For many of us, listening to music — and managing our collections of music — can be as important as making music. Jaymis has me sold on MediaMonkey, available in cheap / free versions, for Windows. Note that this doesn’t run on the Mac — feel free to discuss Mac alternatives in comments. Listening software is often one of those few apps we run every day, so here’s Jaymis’ exhaustive review of his favorite. -PK

I received my first MP3 file over ten years ago, as a zip archive spanned over three 3.5″ floppy disks. In the time since there have been advances in codec, hardware and software players, metadata formats and online sales, but after more than a decade the humble MP3 is still a dominant force in computer based music listening.

In my time as an MP3 consumer I’ve used a plethora of players, both hard- and software. In the early days, developers racing to add new features had me switching and trying out new applications regularly, but by the late 90s I was a dedicated Winamp user, even through the troublesome Winamp3 days. This all had to change. When faced with a year travelling and working in Europe I decided to retire my trusty 256MB “James” and replace him with a shiny, white, inevitable, 20GB (3rd Gen) iPod. After considerable wrangling (warning NSFW language and unrelated ranting in comments) I grudgingly switched to iTunes, which is an ok piece of software. Really. If all of your music comes to you via iTunes music store or major label CDs you’ve faithfully purchased and ripped (after reading and understanding any included EULAs) then you probably won’t ever need or want another media player. iTunes also has some truly fantastic features: Coupled with judicious iPod-based rating while travelling, Party Shuffle and Smart Playlists changed how I listen to music.

However, If you’re a discerning music listener. If you consume music which is copied from friends or MP3 Blogs, acquaintances with bands, records digitized from your dad’s vinyl collection, or if you occasionally change computers, use multiple computers or multiple ipods, then iTunes will eventually cause you grief.

It’s not the most full-featured application either. Apple’s “less is more” philosophy does make for friendly, simple software, but a quick look at Apple’s supplied Applescripts give you an idea of the basic functions they haven’t bothered with.

Enter Mediamonkey

MediaMonkey is amazing. I’ve been running it for 3 months now and still feel like I haven’t scratched the surface of what it can do. Here’s a quick feature overview from the site:

  • Organize music and edit tags in your audio library with a powerful, intuitive interface
  • Automatically lookup and tag Album Art and other metadata
  • Manage 50,000+ files in your music collection without bogging down
  • Play MP3s and other audio formats, and never again worry about varying volume
  • Record CDs into OGG, MP3, FLAC and WMA files
  • Convert MP3s, OGG, FLAC and WMA files into other formats with the Audio Converter
  • Synchronize with iPods / MP3 players effortlessly and convert tracks on-the-fly
  • Party Mode, which allows users to make requests while protecting your library from being modified.

There’s a freeware version or you can pay US$19.99 for the “Gold” version ($39.99 for a lifetime licence to all future updates). The commercial features include:

  • Increased Speed CD Burning
  • File Monitor (automatically updates library)
  • Advanced Searches and AutoPlaylists
  • Advanced Portable Device Synchronization with on-the-fly format conversion (list of devices supported)
  • Unlimited MP3 encoding
  • Virtual CD / Previews
  • Advanced Filters
  • Sleep Timer

I use MediaMonkey more than any other piece of software on my machine, it’s loaded just about 100% of the time, so for me $20 equates to just about no money for something I’ll be running for 16 hours each day. The free version includes the advanced 3rd party scripting abilities though, so you may not even need the Gold licence to get the what you want out of the software.

Reasons Not to Use MediaMonkey

Just to get the major shortcomings out of the way early:
It’s PC only, sorry Mac users, but fortunately the Apple platform’s tighter integration and the huge quantity of 3rd party applescripts available will let you emulate many of these functions.
It’s not the most beautiful user interface and tends to feel a little cluttered. There are a few skins available but I’m sad to say I ended up settling for the default “brushed metal” style skin.
It has a lot of features and options. I personally consider this to be a strength, but if you’re scared of right clicking or want something that “just works”, perhaps iTunes or Winamp is more your speed.

Now that the lightweights have left: I am so in love with this software. It has evolved how I listen to and organize music. When using iTunes I would actually put off downloading albums or tracks from mp3 blogs or other non-mainstream sources, because I knew I’d have to go through the annoying process of tagging and importing so the tracks would show up and sync correctly to my iPod. I ended up using a separate program to audition downloaded tracks before importing them into iTunes. I had also put off changing media players as I have built up years of ratings and statistics which I couldn’t bear to lose.

Switching from Another Player

On installation MediaMonkey detects whether you have iTunes, Windows Media Player or Winamp installed and offers to import all of your rating and playcount information from those programs. When moving from iTunes the only thing left behind was my Smart Playlists. MediaMonkey calls them Autoplaylists and they follow a slightly different format, so you’ll have to make new ones. Autoplaylists allow most of the filter criteria within iTunes (with the notable exclusion of playlists-within-playlists), and plenty of extras including 3 “custom” fields, which you can rename and fill with information of your own devising. This is quite typical of MediaMonkey, while the default program has plenty of features and some cool new ideas, it’s the customization frameworks built in which makes it so powerful. If you’re one of the aforementioned discerning music listeners you’re hardly going to need me to hold your hand for the basics of a media player, so instead I’m going to touch on some of the more advanced features and superb 3rd party scripts and customizations which have me hooked.

MediaMonkey’s Included Coolness

Auto-DJ is like iTunes’ Party Shuffle, but integrated with the normal Now Playing window. If your queue is running out of tracks, Auto-DJ will automatically add new tracks to keep at least 10 upcoming songs at all times. These tracks can be chosen from the entire library, or from a specific playlist.

Auto Organize Files allows you to move and rename files from within the program, so moving previously imported and played tracks from a download directory takes 3 clicks (or 2 shortcut key combinations) rather than the painful open-explorer-move-files-and-locate-them-manually process within iTunes.

Copy and Delete from within the app. Want to send a track to a contact, include it in a project directory or delete something horrible you never want to hear again? Both drag/drop and shortcut key copy/paste work from anywhere in the program, and when deleting a track from the library or a regular playlist you have the option of deleting from the playlist, from the playlist and library, or removing it from the computer as well.

Album Artist Display: Album Artist was only just added to iTunes 7. It’s been part of MediaMonkey since before it was called MediaMonkey, and it has helped me solve an issue I’ve had with media players since I started using them: How to tag and name compilation albums.
Without the Album Artist tag compilation tagging has always been a kludged affair: I had my compilation tracks tagged with the artist as “compilation name” and track name as “track artist – track name”, which isn’t a particularly intuitive solution.
If you use the musician’s name in the “artist” field, then the various tracks from a various artists album will be spread throughout your library. If you use the compilation or dj name as the artist, then those tracks won’t show up with others by the same musician. The Album Artist tag solves this by allowing you to have it both ways.
For instance: If I was to purchase and rip So Fresh – The Hits of Spring 2006 (which I believe to be around volume 572 of the groundbreaking So Fresh series) I would tag the tracks with “So Fresh” as album artist and the musician (or fashion victim) as artist. So if I want my library to display my whole So Fresh collection in all its glory I can sort by Album Artist, whereas if I’d like to see all of my Pussycat Dolls tracks I can sort by Artist.

Find More From The Same: To quickly locate related tracks without rearranging the library you can right click on any track and choose “Find More from Same” artist, album, genre, year etc.

Half Star Ratings: I’ve always had problems dealing with a 5 point rating system. It’s just not enough flexible enough and left me with hundreds of 3 star songs which, really, aren’t 3 star songs. I probably wouldn’t choose to listen to them if presented with a list, but they’re definitely not 2 star tracks. 2 star is for all those annoying hip hop skits and infuriating “hidden tracks”. MediaMonkey allows for half-star ratings, and it also differentiates between “unrated” and “no stars” (bomb). Note that iTunes has been able to display half-star ratings since iTunes 6.0.2, but you need an applescript to set them and they don’t actually do anything.

Advanced 3rd Party Stuff

The MediaMonkey Add-ons page displays a relatively paltry assortment of plugins. However, it is designed to be compatible with the Winamp 2 API, which opens up several thousand other options. However, apart from the Audioscrobbler plugin I haven’t really explored this option, beause the user developed scripts are crazy delicious.

Looking at the official scripts page may again lull you into a false sense of disappointment. Apart from the excellent Magic Nodes there isn’t much there. To find the really great stuff you need to jump into the Scripts and Components forum. To me this is the program’s greatest weakness, all of the very best functionality is hidden away and completely disorganized. This is vaguely understandable as most scripts are constantly under development, so forums are great for people to discuss modifications and updates, but I’d love to see a scripts wiki or user scripts list on the main site. Of the 5200 registered forum members I’m sure a couple would be happy to keep this updated. There is an “All Scripts” thread on the forum, but it’s woefully out of date and presents as an unwieldy list. Most scripts also need to be added manually to MediaMonkey by copying the script code from a forum thread, creating a new file in the MediaMonkey scripts directory and pasting in the code, once again not the most friendly process if you’re trying to discover new functionality.

However, I have plenty of time on my hands, so I have spent several nights gleefully wading through forum threads and testing out scripts to bring you a list of my favourites.

Jaymis’ Favourite MediaMonkey Scripts


Magic Nodes is fantastic. Outwardly it works like Smart Playlists, allowing advanced dynamic filtering, however Magic Nodes lets you use SQL filtering for increased awesomeness, and also displays the results in a tree structure. Example Magic Node strings can be found here.

Auto Album DJ: If you reach the end of your Now Playing list, this script adds a randomly selected album to play next. Minimum tracks, average rating, minimum rating, genre etc. are customizable within the script code.

ScrobblerDJ is another automatic playlist filler. When the final track in now playing is reached this script queries Last.fm for a list of similar artists, then chooses a track from your library from one of those artists. This can cause a bit of a “feedback loop”, filling your playlists with similar, popular artists, but this is great if you’d like to stay within a certain genre or mood, and if the playlist starts going awry you can pull it into a new direction by dropping a track of your intended mood on the end.

Radio Free Monkey is a playlist creation script which weighs tracks based on rating, how long they’ve been in the library etc.

Rate Played Song: If an unrated track is played through to the end, playback is paused and a ratings dialogue pops up.

Predefined Rating creates shortcuts for rating and moving between tracks, allowing you to rate albums quickly.

TweakMonkey allows you to tweak startup settings (volume, auto-play, shuffle, repeat, startup playlist, randomize playlist on startup, startup node) and hide nodes you’re not interested in.

Play History Node: Like having a local last.fm which actually your stats when you play the tracks, rather than a week later when you don’t care anymore.

Extract Fields
allows you to re-tag files based on their current tags. This is useful if you’ve used the aforementioned kludged compilation tagging system instead of album artist tags.

This is only the tiny subset of the available scripts which I’ve found useful or exciting. For more check out the Scripts and Components forum, or the wiki which I’m sure is coming any day now, right? Devs?

Quirks and Requests

MediaMonkey’s thickly piled awesomeness hasn’t made me blind to the problems or aspects which could do with some improvement. Obviously the script discovery and installation system needs an overhaul. I’d like to see an associated filetype extension for MediaMonkey Scripts, or at least some kind of packaging system which will install them for you, rather than having to manually create files and drop them into directories, which feels archaic and will prevent less advanced users discovering how great the program can be.

Tagging or rating the currently playing track will cause the audio to skip. This is an issue as basic as Apple’s longstanding lack of gapless playback: It should not happen, and a remedy should be of highest priority. It took Apple 5 years to add gapless support to the iPod, let’s hope MediaMonkey fix this sooner.

The shortcut keys are rather incongruous: [ctrl + p] for play? [ctrl + n] for next track? These should at least be customizable.

On my dual monitor system (driven by a Radeon X1600) the program always opens in the primary monitor, no matter where it was located when last closed. I’m guessing this may have something to do with the clever, svelte “now playing mode”, but this behaviour is well documented in the forums and doesn’t occur with any other program I run.

Some iTunes features which could do with porting

Smart playlists able to reference other playlists: This opens another level of advanced playlist creation. Examples here, here and here. Apple’s Smart Playlists are also able to match “all” or “any” rules, which can be very useful.

Start Time and Stop Time: Allows you to skip those annoying hip hop skits or “hidden track padding” at the beginning and end of otherwise good music, removing pointless banter and 15 minute silences from your playlists.

Skip Count Displayed: I believe MediaMonkey keeps count of skipped tracks, but it would be useful to have this information available for display and playlist creation.

The Verdict

Fantastic. iTunes 7 has caught up a little and is on another level in the looks department, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the abilities of this Monkey. If you have a PC you owe it to your music, give MediaMonkey a try.

  • te2rx

    Is this an ad? What does this have to do with creating digital music?

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis Loveday

    te2rx: What does it have to do with creating digital music? Do you listen to music you've created? Music other people have created? I might be wrong, but while people may use wildly different DAWs, sound editors or virtual instruments, they will all use one of a small group of media players. This is a review of an excellent alternative to the mainstream ones.

  • http://www.daveahl.com dave ahl

    there's nothing wrong with writing a positive review of a media player. i agree with Jaymis that it's relevant to the concerns of CDM.

    i think the ogg vorbis and FLAC support is good if you use those formats… personally all my stuff is higher res mp3s, .aacs (.mp4s) and aiffs.

    you said:

    >> a quick look at Apple’s supplied Applescripts give you an idea of >> the basic functions they haven’t bothered with.

    A lot of these scripts you're referring to are building blocks that are otherwise accessible in iTunes … i.e. copy paste different functions together and make your own script easily.

    i would have liked to see an "itunes vs. mediamonkey" feature chart in this review

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis Loveday

    That's a good point Dave, the page of Applescripts I linked to isn't really the best example. In that link I was focussing on things like "Delete Selected Track Files" and "Remove Missing Tracks". The lack of these features wastes loads of time for iTunes users who don't want iTunes to control their library structure.

    I agree that a feature chart would be useful, but for a proper comparison I'd want to compare it to Winamp, Media Player and Songbird (which seems to be progressing gradually) as well. If there's interest I will revisit the subject, but the review took quite a while to write and I had to edit quite a bit when iTunes 7 was released… I also wasn't certain that it would be of use to CDM readers. te2rx has already weighed in on the issue, so I'll wait to see what others think :)

  • rigel

    but who the fuck wants to pay for software? we're not all bloggers with expense accounts, you know. and why not a review of the FOSS players/managers?

  • ronnie

    rigel: the artcile states a free version of MediaMonkey is available as well. Why not mention some free alternatives if you know of any good ones instead of bashing this review?

  • rigel

    ronnie: because it reads like a fucking advertisement, as another poster already stated.

    for free alternatives, why not search sourceforge.net instead of asking me to provide them? i asked "why not reviews?" because i have not reviewed many of them myself. fucking duh.

  • Hell Prawn

    Just wanted to support Jaymis's support of the monkey. I've been using it for about a month now, just out of curiousity at first, but now its completely replaced iTunes. The clinchers were the unlimited integration with my ipod, the ability to send tracks anywhere form within the program, and most of all the Auto-Dj function. I don't really know why though… i think probably because i can have it sitting in the corner o my screen and still be able to see the next few random tracks, and skip trhough them. Also, if another window is taking up your whole screen a little windows bubble pops up from the taskbar with all the information about the new random song that just started. That's the kind of little detail I dig.

  • Hell Prawn

    Also, I can finaly anthropomorphize my music payer, something which I sadly find quite difficult with most software these days. Its pathetic but I get a satisfying little kick out of saying "where's that fucking monkey?" everytime I start up my laptop.

  • WarpedEye

    Thanks, Jaymis, I've been looking for something like this! itunes is too simple, and the winamp media library is too cumbersome.

    You might just get me to switch permanently!

  • Chris

    I think foobar is the be all and end all of audio players… great community great application.

    Apple iTunes is bloatware and a marketing tool.

    I really don't like it. The ui though is very nice…

  • sith lord

    Useful, comprehensive review, though I'm still partial to J. River's Media Center, which is equally as capable *and* better looking.

    As for the naysayers…if this is advertising, is a positive product review ever not advertising? Moreover, media players are completely relevant to what us musicians do, whether it's knowing what to use at home or knowing what your audience is playing your music on. There's enough obscure software and hardware that gets reviewed on here that many of us will never even consider buying or trying, yet people aren't bitching that it doesn't apply to them.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Rigel, if this blogger had an expense account, rest assured I would not be writing about MediaMonkey. We'd be doing a blowout feature on electronic music in Brazil. With a special on music-making on yachts. Sponsored by the Brazilian Bikini Team. Actually, I'd probably just change the title of the whole blog.

    Some of these alternatives look really nice, and the fact that WMP11 is being restrictive even with music you rip yourself means going alternative is more appealing than ever.

    The only problem I see is on the Mac. Anyone got a good alternative there? XMMS works, but it's not the best library manager and requires Apple's sometimes-wonky X11 (causing driver problems), VLC is bare-bones … well, there's always Audion. iTunes has unfortunately eliminated the competition on the Mac. (Though I know some here are happily using iTunes, and there's nothing wrong with that — the podcast browser is very good, for instance.)

  • bliss

    As soon as I saw "PC Only" I just skipped the article altogether. I was interested for a moment, though. I've never really had a use for more than what iTunes offers. I don't spend time trying to figure out what it could do better. As long as it plays my tunes I'm happy.

    Most reviews do read like advertisements and they usually say, "Buy this" or "Don't even waste your time thinking about buying this." So I really don't know what the point is in getting all indignant about a review, they're generally useful in that more information is made available for the cautious consumer to make a more informed purchasing decision. The regular ads are what I get bent out of shape about because the entire spin is typically biased and hyped to hell. Important factors are unmentioned and other would-be important factors are mentioned in order to mislead the buyer. I especially can't stand the "So and So uses this and so should you!" garbage. CDM reviewers tend to do a pretty good job when compared to other reviewers and publications, I think. I definitely get the sense that despite affilitations the reviewers here go the extra distance in trying to give independent reviews.

  • kokorozashi

    This app sounds like it would be great for music collectors. I'm not sure these features comprise a compelling improvement over iTunes for music consumers. (I consider myself somewhere in between.)

  • http://una-love.com Michael Una

    Thanks Jaymis. I may give it a try. It syncs with ipods, hmm? Is that legal? (not that I care)

  • http://mememiner.com Wallace Winfrey

    For Windows, I think the best player bar none is Foobar 2000. While some might find the interface daunting and unattractive out of the box, it is beyond the shadow of a doubt the most customizable and flexible media player out there. The user guides are a great place to start. Definitely not for everyone, but if you like to tweak, there's no other media player on ANY platform that's more flexible.

    For OS X, I've been using Cog. While it doesn't have a bunch of bells and whistles, and doesn't (AFAIK) support streaming, it does support FLAC and Shorten lossless files.

    On my Linux box I've been using Music On Console, which is as it's name suggests, a console-based media player. I haven't been able to get it to compile under OS X so far.

    To be honest though, the media player that gets the most use around my house is my SqueezeBox, which, when combined with the OSS SlimServer streaming server, is a great solution for organizing and playback.

    I read the other day on the SlimDevices forums about a Linux media player that will compile under OS X, but I can't seem to find it. It WASN'T xmms, I can say that much.

  • rovingcowboy

    nice review of course i am bias a bit as i only used media monkey the last 4 years. i dropped jrivers's box of crap like a ten ton rock.

    when they started the media center.

    wmp? is only used for online midi files.

    winamp is a back up. for when i want to see the av's i created to work with it.

    there are some short comings with media monkey

    but they are working to fix them.

    there is talk in the forum of getting it to work on linux, there is 3 ways of getting monkey lic's / free, gold version, life time version,

    lots of skins being attempetd but there is new skin desgin on the way in a couple versions.

    this is by far faster and handles more songs then any other player organizer program.

    the amount of user created scripts is way beyound what you get any idea of from this review.

    he did not mention the timer scripts you can use to start media monkey and playlists by the task scheduler, and the one you can use to close media monkey witht he task scheduler.

    there are a couple styles of ratings scripts.

    there is a eq presets switching script that works on the genera of the songs.

    monkey tags 99% of your info on your songs and uses all the standard tags.

    so this is not just program to create music with but it is a program that creates musical listening everiments as it has use of lots of winamp 2.1 plugins and some winamp 5 plugins.

    i personely have media monkey playing the jukebox 22 hours a day every day of the week and all set up with timer scripts. the program is fast at filling the now playing playlist

    sure there are little improvemnets needed. but for a user the fact you can use the skins or not use the skins or use window blinds or make your own skin is very intresting.

    as a major user of media monkey i thank you for your review of it.

  • rojer

    I have been using MM for a while on a huge mp3 library.

    I must say i was impressed with this simple fact: MM does it all. converts on the fly, supports anything audio related, synches any hardware, builds awesome playlists, customizes like nothing else, etc. etc.

    A time saver like I hardly saw, in ANY field around computers. And I mean it, since i have seen a few in my work since the early 80's.

    Why it was written around a MS (Access) database is beyond me. it allows scripting, which is great, but you end up with bloatware-like behaviour (e.g internet explorer settings). I have limited access to the database through open office 2.0 when some fixing is required (e.g change your harddrive and realize that MM stores the drive' serial number…) Which i could use something more powerful and avoid the need to buy access to open the database.

    The best script i found so far is webmonkey. Having a 30.000+ songs webserver up and running in minutes is something one should experience. Drawback is the same as with access db: you end with ASP code when you would have prefered php or such.

    I do recommend this software despite these drawbacks, as yhey have limited impact on the average user. The fact that there is a non free version is irrelevant since the free version is already so powerful.

    I am quite certain that foobar offers nothing near MM features. Some demos look great though, but it is a script kiddy only app. The day i want to write my own program, I'll learn to code :) Some might want to run a comparison, i simply do not know foobar enough : just installed it and and decided to do something else with my time.

    A few days ago, i was on a friend's pc, browsing his itune database. OMG ! bloatware is still optimistic ! This is absolute crap, capable of nothing. I even discovered that he had done SEVERAL wma/m4c conversions on the SAME files : the poor guy has several players and always answer "yes" when asked a question. i suppose everyone hear knows the question when itunes find a wma file on the disk ?

    Well, this must have to do with the fact that i hate this ipod/drm thing just as much as i do with MS/WMA crapware. Why people trust those companies and use their marketing tools (as rightly said above) is beyond me.

    MM is way to go. I do agree that 20$ (15€) is close to NO MONEY, especially considering the time i used to invest -hence waste- in organizing my music collection since the mid 90's.

    I gave a good try at j. Rivers media center. I found it to be quite bloated and nowhere near as powerfull and convenient as MM. Does nice auto tagging though. The interface might look shinier but, in the long run, appears to be bloated where MM is just simple.

    This is my opinion and i share it. thanks for the review anyway, i found it to be usefull and i can't see why some whould whine about its being here….

    Rojer

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  • George

    I just installed MM.But it did not transfer my iTunes stuff.

    1.Why?

    2.Are there any TUTORIALS out there or CD's, DVD that actually take a Beginner like myself from:

    1.Start MM.

    2.Insert CD.

    3.Here's where I need help.

    a.Do I need to setup a music database now?

    b.?

    Basically I need the LOGICAL STEPS 1_20,ect… to get to your knowledge levels.

    Can anyone HELP? BOOKS, CD's, DVD's, ect…

    Thanks,

    George

  • Matt

    Is there any gapless playback support for MM?

  • Matt

    Nevermind, I found out here:

    http://www.mediamonkey.com/faq/index.php?action=a

  • Dylan

    wow

  • http://noisetheatre.blogspot.com/ robin

    Two words:

    Foo Bar.

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  • RichardL

    I recently switched from iTunes 7 to Media Monkey. I'm really happy with Media Monkey and happy to be free from iTunes. I had been quite unhappy and frustrated with iTunes 7's quirks and bugs, slow performance and unresponsive UI (on Windows at least).

    But my major problem with iTunes is that it really is not designed to be used with a music library that is stored on a server. I keep my music library on a server and access it from multiple computers. iTunes just sucks at this. (Last I checked Apple didn't even support putting your iTunes music library on a server or even an external drive.) Adding an album of 12 MP3s from my server (RAID 5 NAS to Airport Express) takes 3 min 25 sec in iTunes. With Media Monkey it takes 15 sec. And with Media Monkey I can do other things at the same time. With iTunes the program is frozen and you can do nothing while it adds tracks to your library.

    So Media Monkey seemed like an excellent candidate for my needs.

    But whoa. My first problem with the current version 2.5 of Media Monkey is that it doesn't natively support AAC files. A few years ago I drank the Kool-Aide and was ripping my music to AAC format. So I have about 1800 tracks in non-DRMed AAC format. There are some WinAmp plugins that supposedly allow Media Monkey to play AAC files. But I found the audio performace was inadequate on my systems. Also even with the AAC plugins, Media Monkey can't read tags from AACs you are forced to resort to file names for library management. The next version of Media Monkey 3 will natively support AAC files, but it's still pre-beta and not yet ready for full-time use.

    So I can either do nothing for a few months until Media Monkey 3 is ready. I can find and re-rip the CDs (most of the CDs are archived away in storage bins) or find unprotected MP3s of the tracks, or I can convert the AAC tracks to MP3. I decided to do the last with an option of the first if I'm not happy with the results. iTunes is more than happy to convert your unprotected AACs to the codec of your choice. I set iTunes to the task of converting the AACs and about half a day later I had the whole collection in MP3.

    The second and larger problem was the protected AAC files I've bought from the iTunes Store. Somehow these have added up over the last copy of years, and I've got hundreds of them. I made a list of these. Of these I've got a handful that I've got on CDs since. There are a few dozen that are available as unprotected MP3s on eMusic. But I decided to take the brute force approach and burn all the protected AAC tracks to CD and re-rip them to MP3. A couple long evenings and few dozen CDs later the problem was behind me. I know there is potential for compromised audio quality re-ripping to a different codec, but I think that problem is largely theoretical and the potential for loss in quality is exaggerated. I really don't hear any problem with any of the re-ripped iTunes tracks even on critical listening. I'm sure there is some material for which it's an issue, but frankly I haven't found any. If I do I can just re-purchase the music on CD.

    I still have no option but to rely on iTunes for occasional downloaded videos. (Missed episodes of Battlestar Galactica and such.) And I use iTunes for Audible books. But for music now I'm happily rid of iTunes and DRM free. At the least I've reduced the scale of my dependence on iTunes and the size of the library iTunes was (mis)managing.

    I don't have much hope that iTunes will ever completely drop DRM. The tide has maybe turned and music may eventually be universally DRM-free (they've got a long way to go). But there's absolutely no indication they have any such intentions for video which is no doubt where the most growth in the downloadable content market is. The current DRM-free thing is just bread and circuses for the blogs.

  • http://sidechainmusic.com Dave Dri

    Great review J, thanks for taking the time to do such!

  • Whiznot

    I tried Winamp, WMP10, Itunes, Foobar, J. River Media Center and MediaMonkey Gold. MediaMonkey Gold Rules! MediaMonkey is simple, easy and powerful. The only thing I don't like is the dumb name and icon.

  • Leo

    i love mediamonkey… but after too many pc troubles have migrated to a mac, i refuse to use itunes though… does anyone know of a media player on mac that resembles media monkey?

    cause media monkey rocks

  • http://www.mediamonkey.com Peke

    J great review, thank you.

    I'm would be possible to make comparison of MM 2.x and upcoming MM 3.0 http://www.mediamonkey.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=
    And would like to see what is corrected, even better what is not corrected and needs to be improved?

    For Leo:

    Some MM users work on enabling MM under Wine and other Win Emulations under mac os, but for that you will need to check forum.

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  • Erin

    Overall, I really like MM. But, don't care for its name. I have disabled the MM startup screen OK. Now, how about internal name & icon replacements? I won't give up MM for this, but my Puccini collection would appear in more stately hands. OK, no name alias, just let me squish that little MM icon on the main screen. Any suggestions? Erin

  • Arthur

    Hmm, I find MediaMonkey to be OK for some things but a bit clunky overall. My collection is 30000 plus and a lot of it requires major clean up.

    Other software I have tried (and bought some even!) includes MusicMatch, WinAmp, WMP and others.

    But I think the time has come to attempt my own database… wish me luck!

  • chuck

    I like MediaMonkey so well I paid for it and bought the lifetime version. Trust me this doesn't happen often. Why did I buy it? It made me happy and is fast, clean and operation is obvious. (Itunes had me below deck on the Titanic with the anchor tied to my ipod.)

  • Daniel

    Rigel

    "but who the fuck wants to pay for software?"

    Maybe your mum and dad have a job and can buy software for you?

    They can also teach you new fun words that replace "fuck" in every second sentence you write.

  • Crooksy

    I tottaly agree with this review

    I got an iPod Classic 160GB as a present but have an old laptop at home running Windows 2000. Unfortunately you need the latest iTunes to support this iPod and it doesn't support Windows 2000.

    So after an awful lot of research for an iTunes alternative that will sync with the latest iPods I finally found Media Monkey and it is really great and easy to use. Thank goodness for this software, otherwise I would have been left with a very expensive memory stick!

    I am in the process of ripping my CD's and use EAC (Exact Audio Copy) which is a fantastic free software that rips and error corrects CD's and have set it up to use the LAME MP3 encoder which works brilliantly.

    Media Monkey is then used to organise these ripped MP3's. In my eyes this is the perfect alternative setup to iTunes and results in great sounding MP3's.

    PS If only the software would allow you to update iPod firmware then it would be perfect – hate Apple but they are the only company who make an MP3 capable of storing all of my music.

  • http://http//:rockergurl.com chloe

    HOW DO U PUT THE ACTUAL MUSIC ON MEDIA MONKEY FOR @¬@:@;#'? sake

  • Crooksy

    Simply select the "location" from the tree menu on the left then right click and select "scan". Then select the directory you want Media Monkey to search for music and add to your Library. Easy

  • Crooksy

    One thing I have found that Media Monkey isn't good with is copying playlists to and from an iPod. For some reason I can't copy my iPod on the Go Playlist over to Media Monkey and rename it and copy it into another playlist. Also when you try to copy a playlist from Media Monkey to the iPod it duplicates the songs, which is daft.

  • handchop

    A few people have asked for a Media Monkey equivalent for the mac. Has anyone tried Jaikoz . This is more of a program for fixed/organising your music than playing them, but it has some great features that even Media Monkey doesnt have such as Fix from Musicbrainz, Fix Lyrics and Delete Duplicates, heartily recommended.

  • Fenix88

    A wise Monkey never monkeys around with another monkey's monkey. That has nothing to do with this article or my opinion, but anyways I digress. This program is fantastical – I have used iTunes, WMP 11, Winamp, Jetaudio, vlc, J River's Media Jukebox, and the list goes on. I'd have to say that this Monkey has the top rank! Although I am anxious to see how songbird does. I love the detail provided on this software Jaymis – well done :D I am still learning my way around the program and I would agree the scripts aren't as user friendly as I would have expected them, but so far I am very pleased with this software! Thanks!

  • grumpy1958

    found this review interesting. does it handle running two seperate ipods with two seperate libraries on different user accounts.

  • http://www.jaymis.com Jaymis Loveday

    @grumpy 1958: This review is for the old version of MediaMonkey. It definitely handles multiple ipods – you can choose to sync different playlists to certain ipods – but I'm not sure about using it on different user accounts. I'd suggest trying the <q href"http://www.mediamonkey.com/forum/">MediaMonkey forums.

  • Steve

    I wonder if MM can play with a Microsoft Zune…

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  • nymthehavoc

    I have found the review interesting. I have a decent 40k+ collection of music, almost all well over 256k. Previously I have used musicmatch, some winamp and in the last 3 years mediaplayer which I like a lot. The last one has a good feature like it does not show all the songs of the artist but when I open the selected singers folder. I find that extremely important with a big database. Mediamonkey unfortunately does not have this feature the same way (the additional box does not work for me in this case).

    I also find that winamp has the best sound quality on an upper end sound system, media player is 2nd, and media monkey comes in 3rd- and with some rich music flac it is a quite difference. I mean it is not terrible, but listening one after another it is easily worse.

    I love the way mediamonkey fills the uncomplete tags, and covers though.

  • Nightmare

    daniel & rigel are assholes and should not be allowed to "contribute" to this forum. I think they should take their teen angst and remove themselves from the gene pool.

  • shaft

    Thanks for the review. I have been testing mediamonkey and foobar lately, since winamp has finally let me down.

    MM does not support m4a. What are people using to play those pesky m4as laying around?

  • Paulmarkj

    Mediamonkey is a very, very, good product. The free version is good, the pay version better.

  • Gavin

    Love the Monkey…

    Just adding for other people's interest: RexExpReplace is a fantastic script for MediaMonkey. It allows you to do all sorts of smart automated search and replace operations on your tags. It makes managing a collection of music possible without hand-editing every track.

    Also, the official version of MagicNodes doesn't appear to work in MediaMonkey v3 (someone please correct me if I'm wrong). I'm about to try the unofficial version here: http://solair.eunet.yu/~zvezdand/MagicNodes.htm

  • ALeX

    Another 2 thumbs up for MediaMonkey. I have been using it for a couple of years, maybe more, and would hardly leave it. It gives you SO much control!

    Version 3, if not a quantum leap, is definitely one large step forward in the UI dept. The task bar applet is excellent.

    I guess 90% of the software I use is free/open source, and even in that mindset, I'm planning to upgrade to the not-free version of the Monkey. This much I love it ;)

    To all the "is this an ad?" crowd: I think Jaymis (and every blogger, for that matter) is entitled to an opinion (don't DUH me just yet), and enthusiasm happens to be an opinion. Isn't that one of our big motivations to read blogs: the author's opinion?

    If you only like authors that rant about everything and never get excited about anything, that's OK. But I don't mind if an author goes crazy on something, as long as s/he means it.

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  • Cliff

    I HATE Media Monkey. It will lose ALL of your art work. You can only recover it one song at a time.

  • noli

    Is it possible to install MM to an external drive so that my collection of music will be portable and can be hooked to other PCs?

  • stormycanz

    just like to add how awesome this was to use in a dj set (primary cdj's). when you have hunderds of cds its hard to remember what track they are on which without reading the covers. ive ripped all my cds to netbook computer and i was able to pick what cd the track was on in seconds. very useful for people requesting. may even now scrap the covers and chuck into cd wallet.

  • http://www.davelog.com Mr. Dog

    While the review is dated, it still holds up as a great assessment of MediaMonkey. It's the best overall player I have used, (though I did like early versions of JRiver.) It has only gotten better in version 3.

  • pete

    Love monkey media but when it searched my PC for all my music. It copied I tunes, limewire, winamp and windows media player ,and now I have many thousands of tracks copied sometimes 4 times .

    why can`t media monkey do a one click, delete duplicates button?

  • saturday

    MM would be the best…if it worked.

    Unfortunately, it consistently freezes, needs to be deleted and re-installed, copies files 100 times randomly in playlists and a whole host of other horrific buggy goodies to keep you from enjoying the music you so deary want to hear. The shuffle function is broken and doesn't not work with libraries over 100k files. And the 'support' staff is rude and demeaning on their forum.

    It's disturbing and saddening that in 2010 MediaMonkey is considered the best there is. I am being forced to convert 1/4 of my library to employ an alternative…because I'm tired of wasting, literally, hours a day trying to get MM to work the way it's supposed to. It's main advantage WOULD be that it handles the most variety of files types and that you can edit 'properties' of multiple files at once. But again, if it freezes and starts acting buggy then the whole thing is worthless.

  • saturday

    Sorry about the misspelled words above. I am drunk beyond belief.

  • Vaughan Hetah

    I also have used MM now for nearly three years and as a commercial business have over half a million songs in my data base witch is 3TB in size MM handles it no problem. A search for a particular song or artist has never taken longer than 3 minutes (as the database is spread over three external NAT drives I think the time is quite acceptable). Yes I do use the commercial version. I defy anyone to show me a better product that can handle a database of this size.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/L2FW55JCG4NNVE2CCP5336XJRE Cheese!

      I’m calling BS on this one. No way does MM handle 1/2 a mil songs ‘no problem’. I have 200k and the Gold version is slow and ‘not responding’ 99% of the time. Just because there’s nothing better doesn’t mean it’s worth a sht. Sad, that there are the same three, mostly worthless apps year after year after year…it’s 2012, people. Can’t we do better?

      Win7, tones of free space.

  • http://www.tidysongsreview.com Rinse

    Not a fan of MM. Very nice review though. Well written and masterfully laid out.

  • fyou

    Tjis fucking sucks same 3-5 artists over and over agian -fukc I just want random. I actually went and downloaded itunes cause this pice of shit pissed me off so much grammmer sucks but this doesnt desrv edit -

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