There are a lot of Linux users who loved the Amarok music player a few years ago, when version 1.4 was the latest and greatest. But since the advent of KDE4 and the Amarok 2 series, a few diehard Amarok lovers have felt a bit left out. This is because the Amarok 2 series, while still a great music player, changed things around so dramatically that it felt like an entirely new application, with only the name connecting it to previous versions.
Clementine is a new music player for Linux (version 0.5 was just released), that attempts to bring back the layout, features and simplicity that made Amarok such a beloved player. I’ve had my eye on Clementine for a while now, not so much because I long for the older Amarok version (I’m more a Banshee/Rhythmbox fan), but because I did use Amarok a few years ago, during the version 1.4 days, and am interested in seeing how Clementine is able to recreate the experience.
One major different between Amarok and Clementine is that Clementine uses the Qt libraries instead of Amarok’s KDE libraries, meaning it should blend in not only with KDE, but with GNOME as well. And because the Qt libraries are used, installing it on GNOME (my desktop environment), required installing far fewer dependencies than would Amarok.
After installing Clementine, my very first impression was “wow, this looks a lot like Amarok!” For people who’ve never used Amarok (new Linux users who started using Linux after Amarok 2 was released, or those who came from GNOME and never wanted to install a KDE application), this won’t mean anything. But for someone familiar with the Amarok 1.4 series, this is a big deal. I immediately understood how it worked, and that it hugely important.
Clementine has a library model. In other words, instead of simply navigating through a file/folder system to find the music you want to play – which you actually can do, if you want – you tell Clementine where your music is, it scans it (and keeps it up-to-date when you add new music to the folder it “watches,” if you want, and then you browse your music by artist and album. When you find something you want to listen to, simply drag it to the playlist on the right. Simply double-clicking a song or album accomplishes the same thing. If you already have something playing, double-clicking a new album adds it to the playlist, making it easy to “build” a playlist made up of music from your entire library.
In addition to music on your hard drive, Clementine has support for streaming radio. You can add your own stations, or browse through the SomaFM stations Clementine comes with. For Last.fm fans, scrobbling is supported, and if you’re a paying subscriber, you can stream Last.fm stations. Finally, Clementine includes a Magnatune plugin, so you can preview the entire Magnatune catalog. The free streaming versions include advertisements on each track, while a membership removes these ads.
Clementine also includes a few “extras” such as a cover manager, equalizer, visualizations and the ability to transcode your music. The cover manager is pretty nice. You can quickly view all your albums that do not include cover art, then search for an apply cover art from the Last.fm database. The equalizer includes a variety of presets, while also giving you the ability to create a custom setting and save it for later use. Transcoding, while something I don’t generally do while listening to music, can be helpful if you have different portable devices which require different formats. Converted music can either be saved alongside the originals or saved to a different directory.
As mentioned in passing, Clementine also allows you to browse files via a directory structure, instead of adding them to your library. This is nice when you’ve downloaded music or ripped it from a CD, and don’t want to add it to your library just yet. Or if you want to use Clementine’s built-in tag editor first.
Finally, if you have an iPod or iPhone, Clementine allows you to copy music to it, for listening on the go. I don’t have an iPod, but I do have a couple other generic MP3 players, which Clementine loaded just fine. The Clementine website also mentions support for MTP or mass storage USB players, so support for a wide range of devices is provided.
Clementine hasn’t yet reached a 1.0 release, and there are still features Amarok included that Clementine doesn’t. But in spite of this, it is absolutely on its way. As I said near the beginning, Banshee and Rhythmbox are more my “style” of music players, but as someone who has used Amarok 1.4 and wasn’t a huge fan of the Amarok 2 series, Clementine is a great alternative already, and appears to only be getting better.