What if I told you that you could have a music player that only used 2 percent of your processor, even while playing music, and only 14 MB of RAM? And that this same music player, far from being a simple player, was able to play a lot of different music formats. In addition to your standard MP3, AAC, MP4, Ogg Vorbis, WAV and FLAC files, it can play Musepack and WavPack (plus whatever else libmodplug supports on your system). Add to that the ability to play audio using PulseAudio, ALSA, OSS and numerous other sound systems, and you have a player that can go anywhere and play practically anything.
There’s more. Do you want a player that supports gapless playback? Check. ReplayGain support for a listening experience that doesn’t require a lot of fiddling with the volume control? Check. Shoutcast/Icecast streaming? Playlists? A Play queue? Check, check, and check. You want a program that starts up fast, even with a huge library of songs, has a easy library navigator, and is customizable to boot? Then the C* Music Player (cmus for short), might be the music player for you.
Only one potential roadblock, and that is that cmus only runs in the Terminal.
That’s right; cmus is a commandline program for Linux (or Cygwin on Windows), that is operated entirely in the Terminal, using nothing but the keyboard. In spite of that, and my general liking for GUI products, I’ve found myself using cmus for the last couple days, and am actually liking it! I don’t know if it will ever replace something like Banshee, because I like the Ubuntu Music Store and Amazon MP3 Store integration, as well as the ability to manage my portable music players. But for fast, simple music playback, I think I’ll end up keeping cmus installed.
One note: cmus is one program where NOT reading the manual isn’t an option. So after installing cmus, go to the Terminal and type the following:
This will bring up the manual, which will provide you the commands you’ll need to know to switch between library views. There are seven views in all, from two standard artist/album/track library views (one of which you can sort according to your own criteria), to a basic “flat” library, with all your music sorted first by artist and then by album, but in one long list. You have a playlist view, a play queue view, and a browser view, where you can navigate through your computer’s folders to find what you want to listen to. The other two views aren’t playback views, but show you a list of your filters, and the last lets you view all your settings.
Once you get used to some of the more common operations, and the keyboard commands used to access them, cmus is incredibly fast. The website text about being fast isn’t just advertising copy. It really is quick to start up, quick to navigate through even a large library, and quick to start playing and switch between tracks. As might be expected, however, getting all those commands to “stick” (in your own memory), is the biggest impediment. As opposed to a program like iTunes, there is no drag and drop, and no contextual menus (or even menus!), so there is a bit of a learning curve, larger than most programs.
But I think the effort is worth it. I wouldn’t recommend commandline programs for every task, and to be honest didn’t think I’d believe a commandline music player – beyond playing single tracks with mplayer – would be something I’d really want to use. I was wrong, though and while cmus certainly isn’t for everyone, I think it’s worth a try, if for no other reason that to see a different way a program can be implemented.