Sunday, 25 April 2010

Aqualung Media Player Review

Aqualung is stripped-down music player running on Linux, FreeBSD and Microsoft Windows. It plays audio CDs, streams and audio files.

Befitting the LXDE desktop, Aqualung is lightweight player. Used to the visual glitz and feature-laden VLC, you might find it something of a step back in time. It looks either incredibly simple or incredibly clunky, depending on your viewpoint. That's not to say it lacks fedatures, it's a very capable player...

Open the settings dialog and you'll find a well-laid out, vertical tabed controls area. The user interface is simple. It aims to maintain a low memory footprint.

Interface
Most of the skins are hideous. Plain being the best, Metal and Default tolerable. Layout not great, volume and pan controls difficult to operate with a trackpad. Not good for someone wth RSI. Not all of the controls have a tool-tip appear on mouse-hover. What you do get is a drop-down set of player controls from the notification area icon. Very cool when the program is minimised!

Music Store
Music Store doesn't mean Shop, it means library, or more precisely, an XML-based music database, capable of storing various metadata about music on your computer. Aqualung supports cover art, metadata display, connection to CDDB - track database of your choice you can specify, subscribing to RSS and Atom audio podcasts is supported (with automatic download).

Technically, libMAD (which Aqualung uses) is meant to provide  higher quality output than the equivalents in XMMS and WinAmp, but I'm not enought of an audiophile to notice. It works with OSS, ALSA, JACK and  Pulse Audio. Aqualung opens playlists in .xml, .m3u and .pls formats. It has the rare feature suppressing gaps between adjacent tracks.

Audio CDs can be played back and ripped to the Music Store with on-the-fly conversion to WAV, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis or CBR/VBR MP3 (gapless via LAME) with tagging of ripped files. Internet radio stations streaming Ogg Vorbis or MP3 are supported. Full format exports are supported.

Other players take note
Aqualug has tabed Playlists similar to tabbed web-browsing. I find this quite cool - must find out which others support this. Usefully, it implements state persistence via an XML config, so Aqualung launch in the same state as when you closed it; playback modes, volume and balance settings,  window sizes, positions and visibility. Also, there's  Search Playlist: I can dump a few folders full of audio into a playlist and search for individual tracks.

Finally there is an FX - 'Toggle LADSPA Patch builder' button. Aqualung supports the LADSPA 1.1 plugin standard. You can use any suitable plugin to enhance the music you are listening to; I haven't tried this out yet.
RC

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