Friday, October 22, 2010

Amp Up Your Music with Winamp

If you like to listen to music while working on or near your computer, like I do, you can't do better than Winamp's Media Player software. Like Windows Media Player, it plays many kinds of music files, video files, rips and burns CDs, organizes media files, and streams music and video from the Web.

But it goes miles beyond being a simple piece of software. With it you can access not only your music and video files, but music and video from all over the Web. In that sense it is much like iTunes, but whereas iTunes is generally a pay-for-play vehicle, most of Winamp's content is free.

The Media Library button (ML) on the Winamp player opens up literally thousands of listening and viewing options. Some of the menu items that can be found there are Shoutcast Radio, Shoutcast TV, AOL Radio, Song of the Day, OurStage Radio, Tour Tracker, Metrolyrics, and 7digital Music.

I'll talk first about the music since that is what I am most interested in with the Winamp player.

Every kind of music in the world can be found streaming through Shoutcast Radio, one of the menu items in the Media Library. If you like Pop music, there are hundreds of stations. If you like Japanese Pop music (JPOP) you can find forty or fifty stations. The same with Indonesian, or Indian, Instrumental or Heavy Metal. Not only is the choice of genre almost unlimited, but many of the stations can be streamed at different download rates depending on your Internet connection. At work I use a minimal download rate (32 bps, bits per second) so that I won't hog precious work bandwidth, but at home where I have more available bandwidth I use the best bandwidth available, which is usually 128 bps for the film soundtracks music station I listen to. The higher the download bandwidth, the better the fidelity the music has.

Some of the stations have on-air DJs and some stations play the music with the occasional station identification. Others are streams of commercial broadcast radio stations. In addition there is talk radio of every sort. You literally could not listen to everything Shoutcast Radio has to offer there is so much.

But for music, there are still more choices. AOL Radio is one of those choices. Here you'll find hundreds more radio channels to listen to. Easy listening, to classical, to Holiday-themed music. You can practically throw away your FM radio!

Then there's Song of the Day, which presents a song a day that you can download for free and play from new or unknown artists.

OurStage Radio lets you play new music in a bunch of genres and rate songs with a thumbs up or thumbs down.

Tour Tracker attempts to find touring information about the artist that is currently playing on your Winamp player.

Metrolyrics tries to find lyrics to the song that is currently playing in your Winamp player.

The 7digital service allows you the opportunity to buy what you are listening to, or other music.

And speaking of choices, in the Media Library there are also 30,000 Podcasts to subscribe to, download, and listen to. Learn a new language, listen to news, science discussion, car talk, and more.

As if all of that isn't enough to keep you busy, there are also over one hundred video streams on Shoutcast TV. In my opinion there isn't anything worth seeing there (if you can get something to work at all!).

My favorite place to go in the Winamp Media Player is Shoutcast Radio. Tune into Winamp yourself and you'll soon be finding something great to listen to as well.

Download the Winamp media player from Winamp's website.

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