Review: Banshee Replaces Rhythmbox

Ubuntu 11.04 has replaced Rhythmbox with Banshee as it's default media player. Note media not just music. This isn't Canonical playing games with the Ubuntu distro, but because the Rhythmbox development team may release only one more version; it’s the end of the road for this popular music player, which is a shame as I like it.

I think the interface of Banshee is very much like Rhythmbox anyway, except that it displays album covers in the browser. It can import all your Rhythmbox playlists to make the transition less painful. But besides having all of the features of Rhythmbox and some of its' plugins, Banshee is a full media player, able to play video as well as most formats of audio...

In Ubuntu 11.04, Banshee is set to run automatically and is accessible in the volume control. Rhythmbox stays installed with the Upgrade so you can migrate when you're ready.

Set-up is easy, as Banshee will automatically scan your ~/Music folder’s contents. You can easily change it to point to wherever you store your music, just as well as mine is on a separate partition. Whenever you want to force a scan, go to Tools > Rescan Music Library.

You can then import your Rhythmbox play-lists via Media > Import Media. The Import Play-list option is for importing individual play-lists you may have saved, which would be the case if you’re migrating settings into a fresh install. It defaults the sort order to artist, but sorting and filtering Play-lists is very flexible.

Banshee fetches cover art if you enable it through View > Show Cover Art.

You can import Rhythmbox covers if you prefer those to the Banshee cover fetches.  These come from /home/yourusername/.cache/rhythmbox/covers and you can drag-and-drop a cover from this folder onto the Banshee cover while a song is playing. This puts them into /home/yourusername/.cache/media-art. When Banshee can’t find a cover, or you want to use a better one, you can search on-line, save the picture, then drag it onto the cover in Banshee's bottom-left pane; it will save a copy in its art folder.

Do the Shuffle
There isn't a simple shuffle button in Banshee. It's better than that; you get a shuffle menu chose the method of shuffling, enabled by clicking the down-arrow beside the Next button. You can choose to shuffle by song, artist, album, rating and score via the menu.

There's a stack of Banshee extensions available from Synaptic, including support for visualisations (banshee-extension-openvp), an alarm with variable volumes (banshee-extension-alarm), a radio stream recorder (banshee-extension-streamrecorder), support for displaying lyrics (banshee-extension-lyrics), even a plugin that changes your desktop wallpaper to the album art of the currently playing track (banshee-extension-coverwallpaper).

Context Pane
Banshee features the Context Pane, a lower-third section that lets you view other data like lyrics, YouTube videos, or even the Wikipedia page for the current track. It is re-sizable, you'll be glad to know.

There's a hidden button to resize the YouTube plugin which appears when you mouse-hover in the blank area above the plugin icons/buttons on the right side of the context pane, with the tooltip “Make the context pane larger or smaller“.

To enable or disable any plugins, go to Edit > Preferences, and in the Extensions tab scroll down to Context Pane and either tick or un-tick the desired add-on.

Banshee will play videos, although I question whether it's a suitable replacement for MPlayer, or VLC, both of which have interface and features designed for videos. I haven't looked at Banshee support for subtitles either...

I was quite concerned to be losing Rhythmbox, but Banshee is a full-featured media player. Banshee and its extensions may actually be better than Rhythmbox. The transition is proving a lot easier than I imagined. Once it gathers the Ubuntu audience and more extensions are developed it should get better over time. RC


  1. Rhythmbox development isn't going to end anytime soon, this is a persistent rumor that is annoying at best and FUD at worst.

  2. While we're not expecting any major version upgrades, like any Open Source project it's down to the developer community. If someone wants to keep it going, or fork to a new project to go on, then it will continue. I hope it does. The current roadmap comes to a stop with this version.

  3. I should preface this by saying that like Banshee. It's my default player. But people have been saying this since 2009, and it's been wrong every time. I have learned to dismiss this rumor out of hand. You can see regular, recent commits at
    That alone should be enough to silence this rumor. Show me your source and I might take you seriously.


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