Best Media Player Roundup

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OpTicaL

Instead of Best Media Player roundup should've done a review for media players for power users and media players for everyone else, because essentially that's the problem everyone is faced with. Some people prefer something that is easy to use and some are looking for more features and customizations. In the end people are stupid and unwilling to learn, you have to give them these options so they can choose.

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jesse_n_sf

I think you mean FREE media players. Because the Best Media player on earth is J.River Media Center. http://jriver.com/

It's $50usd but you can try it out for free and see for yourself.

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burntham77

For an HTPC, I have not yet found a perfect solution.

XBMC plays everything, and is great at finding metadata for videos. It is also updated regularly. However, it lacks some basic controls, like being able to delete items right from the software, and sometimes it sorts TV show episodes out of order, despite the files being named properly.

Windows Media Center has all of the functionality I could ask for, but it's not so great with codecs. It is limited in what sort of files it will play. Sometimes the audio sounds wrong (voices are too quiet, for example), but those same files sound great in other software. Also, Microsoft has not done much with the software lately, other than port it to Windows 8.

Plex is an option, but so far I have yet to figure out how to make effective use of that software. Plus, its setup process is pretty tedious.

For now I use WMC, but I keep XBMC installed on my HTPC just in case.

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sotoa

Realplayer triggers my AVG antivirus. Real just asked to upgrade to the cloud one and my AVG again got triggered. WTH?

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Vano

Many (most) mentioned players relay on codex installed separated into system - this already a turn off.
KMP is great plays everything, but it comes with crapware in installer, one must be very carefull when installing it.

Daum PotPlayer is way better then KMP and doesn't have crapware.

I'm surprise winamp even made the list, does anyone actually still using it??? why???

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DCantu1970

MediaMonkey + Foobar2000 are my favorites.

I would love to use Windows Media Player, but it doesn't support .flac files, which is all I listen to.

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grimus58

Splash PRO EX Is way better then all of them!.

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SirGCal

VLC is to buggy for me. I use it on my Ubuntu rigs simply cause there isn't anything better but it doesn't do ISO as well as it should. So I don't watch them on my Linux rig. Neither does XBMC which is it's biggest downfall.

On Windows, I use XBMC. Problem with ISOs are knowing which subtitle track you need to use. I.E. track 2 for Star Wars to get alien speak such as when Greedo and Han are talking in the cantina. WinDVD (the other one I use) knows this, XBMC never does. It also has all subtitles on by default which makes a horrible mess. So generally speaking it's fine for burnt-in, forced subtitles in .mkv, etc. files but .ISO has that issue, still..

Otherwise I use MPC-HC for everything video, WinDVD for ISO files, and Foobar for audio and Media Center for TV (no other option what-so-ever for cable-card tuners). I keep trying to get XBMC into the mix but it's just not up to snuff all the time. I like it for audio and media files though, just not ISOs. I also have various configuraiton and skin changes to make it more desktop friendly to exit out easier, etc. and work with the other tools that it can't handle. I stopped using Winamp when they went dead but I was a paid supporter to that point. But that's my whole list:

MPC-HC, WinDVD, Foobar, Media Center.

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arnoldziffel

Kinda curious, is there any one media player, besides Media Player Classic Home Cinema, that will playback DTS encoded cd audio, without having to use third party plugins? Most players listed here are mostly for downloaded .MP3 stuff. SirGCal, I take it you do a lot of ripping, what works the best as all in one for ripping DVD and Blu Ray audio from movie or music DVD discs to .FLAC, free or paid? For those who want a litlle more out out of their stereo system thewelltemperedcomputer.com is a place to start.

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SirGCal

There is no all-in-one solution I've found that works. For audio, Foobar is the nicest I've found for CD->FLAC. For video, combinations of AnyDVD HD (I own it), handbrake (free) and DVDFab (too expensive to update any further, so looking for other options) do what I need to do.

However, it is probably just me, but I recommend to everyone not to pirate media or software. Not saying anyone does but just had to say it. That's why I'm looking for a new DVDFab option cause it's just way too darn $$$ for all of it and I refuse to pirate it. But it's great for making main-movie .ISOs. I'll use my version of 8 as long as it works.

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rwpritchett

I've been doing the HTPC thing for 10 years. I've tried all the usual suspects over this time, but for the last 3 years I've stuck with JRiver Media Center. It's not free, but it can do pretty much everything and it does it well. Blu-Ray, HD audio bitstreaming, TV, WASAPI, FLAC, MKV, multichannel AAC... I never had good WAF until I went to JRMC.

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burntham77

I had not previously heard of JRiver, but it seems to be worth a shot, especially because it can play Blu-rays.

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zEric7x

I use media player classic for vidoes and winamp for music. That combo works best for me and I used to it.

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jbitzer

Also, what's up with XBMC logo in an article that doesn't mention it, and why use the logo, as if I recall you can't get it anymore?

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jbitzer

I got tired of constantly managing my media. I used to use MCE with Xboxes as extenders, but since AppleTv was the only service that allowed me to rent movies when I was overseas, I've found that teh tradeoffs I make in itunes is worth just being able to do whatever I want on one cheap, small device.

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sicyo

Really surprised you guys didn't mention foobar.

Or integration with last.fm

Or app support for remote-controlling from a mobile device.

I used winamp for over a decade but when it got too bloated I found foobar. I use VLC for videos though.

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RUSENSITIVESWEETNESS

Fairly certain they were contractually obligated to mention a Microsoft product first.

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Paul_Lilly

100% percent certain we weren't. 

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jgottberg

Gotta say, I've never noticed vendor favoritism. In fact, I don't recall ever seeing Microsoft advertise on this site. I cold be wrong (wouldn't be the first nor last time).

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RUSENSITIVESWEETNESS

Advertisers much?

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Paul_Lilly

I usually don't respond to these kinds of insinuations, but since you seem so adamant that there's something sinister going on (there isn't), I'll address it:: Advertising and editorial departments have always operated completely separate from each other at Maximum PC, and advertising is even further removed from freelancers like myself.

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Arijus

Plex is very good too. I have been using it for awhile now.

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JosephColt

Just use either VLC or MPC. I use the K-Lite codec pack, and it works perfect. MPC is light weight and just simple with tons of options. Not sure why people use these bulky, ugly, and obscure other video players.

I've recently been using Plex through chrome too and it works so awesome for watching content too. Just pin the Plex app to the task bar, click it, and bam you can watch your content. It's like a free version of Plex app for android/windows, but free.

If you want to listen to audio use foobar, and not a video player.

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junaidbalouch22

Daum PotPlayer?? Anyone?? The guy behind the REAL KMPlayer??.
Please do check if you havent!

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jaygregz

Spotify for my music library (I'm invested, otherwise musicbee or media monkey)

VLC or SMPlayer for playing a file quickly.

XBMC for my HTPC.

Plex for my phone/chromecast and general niceness of throwing media around the house on different devices.

And Windows Media Center for the tuner card guide.

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zaphodbeeblebrox 42

no zune player? that is my go to media player. i love it.

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erriwin

I mostly use WMC for videos, and winamp for audio...I love winamps customization and add-ons.

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zeroibis

Use XBMC to launch MPC-HC. Nothing has better quality and range of support than MPC-HC once you have your filters installed period. Toss VLC a video with subs and weep as your computer proceeds to explode. Your not going to have a fun time without xy-vsfilter...

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457R4L

WMC is still the only choice for me. None of the players listed have the ability to use a cablecard that can play copyrighted content or have extender support.

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Peanut Fox

Your choice of car always matters!

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Engelsstaub

"For example, you can turn on the Sound Enhancer, but you won't find an equalizer."

iTunes software *does* have a graphic EQ.

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TeamShadowGPX44

Well i use VLC to watch Videos Quickly and i use XBMC just to relax and watch Movies & especially Episode's.
XBMC
VLC

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limitbreaker

What's been left out is plex, I was so impressed with it that I went ahead and bought plexpass which isn't really necessary. I have a huge library of movies and I don't have time to organize them with XBMC. Plex does all the heavy lifting and is real quick to set up.

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jgottberg

I agree, Limit. Love me some Plex.

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SirGCal

Plex is something I use ONLY for media out-of-home. It transcodes everything and changes it's source so it can push it through a smaller tunnel. That's by design: https://plex.tv/

I watched a ton of stuff through Plex when I was in the hospital even over 3G no problem. That's what it does. for 'home' I use XBMC which is what Plex is made from. It does all the same things but honestly better. XBMC can play ISOs (though not perfectly with subtitles, etc. all the time) and PLEX doesn't even try.

PLUS, Plex has issues with some naming things that XBMC doesn't. I'm not sure why you even say you would rather PLEX over XBMC. I have a 36TB server and XBMC saw it all after adding a few dates to some files. PLEX didn't and more then half of it had to be moved. It didn't even read some folders. Also PLEX doesn't get 'DVD order' so many things are out of order and/or don't even list completely. I.E. Futurama. I have it named per DVD order and XBMC sees all of this. While Plex can 'see' them it doesn't name them properly. So for season 4, Episodes 13-22 are nameless and 1-12 are all wrong anyhow. Perfect in XBMC, Perfect doing a direct search on the network for the files, wrong in Plex.

PLEX came from XBMC but they changed the loaders and didn't keep up with it's capabilities. Great transcoder but falls short on a bunch of other (and some simple) things. I've tried to talk to them about it also and they just don't care. So I only use it for transcoding other videos for while I'm in the hospital. I do not recommend it for 'at home' use. If you're on the same network as the media, use XBMC or another player.

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Hey.That_Dude

The Plex Server does the heavy lifting...
just get PleXBMC.

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limitbreaker

That's true, plex server does a good share of the lifting but the plex home theater software is great too and it easily plays my DTS-MA through my hdmi cable which most media players doesn't do. Before I started using plex, PowerDVD was the only player that could properly passthrough sound to my hd receiver. Plex phone app is a great addition to that software too and I'm sure there are alternatives but the great thing is that there is minimal work required to get everything working which is great for anyone with a job and a wife.

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SirGCal

I hate PowerDVD. Bloated and in my experience, buggy as well.

WinDVD however has been nice. Trim in size and bloat and pass-through works peachy. Cheap. That's what I use for my direct BluRay playback now. I dumped PowerDVD when I found that.

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limitbreaker

I'll try it, thanks for the advice.

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Hey.That_Dude

I refuse to work with DTS in any of it's forms. FLAC, AAC, and AC3 are all better in my opinion. This might take more time, but the end result is almost guaranteed to work on any computer (Linux, Mac, Windows) and might even work on some phones (especially if they support FLAC natively).
But Yeah, I get your point. Just with PleXBMC, you could potentially get PleXBMCbuntu for that "total HTPC" experience (short of a cable card).

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limitbreaker

I understand the advantage of some other forms of sound coding but they're never better than the original. I prefer dts-HDMA because it is lossless 24bit sound. Even true hd cannot compete with that and I don't want my htpc to touch the sound what d so ever, it is going directly to my home theater amp. I've never tried plex XBMC so I'll keep an open mind, maybe it'll support direct sound passthrough.

I don't want any sound manipulation within windows at all, that is a priority. As for converting for my phone, if I'm on wifi I just have it streamed discreetly anyways and if I want it offline, plex can sync to what ever format my phone accepts.

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Hey.That_Dude

You do realize that at the end of the day all your audio (lossless or not) ends up as PCM (generally on an I2S bus) to translate into analog waveforms via a DAC (most of which still only really do 16b unless you've checked)?

To that point, FLAC supports 7.1 channel audio at up to 32b depth with a max sampling rate of 655.35 Khz... It eats DTS for lunch. It's free, lossless, and compresses better. Wins all around, but the decode and recode are a killer on rip time. Oh, and the reason I like XBMC is that it auto decodes your FLAC multichannel audio and sends is as PCM over HDMI, no set up needed.

As for not touching the audio: It doesn't matter, someone's touching it. It's not PCM. Whether windows, XBMC, or your amp does the decode to PCM doesn't matter. Someone touched it. Trust me, I get that you don't want it to degrade, but lossless is lossless, period. It doesn't matter if it's DTSHD-MA, TrueAudio, ALAC, WAvePack, or Monkey (.ape, it makes me giggle); they all decode to perfect PCM representations (WAV, RIFF, etc).

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limitbreaker

The reason flac doesn't beat dts-HDMA is because you cannot magically make things better than its source by adding an extra level of encoding. I rather send sound to my amp in its rawest form. Once you decode sound through windows any number of things can happen including other windows sounds being mixed into it. You're probably just using your windows 7.1 pcm channel for your sound through windows audio setup which if so is really awful.

BTW, I've never seen any sampling rate above 192khz stereo and even that is over kill. The human ear cannot distinguish above 20khz which you need 40khz sampling rate to match. Bluray movies comes with 24bit 48khz(I would prefer 96khz) sound which isn't bad, any more would take more space on a Bluray than most studio's are prepared to dish out. Converting it to a higher sampling rate is not going to magically make it sound better... Unless you have access to the original material from the movie studios that the editors had access to.

Btw, my amp does not convert the sound to 16b before making it into analog form. ;-)

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Hey.That_Dude

Please go read up on this stuff...

1) FLAC isn't coded on top you DTS-MA. DTS-MA is translated into a raw audio PCM format and then RE-ENCODED into a FLAC file. There is NO loss in this conversion. This is ONLY better in the fact that FLAC is FREE, LOSSLESS, and works on any form of OS without needing to pay money for suites like AnyDVD, Totalmedia Theatre, etc. to decode a proprietary and closed source codec, that has inferior compression.

2) I can't possibly be using windows 7.1 PCM... It's a Linux machine. In addition to the fact that PCM can't possibly be worse than the DTS-MA, as it IS the SAME information, represented DIFFERENTLY. If your knowledge of the windows system informs you otherwise I'd like to know, as I've never heard of this issue before.

3) The point wasn't to say that FLAC recodes the audio 32b@600+KHz, but to say that your original sampling rate and bit depth will be preserved, as FLAC exceeds the abilities of DTS-MA.

4) Nyquist sampling must be done in EXCESS of twice the highest frequency you want to recover! Plus the added on frequency allows you more room in your filter and Digital to Analog conversions (Things like over sampling can help reduce jitter effects as well). It's a common misconception, but it annoys me the most because I've have people believe it so strongly that I've had to repair and manage code bases for some projects.

5) Never said your amp did, just said it might. Plus at the end of the day you have to trust the hardware DSPs on your "Amp" (which I will now call your receiver, as that is the proper term I've been reminded to use) to correctly decode your DTS-MA stream. On a guess, I'd say there's a 50% chance that the DSP does most, if not all, of the conversion in software. THE SAME SOFTWARE used by any program that can actually play DTS-MA, regardless of the computer it is installed on.

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jgottberg

You guys sound like grumpy old men discussing the difference between Folgers and Maxwell House - they are both coffee! Christ, it's just audio.

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Hey.That_Dude

Dear god! Why would I ever drink something as disgusting as coffee? Tea: Earl Grey, Chai, Jasmine, others that escape me as I have them only irregularly.

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jgottberg

You're taste in tea is only rivaled by your taste in sound. lol

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Hey.That_Dude

I don't know whether to be insulted or not. There are those in the Tea world whom consider my taste in tea to be plain and boring, but you drink coffee like a heathen, so...

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jgottberg

lol, no insult insinuated - but that is quite the variety of tea!

And yes, I love my coffee. If that makes me a heathen then hell in a hand-basket it is for me lol

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Hey.That_Dude

The heathen comment was meant as a joke.

Hell in a hand-basket is reserved for Lawyers and Politicians. You'll have to find your own way.