For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been watching as a new program called SimpleAudioPlayer saw its initial release and then a few minor updates. I put off on compiling it since at the time of its initial release I was using GNOME Ubuntu, and since SimpleAudioPlayer is a KDE application, it would have required installing a lot of KDE libraries. But since I’m now using KDE, I decided to take the plunge. I downloaded and compiled the newest version yesterday (version 1.0.3), and have been trying it out ever since.
Now, it’s not as if there’s any shortage of media players or media libraries for Linux. Totem, VLC, MPlayer, SMPlayer, Bangarang, Xine, GStreamer, Dragon… there are all of those and a whole lot more. So playback isn’t the issue. What sometimes happens is that one program will be great at one thing, but not so good at another. In a perfect world, I’d like to have a single player that’s able to handle any type of multimedia I throw at it. I realize SimpleAudioPlayer isn’t that choice, since it only plays audio (no video to speak of), but still, as a simple player for those times I just want to hear a song or two, I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve stuck with VLC for quite a while, and while I’m incredibly happy with it (and after using SimpleAudioPlayer, doubt I’m going to switch), that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped looking.
SimpleAudioPlayer is a perfect name for the project. You open it up, add music to it, and play the music. It’s not a music library manager, like Banshee or Rhythmbox or iTunes. It supports playlists and streaming radio (which can also be recorded if support is enabled when you compile it and assuming StreamRipper is also installed), as well as playback from CDs. You can use it to play single songs or a folder of songs, and it supports a decent number of formats, including MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC and WAV, but that’s pretty much where it ends. There isn’t an equalizer or visualizer or anything fancy. It is as it describes itself: a simple audio player.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. I usually keep a program like Banshee or Amarok installed, but for those programs are too heavy (too slow to start up, for one thing), and not really sleek and efficient for just playing a few songs. SimpleAudioPlayer, based on the description and the screenshot I saw, looked perfect for that job, so it caught my interest. The sound is good, and it’s easy to use.
Using SimpleAudioPlayer is pretty… simple. Open it up, then go to the File menu to choose your option. You can choose the Open option for playing a mp3 (or a few). The Open Directory option is for when you have a folder of audio files you want to listen to. Add Radiostation is for streaming music or audio from the web.
One thing that caught me off-guard at first was then the first time I used it, I opened a folder of MP3 files that made up a single album. Instead of playing those files in order by file name (they were numbered), or by album order (the tags should have supported this), the files were played alphabetically by song title. I thought I took care of this by choosing the View Album First in the Playlist menu, but it took a couple of restarts before the setting was remembered between restarts. Now it works fine; I don’t know why the setting wasn’t saved, but at this point it doesn’t matter.
As mentioned, if you’ve enabled support and have StreamRipper installed, SimpleAudioPlayer is able to record your streaming audio from the Web. You can actually use Streamripper to capture the stream data, which requires no encoding, in a couple different ways. If you choose the Livestream option from the Record menu, SimpleAudioPlayer will record all the audio without pauses, assuming the audio is from a live source. The next option, Webstream, assumes the audio is actually being delivered in chunks. Using this option, SimpleAudioPlayer looks for audio tags in the streaming media, and then breaks up the stream into chunks for each song played, if possible. The final option will simply record the stream to a WAV file. You can listen to the stream as it records, and can stop it whenever you want. It’s a nice feature, and nicely integrated. Since StreamRipper (the program actually performing the capture or recording), is a commandline program, you don’t realize a different program is being used, as it all happens within the SimpleAudioPlayer interface.
But it does have some problems. One behavior that threw me is that if you stop playback at any point and click so that no songs are highlighted, there is no option to start playback. In other music players, in this same situation, the default is usually to just start playing at the beginning of the playlist. Simple Audio Player demands that you highlight a song first. It works, but was certainly unexpected. Finally, CD playback works perfectly. There’s no option to “Play CD” in the menus, but in the preferences you can set SimpleAudioPlayer to start playing a CD immediately when it is inserted, or to play it automatically when SimpleAudioPlayer is started when a CD is already present. Unfortunately, SimpleAudioPlayer has kind of strange CDDB or freedb support. It only checks the database when it’s time to play the particular track, so while playing a CD, you’ll see a list for an Unknown album, which is made up of the tracks still to be played. And then you’ll have a list for the actual name and song titles, of the songs already played. Once the whole album has been played all the song titles and other metadata will be present, but of course by that time you’re done listening! And unfortunately, track information is not saved, so the next time you play the CD (after restarting), you’ll again be faced with an “unknown” album.
Still, SimpleAudioPlayer shows promise. I love the single-window interface, and overall it’s a nice program. The feature are fairly limited, but I think that’s the idea. Unfortunately, not everything works correctly, or as I’d expect it to work. The second criticism is perhaps more me than them, but there are definitely some quirks to figure out. It’s a nice program, not ready to take over full-time as my go-to media player, but it’s a nice start.