Songbird Sucks

Allow me to introduce you to Songbird. It’s a desktop music player, just like WMP, iTunes, WinAmp, etc. I thought I’d try it out for a while, since I periodically get irritated with WMP (which is sort of bad) and Zune (which is pretty bad) and iTunes (which is really quite bad) and WinAmp (which is downright terrible). My review: It’s shit.

The basic idea behind Songbird is to try to leverage the Firefox approach in a music player. Provide a simple code, sport lots of plugins, work with lots of devices, and so on. The website is well done, and it generally looks like a solid project. Unfortunately, looks are deceiving in this case.

Where to start? Well, it’s built around the Firefox core, and if you think it sounds a little odd to build a media player literally out of a browser…it shows in Songbird. The basic view is tabbed, which would make sense if you could do any of the things you expected from a tabbed view. Multiple library tabs? Nope. Tabs for searches? Nope. Tabs for anything other than websites? Nope. It’s even based around a cool views metaphor where different panes (inside the tabs) can have different info, except they fail to expose those usefully with tabs either. The UI is skinnable, but the popular skins are varying levels of bad and bugs abound. Oh, and the default library UI is either a big long list of all your music, optionally with a genre/artist/album filter that takes up a lot of space. Don’t want genre filtering? Too bad.

The whole thing supports plugins, but as usual the plugins are even glitchier than the defaults. So although a few of them are based on dramatically less idiotic ideas, the results are equally irritating. Besides, I subscribe to the MirandaIM rule here: An application that requires a list of carefully configured plugins to be good is actually a pretty shoddy piece of work. The Songbird UI is trash, but that’s not enough to merit a blog post. I encounter terrible UI almost daily, after all.

No, what really got on my nerves with Songbird is that it does not work correctly. Here is a hint: if you are writing a music player, make sure the music playing functionality isn’t broken! Songbird frequently skipped the beginnings or endings of songs, chunks of several seconds in length. (Disconcerting in general, and downright ridiculous with seamless albums!) Several times, I encountered a bug where it decided to play two separate tracks simultaneously, and one couldn’t be stopped.

It actually gets worse. The damn thing corrupted a lot of my tags — even on files I didn’t try to use the tag editor on. Artist and album artist fields seem to have been switched in a number of places, and long titles got truncated. Why would a music player be editing MP3s that I’m playing? I have no idea. But now I have to clean up after it.

You’d be better off with almost any other player.


11 thoughts on “Songbird Sucks

  1. Might I humbly recommend AIMP 2? I am not sure what is exactly that you are looking for in a music player, but AIMP is compact sports a bunch of features. I’ve been personally using it for 6+ months and I am yet to find something I dislike about it. Give AIMP a try ^^

    1. I’m looking for a player that “doesn’t suck”, whatever that means. WMP doesn’t sort by disc number for example, which has been annoying me lately. AIMP looks like it’s a multiple floating windows setup (like GIMP or XMMS), which I usually hate.

  2. Hah, I was just trying out Songbird as well, since I was getting pretty irritated with how much of a pain in the ass foobar2000 was. At first I was pretty happy with it, since it was easy to search for and install add-ons, but it turns out that pretty much anything aside from the “recommended” add-ons are hardly ever updated, and the few that are up-to-date tend to have very limited customizability. Another gripe I had was that the sorting options aren’t as flexible as they are in foobar2000. (Songbird insisted on sorting albums by name where I wanted them sorted by year.) I’m thinking about trying Winamp later, but it looks like I’ll end up going through the tremendous hassle of configuring foobar2000 just right.

  3. foobar2000. I’ve been using it for a very, very long time now, and I’m very satisfied. What I like most in foobar2000 is the ability to customize the hell out of it to suit all of your needs. And what can I say, it works great even without installing a lot of plugins, out of the box.

  4. I came across this article by looking for a way to get podcasts and ipod support on songbird. I fell for it. I love the customization of it and the features but it’s missing common ones. There is NO WAY it songbird can ever hope to compete with other software if it doesn’t have decent podcast support. Podcasts are a very common thing now and that is a must. I agree songbird sucks.

  5. I totally agree and would like to add that, … why is it that we humans can not do anything unless money is involved? Songbird is absolutely pathetic and unusable. That is a very sad prognosis especially in light of the crappy level of human participation in our own evolution that is so common for the last several decades as to make it a fad gone institutional. Why can’t you songbirds get it together? You can’t even cross=fade for j-f-c sake! And I HATE ITUNES!!! and I would SO Love to have a rippin alternative… but Songbird is so not it! Get a clue. It needs to like – work…., for starters (spin spin spin, and even menus are turd-slow) And next, it needs to be the tool of preference if you want to chill to some tools. They could have had that nailed years ago, but as a testimony to “community” open source, I guess human egos are stronger than logic. It’s a shame because we have such potential…. I guess we just need the man (our boss, if we are being paid) to cut through the BS and get the genius programers to see the light. That is clearly not going to happen any time soon. Certainly not by 2012, and hey, I guess iTunes will just continue to be my player of preference. Sorry about that Martin Luther Opensource. You had a dream, but you indulged in it. That’s only hunan. But I guess gene Gates will reign. If I could do it alone it would be a synch. But geniuses won’t take orders from me… so I guess it just ain’t gonna happen…

  6. Well, Keith, there’s Amarok if you want a good opensource player, however it needs Linux, or some bloated KDE for windows nonsense I can’t bear to install(KDE 4 is one of the reasons I switched back to windows). But now that I think about it, running Amarok in a virtual machine might work better than Songbid.

  7. All of the problems you have addressed here have been fixed. Perhaps give Songbird a retry?

    (Except for the tabbing, which you don’t have to look at if you don’t want to; tabs are hidden by default. I also have a problem with it’s startup slowness, but other media players aren’t any better, really.)

    I find the other music players have aesthetically lame UI. Multiple windows are lame. iTunes is slow/crashy/bloated as hell and lame, not to mention being a goddamn It’s Just Marketing(TM) product. Winamp is beyond ugly with it’s Microsoft Bob stoneage UI and plug-ins created way back before the age of dinosaurs. foobar2000 seems to put way too much emphasis on multiple windows. Amarok crashes after playing half an album.

    Clementine and MediaMonkey… might look at them again.

    I’m happy with Songbird’s MLyrics and Murphy Skin. The filtering pane is customizable by right-clicking the title of each sub-pane. Ratings can be set to write to metadata, which you can MP3tag as you wish when porting between media players.

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