Recently I upgraded my laptop’s Linux to the latest release, and I was surprised and saddened to discover that the wonderful music player Guayadeque seems to be considered as dead upstream, at least in Debian and Ubuntu. In a January blog post, the original author Juan Rios (@anonbeat) wrote that he is no longer able to support the code, which relies on outdated version of GStreamer 0.10. (When I asked about the status of Guayadeque on AskUbuntu, someone replied that it can now be built from source using the code on GitHub, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.)
Lately I have been experimenting with other players—most notably Quod Libet—but I still really like Guayadeque’s feature set. I’ve been thinking about what I like about Guayadeque, and how other open source music players stack up against this set of criteria.
What I love about Guayadeque
- Guayadeque can be configured to pass the music through unchanged to Alsa, allowing music to switch bit rate and bit depth on the fly, and making it simple to put the signal into an external digital-audio converter dedicated to music reproduction.
- It has a great “smart playlist” feature, which is what you need to keep the great tunes coming while you’re cooking that wonderful dinner.
- Although Guayadeque uses playlists, it isn’t as obviously playlist-centric as say Amarok or Exaile. I prefer playlists to be there when I want them and otherwise get out of the way. That is, sometimes I just want to double-click on an album and have it play.
- Guayadeque’s orientation to cover art seems flexible and useful. In particular, a directory of free downloads/samples can maintain their cover art without having to organize them into a less-chaotic structure, even while the rest/majority of the music library can rely on finding a “cover.jpg” in the album directory.
- Guayadeque shows the signal level and effective bit rate as the music plays.
- Guayadeque has good to great overall organization, layout, and performance.
Really the first item on the list is the critical feature for me; the rest all enhance the experience to a greater or lesser degree.
What about the alternatives?
Quod Libet also meets the first requirement on my list, and does well at items 3 and 6. It’s not as good at cover art, and I finally gave up and reorganized all those free downloads I’ve picked up over the years. The excellent online guide explains how to use the search capability to make smart playlists. I haven’t managed to find options to see signal level and bit rate as the music plays, but the website is jam-packed with information and there are many plugins available, so maybe somewhere in there…
I tried gmusicbrowser a year or so ago and quite liked it. At the time, it had a problem shutting down properly (at least in its Unity/Ubuntu incarnation). I’ve taken another look at it and I still like it. To get my first requirement sorted, I navigate to Main | Settings | Audio. There I set the gstreamer 1.0 option to Alsa and click on Advanced Options where I can specify my AudioQuest DragonFly digital analog converter in the Alsa Device field as hw:CARD=DragonFly,DEV=0. Works like a charm. In the left panel on the gmusicbrowser display under Audio Properties, I can see that a 96 kHz/24 bit file is recognized as such. And sure enough, when I check the contents of /proc/asound/DragonFly/stream0 I see that the music is playing at that rate.
Gmusicbrowser has a hugely configurable user interface, with the Layout & Make it look like… option as a starting point. It also offers a ton of information about what’s being played at the moment: properties of the music file, basic fields (tags), audio properties (noted above), and play statistics. There are lots of options to investigate here.
I haven’t figured out how to get level meters nor smart playlists. The album art looks fine. And for sure, given its emulation ability, I can choose my level of interest in playlists.
Finally, in the current version, I seem to be able to close the application without problems.
Gmusicbrowser is a strong contender—it seems more feature-rich, than Quod Libet, with functionality I find useful.
Besides these two, there are all the MPD-based players. Because I use MPD for the home stereo music server, perhaps I should consider it on my laptop as well. MPD certainly meets my first requirement (passing the music through unchanged), but my experience to date is that the available MPD front ends have fewer features than Guayadeque, Quod Libet, or gmusicbrowser.
I’m leaving out Amarok, Clementine, and Exaile because they are—as far as I can tell, anyway—too “playlist oriented” for my taste. But I welcome any corrections. I’m also leaving out Rhythmbox because I cannot determine how to make it compatible with my smart-playlist requirement. In theory, passing the music through unchanged on Rhythmbox should be possible because it uses gstreamer, which can use Alsa.
Do you have any other great open source music player suggestions for me to test drive? What is your favorite open source audio player? Take our poll.