amount of time that you will spend customizing the install settings. To begin with, there are 2 install modes, Standard and Portable, the second one being suitable for having the program on removable media such as an external hard disk or a memory stick.

The first batch of optional features gives us the possibility to keep Foobar2000 as lightweight as possible by choosing only the ones we actually consider useful. After that, it only takes a couple of seconds for the install process to complete. At first run, you will be prompted to customize the program’s appearance. Some users might be disappointed because there are no built-in skins, however there are many different layouts and color schemes to choose from. The good news is that Foobar2000 skins actually exist and after a quick web search you will find plenty, but most of them require additional plug-ins to work and if they don’t come with instructions, attempting to install them could turn into wasted time.

Foobar2000 is a Windows application, compatible with Windows XP SP2 or higher, Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Hardware requirements are not an issue, as long as your computer supports one of the above mentioned operating systems Foobar2000 will also work.

Interface

Foobar2000 doesn’t have a fancy interface, but if you can settle with the provided layouts and color schemes you will find countless settings hidden beneath its austere appearance that really make up for the lack of style.

The program’s main menu, located at the top, is the place from where you can do pretty much everything you need to tweak this audio player to your liking: from the “File” option you can open CDs, files, folders, create, load and save playlists or launch the “Preferences” window, where you can perform advanced settings; the “Edit” option allows you to manage your music tracks with edit, selection, sort and search functions and two useful extra settings for removing duplicates and dead items; from the “View” option you can set Foobar2000 to be “Always on top”, choose between various visualizations such as Oscilloscope or Peak Meter, open the “Console” where all actions are listed, perform sound tweaks via the 18-band “Equalizer” (if you installed it), access the “Playlist Manager” or customize the “Layout”; the “Playback” functions are the same as in any media player and you can also access them through the standard buttons found at the right of the top menu; the “Library” is a quick way to manage your “Album List”, “Search” through it or customize it further from the “Configure” option; last but not least the “Help” sub-menu enables you to update Foobar2000 or its components, access the FAQ, “Title formatting help” and an “Online Troubleshooter”.

All things considered, Foobar2000 has a rather unsophisticated interface that you might grow to like when you discover the myriad of features and settings it holds and how simple it is to browse through them.

Pros

– Small and lightweight program.

– Supports a large number of audio formats and more can be added via plug-ins.

– Highly configurable user interface supporting both tabs and panels.

– Extendable functionality is provided through a large collection of downloadable separate components (plug-ins).

– Great support, comprising a FAQ, forums and wiki.

– Both the program and the components are free to download and use.

Cons

– Even if the interface can be stylized via external skins, the process can be a drag as the skins often require additional components to become functional.

– Only for Windows.

Alternatives

The main competitor of any audio player is, just as expected, the good old Winamp, at least for Windows-based computers and Android devices. Thanks to its popularity, Winamp has a gigantic collection of plug-ins and skins (way easier to install than those of Foobar2000) but some might find the program bloated with unnecessary features.

A great app for audio playback is MediaMonkey, which has ReplayGain support just like Foobar2000 and a nicely organized list of add-ons. MediaMonkey is a really good manager and organizer for large music collections and similar to Winamp, MediaMonkey has a free version and a paid one although it only runs  on Windows platforms.

Another complex and appreciated free media player is Songbird, which is not only a media player but also a music downloader holding some unique features and a large collection of themes and add-ons to customize it. Songbird has great multilingual support and works on Windows, Mac and an increasing number of Android mobile devices.

Sadly, all the programs listed above, including Foobar2000, have no support for Linux-based systems. Even so, Linux users still have some great options to choose from, such as Amarok, Rythmbox and Banshee, three feature-rich music players that are packed within some of the most popular Linux distributions.

Conclusion

Even if Foobar2000 is perfectly suitable for novice and advanced users altogether, its power lies mostly within the numerous built-in settings, minimal system footprint and the utilitarian and extra tweak-able interface. If you don’t think you’ve seen enough of Foobar2000 and you’re still on the fence, installing the program in Portable mode (all the files will be stored in a single folder) is a simple solution to try it, as it won’t leave residual files and folders if you decide to remove it later on.