Eight MP3 Players For The Macintosh

By Applelinks Contributing Editor Charles W. Moore

The MP3 digital music compression format may well be the biggest revolution in storage and playback of recorded music since the introduction of high-fidelity long-play phonograph records during the 1950s.

While MP3 recordings are actually a step backward from the fidelity of CD-ROM and the rich analog sound of the LP record, their relative ease of distribution and ability to be stored on very compact media give them an edge in terms of convenience and portability, and make them a nightmare for copyright-holders.

I'm not going to get into that latter thorny issue in this column, although you can read my previous Moore's Views & Reviews columns on the topic: Copyrights And Copywrongs and A Spanish Main Of The Internet, Or The Place Where Everybody Knows Your (Nick)name?

David Ozab also has an interesting treatment of the topic in his column, "The People vs. the Recording Industry," in the March 2000 issue of About This Particular Mac

This particular column is about the fun side of MP3s -- listening to them -- and to do that on your Mac you need MP3 player software. Happily, there is a luxury of MP3 player choices available for Mac users, and this article will provide an overview of that selection.

Actually, Apple's own QuickTime Player, which ships with the MacOS, will play MP3s one at a time. However, you will almost certainly want more functions than QuickTime offers if you have more than a casual interest in the MP3 phenomenon.

Here are reports on eight available Mac MP3 players, including freeware, shareware, and commercial software alternatives, which appear in alphabetical order.

• AMP Radio 1.5
• Audion 1.5
• GrayAmp 1.2.O
• MACAST 1.0r2
• QuickAmp v3.0
• Rapster 1.0b6
• SoundApp 2.6.1
• SoundJam MPfor Macintosh

AMP Radio 1.5

AMP Radio is a streaming media and MP3 player for the Macintosh. The MP3 player side features a hierarchical playlist and a built-in ID3 tag editor.

AMP Radio is also an Internet Radioclient that lets you connect to hundreds of Internet radio stations.

AMP Radio's GUI mirrors the basic design of a car stereo, and designed to be inuitive and easy to operate without crowding your monitor. You can change the face to one of three colors, and enable Live Windows for realistic dragging. Simple knobs allow you to control the volume, bass and treble settings for the music. You can Drag as many streaming server bookmarks as you like onto the playlist.

Besides radio, AMP Radio offers two ways to enjoy MP3s. You can use AMP Radio to listen to files stored on remote servers (HTTP playback). as well as excellent local playback of MP3s, with the new new hierarchical playlist. The hierarchical playlist allows you to sort your mp3s by album, artist, or any other way you desire. Or, you can use it as a simple playlist. You can also record with AMP Radio.

AMP Radio is $10 shareware.

For more information or to download AMP Radio, visit:

Audion 1.5

Panic Software's Audion is billed as a single tool thatcan handles all your audio playing needs -- being a top-notch CD player, a flexible MP3 player, and a smooth network-audio player all in one.

Audion's three modes are designed to reduce interface clutter and make Audion easier for beginners to understand. For power users, every feature and function of Audion can be accessed, usually quicker, through the pull-down menus or keyboard shortcuts. For example, while a beginner may click the mode button until net mode is highlighted, then hit "play" to listen to a network audio stream, a power user will likely simply select "Open Server" from the File menu.

Audion will play any standard MPEG audio file. This includes MPEG-1 and MPEG-2; layer I, II, or III (also known as MP3), and even supports some third-party extensions to the MPEG format, such as MPEG-2.5 and variable bitrate (VBR) encoding.

To create a MP3 playlist with Audion, simply select Playlist from the Window menu, and drag and drop your MP3 files, or folders, or even your hard-drive onto the playlist window. Audion can also automatically organize your playlist for you.

Other features in Audion 1.5 include:
• Alarm Clock: wake up to your favorite music.
• MP3 Info Editor: Edit your MP3's ID3 tags
• Super-Configurable Interface allows you to change keyboard shortcuts, playlist columns, even control window text.
• Karaoke Mode: Audion can reduce the vocals of your favorite songs so you can sing along
• Improved MP3 Playback: No more prescanning, greater compatibility, instant track changes!
• Full AppleScript Support: Audion is at your command thanks to a robust AppleScript dictionary.
• Transparent-Capable Interfaces
• Built-In Streams Directory: find a streaming server without touching a web browser.
• MP3 Player uses Panic's own Mac-only, super-smooth engine, with VBR support, ID3v2 tags, any layer, any bitrate, any time.
• CD Player uses CDDB: ypu can sing along to "Lovely Rita" instead of "Track 10".
• Net Audio Player lets you listen to Shoutcast/Icecast "radio" streams.
• An equalizer, drag and drop everything, true ff/rewind.

Audion is $17.95 shareware. The non-registered trial version does not support alternate "skins" interfaces and is limited to 30 minute sessions.

For more information or to download Audion, visit:

GrayAmp 1.2.O

GrayAMP is a no frills MP3 player. It is plain and simple, small and lightweight but still includes all the major features you need in a player (such as full playlist support). The interface is Finder-like and MacOS 8 friendly. "In the spirit of MP3s," say the developers, "GrayAMP is free."

GrayAMP is designed to sit in the background on your computer and play MP3s without a lot of fuss or fanfare. There are no visual plug-ins to eat up processor power, or skins to redo your interface. This is a particular strong point if you have an older PowerMac for use as an MP3 player. But even if you have a brand new, top of the line Mac, it's convenient to be able to run GrayAMP in the background and without slowing other functions down GrayAMP is small and fast.

GrayAMP Features include:
• Fast MPEG Audio engine, or...
• QuickTime 4 can be used for playback (plays all QT-supported formats)
• Complete Playlist features
• Add, Remove, Rearrange songs
• Sort by Name or Played status
• Save and Load playlists
• GrayAMP is smart enough not to lose track of files when moved
• Drag & Drop files or folders
• And of course, Shuffle & Loop
• Simple, Finder-like interface (Full MacOS 8 style)
• The ability to set your own Command-keys for Play, Stop, Pause, etc.
• Contextual Menus & Navigation services
• Live Windows & Scrolling
• Lightweight (small) application

System Requirements:
• Macintosh PowerPC
•System 8.0 or later
•System 7.5.x/7.6 with Appearance Manager

For more information or to download GrayAMP (which is freeware) visit:

MACAST 1.0r2 MACAST is an audio multimedia MP3/MP2 player that can also play CD Audio, MP1 and Internet Streaming Audio, in the form of Shoutcast and Icecast.

A new "engine" for Macast and Macast Lite is out: MikMod. MikMod Engine supports playback of IT, XM, MOD, S3M and 13 other formats with our award-winning players. Finally, @soft has released an update for XAudio, an engine that plays MP3, MP2 and MP1 files. The new version, 2.3, fixes a few minor bugs and speeds up initial adding of tracks to playlist.

• MACAST is a Macintosh Audio Multimedia Player that plays a variety of sound formats.These include the popular .MP3 and .MP2 files. In addition, MACAST can play CD Audio, MP1 and Internet Streaming Audio, in the form of Shoutcast and Icecast. MACAST also allows you to enjoy the music through our two types of plugins, Visual and BLRs. MACAST is designed for Mac PowerPC only.

MACAST features include:

Customizable Interface:
• Modify MACAST's appearance easily by downloading custom skins that suit you best.
• Switch to the minimized view to prevent your screen from being cluttered.
• Use the built-in computer to access additional controls and functions.
• Access frequently used functions through the toolbar. Expandable Architecture
• Expand MACAST's functionality through its plugin architecture, allowing MACAST to play additional sound formats with the simple addition of the appropriate engine.
• Experience high fidelity sound playback through the XAudio MP3 engine.
• Listen to streaming audio over the Internet with Shoutcast and Icecast. MACAST allows you to:
• Enhance your music experience with visual plugins.
• Take advantage of the built-in ID3 tag editor to organize your music.
• Instantly play tracks from the position you left on quit with resume playlist feature.
• Save your favorite streams to file for the future playback.
• Use the built-in sleep timer to quit MACAST and even shut down your computer.

MACAST also offers a lightweight MP3 player, MACAST Lite.

Key MACAST Lite features include:
• Human Interface
• Hierarchical Playlist
• Internet Streaming
•Plugin Architecture
• Multilingual Support
• Low System Requirements

MACAST Lite sells for $14.95. The fully-featured MACAST is priced at $24.95, with a $5.00 discount for all registered MACAST Lite users.

For more information or to download MACAST, visit:

QuickAmp v3.0

QuickAmp is a freeware MP3 player advertised as "the little player that could." QuickAmp offers appearance Skins and Themes, not as fancy as some other MP3 players, but very easy to design and a fun way to personalize you're copy of QuickAmp.

QuickAmp features include:
-Integrated Search Engines
-Not Quicktime based
-Advanced Playlist
-Simple Interface
-File Conversion
-CD Cover Support
-Dynamic Volume
-Playlist Printing
-Easy to create skins
-Great Performance
-Organizer built-in
-Works great with Kaleidoscope!
-100% Free

QuickAmp system requirements:
-MacOS 7.6 or better
-PowerPC,G3 or G4

For more information, or to download QuickAmp, visit:

Rapster 1.0b6

The newest Mac MP 3 player application is actually part of the latest beta 1.0b6 version of http://www.macnews.com.br/overcaster/rapster.html Rapster, a fully-featured, unofficial Napster client for the MacOS by Overcaster of Brazil. Napster is a MP3 exchange protocol, also featuring chat and private messaging. Rapster supports file downloads (including resumable download(s), advanced MP3 search options, and you can save the search criteria as a Bookmark for future searches. Rapster is freeware, and this latest beta 6 version includes a new, built-in MP3 player.

The new Player feature in Rapster could be described as "clean and uncluttered," ore "rudimentary," depending on your aesthetic preferences in such matters. No fancy "skins" here -- at least yet. It's simple but It works fine, and eliminates the inconvenience of switching between applications when checking out new downloads. The compressed Rapster download file is a modest 732k.

For more information or to download Rapster, visit:

SoundApp 2.6.1

If you ever download an MP3 File and find that your MP3 player can't recognize it, you need Sound App, a PowerPC native freeware sound player and converter for the Macintosh by Norman Franke. I haven't yet found an MP3 file that SoundApp wouldn't open (although my experience in this field is admittedly limited).

SoundApp can play or convert files dropped onto it in a variety of formats. In addition, it supports Play Lists which are lists of sound files that can be saved for later usage. Files in a Play List can be played or converted as a group or individually. SoundApp supports a randomized shuffle playback mode and repeated playback of Play Lists.

>SoundApp requires at least System 7.0, Apple's Sound Manager 3.1 or greater, the Drag Manager (aka Macintosh Drag and Drop, part of System 7.5) and at least a Macintosh with a 68020 or a Power Macintosh. QuickTime 2.0 or greater is required to manipulate QuickTime movies.

The following sound file formats are supported by SoundApp:
• SoundCap (including Huffman-compressed)
• Studio Session Instruments,
• SoundEdit (including stereo, MACE-3 and MACE-6)
• AIFF, AIFF-C (8-, 16-, 24- and 32-bit, MACE-3, MACE-6, IMA 4:1, -law and and QuickTime codecs)
• System 7 sound and 'snd ' resource (including MACE-3, MACE-6, IMA 4:1 and -law)
• QuickTime MooV (soundtracks only, including MIDI movies)
• Sun Audio .au and NeXT .snd (including -law, a-law, 8-, 16-, 24- and 32-bit linear, 32- and 64-bit floating point, G.721 ADPCM and G.723 ADPCM)
• Windows WAVE (including MPEG Layer III-, GSM-, IMA- and MS ADPCM-compressed, -law and a-law, 8-, 16- and 32-bit linear)
• MPEG audio (layers I, II and III, requires a PowerPC processor for playback)
• Sound Blaster VOC,
• Atari AVR (including stereo and 8- and 16-bit)
• many varieties of MODs,
• ScreamTracker 3 module (S3M),
• Multitracker module (MTM),
• Impulse Tracker module (IT) (requires a PowerPC processor)
• MIDI (type 0, 1 and 2, including GS and XG)
• Amiga IFF/8SVX (including stereo and compressed)
• Sound Designer
• Sound Designer II (include split stereo)
• IRCAM (8-, 16-bit and 32-bit floating point)
• Ensoniq PARIS,
• Psion Series 3,
• EPOC 32 (Psion Series 5) sound,
• raw GSM.

SoundApp can convert all of these formats except MIDI to:
• System 7 sound and sound suitcase (linear, -law, MACE-3, MACE-6 and IMA encodings)
• AIFF (linear, -law, MACE-3, MACE-6 and IMA encodings)
• WAVE (linear, -law, a-law and IMA encodings)
• Sun Audio and NeXT (linear, -law and a-law encodings)
• Sound Designer II, QuickTime (linear, -law, MACE-3, MACE-6 and IMA encodings)
• Psion Series 3, EPOC 32 (Psion Series 5) and PARIS sound formats.

SoundApp can also convert MPEG files on a 680x0 Macintosh, although it cannot play them. SoundApp supports generic QuickTime conversion, which allows any QuickTime-recognized format to be converted to a QuickTime movie file and any QuickTime movie to be converted to an AIFF sound file. These two features are provided as a convenience, as they are entirely handled via QuickTime itself.

SoundApp is distributed as a fat binary for 68000-based and PowerPC-based Macintosh computers. However, Mr. Franke also supplies PowerPC and a 680x0-only versions to save download time for those who want to save some disk space.

The PPC version of SoundApp is required for PPC machines to play MPEG files.

The currently available version of SoundApp is 2.6.1, but Mr. Franke says that work is nearing completion on SoundApp 2.7, which will include streaming MP3 support.

The following new features and enhancements will also be in version 2.7:
• Conversion to split stereo and optional left or right channel extraction when converting to mono.
• Added support for CD audio playback and conversion
• Added support for the rest of the RecordIT formats and 16-bit VOC files.
• Added preference to use larger buffers during conversion for faster performance
• Several user interface enhancements, including: sort by path in Play Lists, missing files in Play Lists can now be reconnected to the moved file, the ability to rename files in Play Lists, added a new "Show Status Window" menu option to quickly toggle the display of the Status Window, added a "Pause After Current File" option to the Controls Palette, the volume can now go up to 200%.

For more information or to download SoundApp, visit:

SoundJam MPfor Macintosh

Casady & Green's SoundJam MP is the first Full-Featured all-in-one, MP3 Player and Encoder for the Macintosh, not just a player, burt also able to convert music quickly into high quality MP3's from CD, AIFF, QuickTime, and WAV formats.

With SoundJam MP you can quickly and easily create customizable play-lists, and organize your music by artist, track, song, and music style. It also includes a 10 band graphic equalizer that allows you to control the quality and tone of your music manually or by using preset music styles: Jazz, Rock, Classical and more.

SoundJam MP is the first all-in-one Mac Player and Encoder that allows you to play MP3 streams over the Internet, without waiting for downloads.

You can change the appearance of your SoundJam MP player, by choosing from a number of colorful skins, and the plug-ins add display of cool visual effects while you listen to your favorite music.

SoundJam MP is currently one of only a few Mac applications that take advantage of the Power Mac G4 with Velocity Engine. The 10:1 compression of the MP3 format allows you to compress your music collection to a fraction of its size, while maintaining near CD quality.

You can use SoundJam MP to:
• Quickly and easily create customized play-lists.
• Organize your music by artist, track, song, and music style.
• Control the quality and tone of your music manually or by using preset music styles: Jazz, Rock, Classical and more, using the 10 band graphic equalizer.
• Listen to MP3 music streams over the Internet from sites like Live365 and Greenwitch.com.
• Change the appearance of your SoundJam MP player, by choosing from a number of colorful skins.
• Display cool visual effects that dance with your music, and hear rich full sounds using the nifty plug-ins.

SoundJam MP features support for the new Rio 500, and is in fact the Macintosh solution for the new Rio 500. SoundJam MP was Written by Jeffrey Robbin, the author of Conflict Catcher and Bill Kincaid.

SoundJam MP System Requirements:
• Mac OS 7.6.1 or later
• Power Macintosh with a 603 processor at 100 MHz or faster, G3 recommended
• CD-ROM Drive for physical product.

SoundJam MP sells for $39.95 as an electronic download or $49.95 as a shrinkwrapped product.

There is also a free seven day demo which is partly disabled to encode only a limited number of MP3 files.

For more information or to download the SoundJam MP demo, visit:

Charles W. Moore

Moore's Views & Reviews Homepage <--> Moore's Views & Reviews Archive



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