Top 6 Media Players for Windows

Media consumption is likely a large part of your day-to-day activities. The method by which this media is consumed varies depending on personal preference. Local media libraries are often consumed and managed via a media player. Unfortunately, however, the default media player inside of Windows is often considered to be sub-par when compared to some of the feature-rich, well-polished, and free alternatives that are currently available.

If you are not satisfied with your current media player, I have compiled a list of my top six favorite media players that are available for Windows.

Winamp

There isn’t an audiophile in existence that isn’t familiar with Winamp. This application is one of the more feature-rich media players available. The abundance of plugins and skins that are available for Winamp make it a must-have for those that love customization.

Criticizing Winamp is difficult due to the fact that nearly every aspect of this application can be modified to suit your needs. However, if you find that you want to squeeze a little more out of Winamp, the pro version provides you with features such as native video support, MP3 encoding, and 48x audio CD burning and ripping.

If you happen to own an Android device, the free Winamp app is an excellent alternative to the native Android music player and even has the ability to wirelessly synchronize your local library with your device.

Price: Free – Optional pro version: $19.95
Requires: Windows 2000 SP4 or later
Developer: Nullsoft

Foobar2000

Foobar2000 is well known for being a lightweight, yet extremely powerful media player. Its simple user interface hides a considerable amount of configuration options which makes this app perfect for the casual listener as well as the audio enthusiast. After using Foobar as my primary music player for the past few years, I speak from experience when I say that it is one of the better choices available.

Foobar and Winamp are often compared to one another. Both of these applications share many similar qualities. Both are immensely configurable, feature a large assortment of plugins, and support a plethora of audio formats. Foobar, however, has yet to be ported to Android or iOS which gives Winamp a slight advantage.

Price: Free
Requires: Windows XP SP2 or later
Developer: Peter Pawlowski

VLC

VLC is the Swiss Army knife of media players. This all-in-one media player allows you to take advantage of blu-ray playback and other features that, by default, are not included inside of Windows. It’s a must-have for any Windows user.

Regardless of the fact that VLC is primarily used as a video player, I find it to be a very respectable music player too. It provides a very clean interface that is easy to navigate and has support for nearly every file format. Although, due to the fact that VLC’s primary intention does not consist of becoming an audio engineer’s go-to music player, it’s not as well-polished as some of the other media players mentioned in this list, but is great for casually listening to a few tunes.

Price: Free
Requires: No official requirements specified
Developer: VideoLAN

Spotify

Spotify has significantly escalated in popularity since its U.S. release in 2011. Spotify is one of the very few on-demand streaming services that provide a large collection of unlimited, high quality music for a fairly reasonable price.

Many of Spotify’s strengths fall under the category of streaming, but I believe that Spotify is an excellent tool for playing and managing a local music collection as well. While it’s not nearly as configurable as other media players such as Foobar2000 or Winamp, Spotify is a solid application and is certainly worth trying out if you have not done so already.

Price: Free – Optional premium account: $9.99 per month
Requires: No official requirements specified
Developer: Spotify

iTunes

This immensely popular media player is used and advocated by millions. While I’m not particularly fond of it, any application that features the world’s largest online music store is difficult to ignore. In addition, iTunes also provides you with the ability to synchronize and customize your iOS device with relative ease.

iTunes has received an abundance of criticism recently but is still considered to be an essential and and incredibly useful application among many Windows users. While iTunes does not feature an extensive list of supported audio formats or a particularly attractive interface, it works very well and is easy to use.

Price: Free
Requires: Windows XP SP2 or later
Developer: Apple

Songbird

Not a fan of iTunes? Songbird is one of the lesser-known iTunes alternatives that provides you with features such as the ability to install themes and addons and tabbed browsing. The most significant advantage that coincides with using Songbird is the fact that this application is available on nearly every platform. This includes Android, iOS, Mac OSX, Windows, and a web interface.

Songbird makes managing your music library a breeze. Although, the plugin that enabled Songbird to interact with iOS devices is no longer supported which makes leaving iTunes more difficult. Songbird is a great app, but iOS device owners may not find this application to be a practical alternative to iTunes.

Price: Free
Requires: Windows XP SP3
Developer: Songbird

These media players are just a small selection about of the many excellent pieces of software that help you manage and enjoy your music collection. If you are aware of any other media players we should check out, be sure to share them in a comment below!