ATunes: get a sophisticated mp3 player with Last.fm integration

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ATunes is an open source program that combines a powerful, full-featured music player with a Last.fm-powered recommendation engine.

Available features include CD ripping, internet radio, audio podcasts, smart playlists, support for portable audio devices, and others.

When it comes to great freeware audio players it seems we are spoilt for choice. ATunes is another program that offers a wide range of functions.

Here is what sets this program apart to make it interesting:

  • It looks and feels great: and by this I mean a kind of appealing simplicity of design and an intuitive user experience.You can do everything by right clicking on individual or multiple tracks.
  • Atunes - Last-fmLast.fm integration: in practical terms this means that (a) ATunes can connect with your Last.fm account if you have one – not a requirement – and scrobble the tracks you listen to, (b) can recommend related music in real time for each track or artist in your playlist (with the option to click and listen on the Last.fm site), (c) it will automatically display information on the playing artist as well as download and display song lyrics, and (d) can tag genres for files in your library according to the Last.fm database. See the image to the right for Last.fm info.
  • Last.fm and album art: album art pulled from Last.fm is automatically saved inside the tag for that audio file (you can optionally switch this off, but I am loving it believe me). This essentially means that you can fix your album art (for most of your tracks, not all) simply by playing your music library. How cool is that? You can also right click and save the pulled lyrics into the audio file tag as well.

ATunes offers a collection of cool functions in one place but lacks some features offered by other freeware music managers. I will start by listing the functions that it supports:

  • Audio formats supported: mp3, ogg, wma, wav, flac, mp4, ra, and rm.
  • CD Ripping: does this very well, including grabbing tag info from Amazon.
  • Internet Radio: provides a good collection of built in internet radio stations, and you can easily add your own.
  • Views: you can view your library by artist, album, genre, or folder structure. This is simple and all the better for it. You cannot browse your collection by album art. Supports a tabbed interface where you can work on multiple playlists simultaneously in each tab.
  • Search: has both an advanced search dialog (from the ’Tools’ menu) and a filter box that can act on any view in order to hone on on what you might be looking for.
  • Audio podcast support: subscribe to audio podcasts and download them locally on your hard disk. No video podcast support.
  • Tag editing: you can edit tags by right clicking a single audio file or a selection of audio files. It’s tag editing ability is functional but not advanced; it does not offer any mass editing functions (e.g. tags from filename or vice versa, case functions or find/replace, etc.) To get this level of sophistication you will need another app such as the excellent (and free) Mp3Tag.
  • ATunes Screenshot Context menuSmart Playlists: collects (and displays) stats on user behavior and can generate playlists based on that. Also allows for user-specified favorites tracks, artists, or albums (see image to the right).
  • Volume normalization:to eliminate volume differences across tracks. Also supports an equalizer with a number of available presets.
  • Support for audio devices: I haven’t any personally, but will quote the site “connect your portable player or anything that could be mounted as a file system, and view in ATunes, copy to repository, synchronize, etc.”
  • Memory use: a whopping 79 megs, definitely more than usual for this sort of program (e.g. ITunes at 60 megs, Mediamonkey and JRiver Media Jukebox both use up 30 megs). I’m hoping they get this optimized in future versions.

Features that ATunes does not offer:

  • Audio conversion: not supported. But there are many good freeware options that can provdie this, e,g Pepsky Free Audio Converter, which can also burn audio CD’s.
  • Audio CD burning: not supported. Use Pepsky (mentioned above) for this if your CD burning program doesn’t offer it.
  • Audio recording: no line-in recording. Use the free Mp3MyMp3 instead.

The verdict: this program is a good all-around music player with some solid features. What I like about it is the Last.fm integration (info, recommendations, genre tagging, and automatic album art downloads), which makes me feel like I can connect my otherwise isolated music library with the rest of humanity (so to speak). Overall a very solid program that is worth installing.

Version Tested: 1.9.0

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Linux. Requires Java 6 Runtime Edition.

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 19.3 megs).