me and mp3-playing software go back a long way. it all started with 'music match jukebox', which came with one of my computers about 8 years ago. in those days i wasn't really into the mp3 thing - i was most definitely listening to cds - frankly my hard drive would never have coped with a big music library. it wasn't until i upgraded to a computer with a 200gb drive that my hard drive-based music collection began to take precedence.
after a brief dalience with windows media player i moved on to itunes. most people go to itunes because they get an ipod but i was just using it because it seemed to work well. i liked that it was free and i liked features like 'smart playlists' etc. but apple kept on upgrading it and making it bigger and bigger so that it started taking up more space and i started to go off it. by then the itunes store had come to nz so i was using it for that and intitially i thought i was stuck because of the amount of itunes music i had (still in the days of itunes drm).
then i started doing some research and after a bit of trial and error decided on mediamonkey. it was feature-laden, had a smaller memory footprint than itunes and, when i tried it out, actually seemed to be making my music sound better. not only that but it played my itunes music fine and supported last.fm (another must).
and thus it continued for over a year. but mediamonkey - despite what they say - is not actually free. its advanced features are locked away until you pay. and unfortunately some of those advanced features are to do with smart playlists - limiting what you can do without parting with cashola. i always thought i would end up paying for the full version of mediamonkey... but just recently i decided to delve into the world of mp3 software again.
the first program that really caught my attention was songbird. it is a very cool concept that has a lot of features and is still in development so should continue to improve based on user feedback. songbird's particular claim to fame is that it also works as an internet browser, making it very handy when you come to interface your music collection with the resources of the internet.
i was happily using songbird one evening and playing the software version of risk when i noticed that risk was hesitating before certain actions - a sure sign that something was using a lot of ram. sure enough i discovered to my dismay that songbird was using twice the memory that mediamonkey had used and research on the net revealed that this a well-known weakness of the program.
so i went looking again and this time i came up with j.river's media jukebox. this software used to run on the same basis as mediamonkey with a free and paid version, but since j.river released a new software solution that encompasses all the media in your home they have made their music player 100% free. and it's a great program. you have to put up with a bit of advertising for amazon's music download service and i found that j.river want payment for the mp3 encoding feature (you can also use your own external encoder), but other than that it is feature-rich, sounds great, has native last.fm support and is very customisable. and for all that, its memory footprint is actually slightly less than mediamonkey, plus you don't need to run the last.fm program to scrobble so you save memory there too.