The Sonata MPD Client is one of my favorite Free/Open Souce projects. Sonata leverages the powerful Music Player Daemon (a separate program that runs in the background on your computer) to provide killer features in a minimal, beautiful, and unique package.
Music Player Daemon (or MPD) is the actual program that plays the music, indexes your music library, and stores your playlists. Although it can be a bit tricky to set up, there are a plethora of guides online, and advantages of getting it running are well worth it: gapless playback, support for tons of formats, fast performance, and choice of multiple graphical user interfaces. Although there are many GUIs available, Sonata has been and continues to be my favorite option.
Once you have MPD setup, you can easily install Sonata from your Linux distribution’s package system or from source. The first thing you many notice is that Sonata is a minimal music player. The interface is simple, easy to use, and quick to learn. That said, I wouldn’t exactly call it basic. There are tabs for your music library (files on your computer), playlists, streams (internet radio), and an info tab. The info tab is particulary useful–it not only gives you the details of the currently playing track (Title, Artist, etc,), but also allows for quick lookup of the artist or album entries in Wikipedia. The info tab also displays lyrics and provides a quick way to edit the tags of the currently playing song.
There’s one more tab that very important when using Sonata: the Current tab. This is where you put whatever you’d like to be playing right now. Think of it as your music queue, or your spur-of-the-moment playlist. When you browse your other playlists, your library, or your streams, you right click on whatever you’d like to play, and click “add” to add it to the current tab, or “replace” to replace whatever is in the current tab.
Sonata does everything you’d expect of a basic player on the Linux desktop (play, pause, shuffle, etc), but adds just enough features to the mix to make it a killer app without seeming bloated. The way Sontata does artist-lookup, for instance, is fantastic. It makes it easy to launch the info in your favorite browser (which you probably have open anyways) which doesn’t bog down Sonata itself with unncessary widgets and windows. I like that it doesn’t pretend to be web browser. Other great features include intuitive tag-editing, a useful tray icon with popup information, and the ability to search your music library by multiple critera. I also think that the three views Sonata offers (collapsed/minimal, full, and fullscreen) are all useful.
Although I’ve used other players like Rhythmbox, Banshee, and Exaile for extended periods of time, Sonata is one of those apps that I just keep coming back to for its ease of use, elegance, and minimal philosophy.