• Songbird 1.0 Released For Windows, OS X, and Linux

    It's finally here! Songbird version 1.0.0 was released to the public yesterday. Songbird is the first real contender to challenge iTunes in the music playback department on a Mac. Sure there are other applications like Play and VLC but neither one is a contender in my opinion. Right now Songbird is available for Windows, OS X, and Linux. Songbird without a doubt has the most potential of any available music application today. The single reason is that Songbird is open source and has the world developing add-ons and improvements for the application. Currently in it's "new born" state Songbird does have some drawbacks. On the positive side Songbird is bit perfect!

     





     

    Songbird comes from a software company called Pioneers of the Inevitable. The application works the same way as Firefox. Pioneers of the Inevitable develops and continually works on the core application while people around the globe build add-ons for the app. These add-ons are then published to the Songbird website and easily installed through the Songbird interface. It really doesn't get any easier than this to make an application customized to your needs. Here is a taste of some current add-ons available right now.

     





     

    MediaFlow - This add-on creates a view virtually identical to the iTunes Cover Flow. http://addons.songbirdnest.com/addon/238


     


     


     

    Mac Remote Control Support - Enables the use of the standard Apple remote control. http://addons.songbirdnest.com/addon/1291

     

    iPod Device Support - Self explanatory. http://addons.songbirdnest.com/addon/12

     


     


     

    Google Search - Since Songbird ha a built-in web browser you can use this Google search add-on to access items like album art much quicker. No more flipping back and forth between applications. http://addons.songbirdnest.com/addon/1254

     

    Vinyl Album Art - Changes album art to a vinyl graphic. Not sure this is the most user friendly type of add-on, but some people may need this one to bring back the feel of vinyl. http://addons.songbirdnest.com/addon/1358

     

     

    In a move that is antithetical to the Apple way of doing business Pioneers of the Inevitable has published the application roadmap for all to see. This is nothing new for open source software, but audiophile are used to guessing what will happen to the next version .0001 of iTunes. We like our audio components to sound transparent and it is nice to have transparent software development.

    http://wiki.songbirdnest.com/Roadmap

     

    One big pitfall with Songbird is that it does not support CD ripping. Yes, you heard that right not CD ripping. According to the roadmap this functionality is scheduled to be available in the April 2009 release of Songbird. Watching folder and fetching album art should be here with the February 2009 release.


    As I mentioned at the beginning of this article I believe Songbird has the greatest potential of any playback application available today. If there is something missing from iTunes that you're dying to have or you've been annoyed with since day one feel free to let Pioneers of the Inevitable know about this. Songbird is backed by some of the biggest venture capital firms in the business and has some very talented people working on the application's core. In addition Songbird does not require a Ph.D. to use much of its functionality and obtain solid bit perfect sound. Like other open source applications Songbird is available for a 100% discount through the rest of its lifetime. Give it a shot.





     





     
    Comments 28 Comments
    1. daglesj's Avatar
      daglesj -
      Yet another media player that looks like a grey spreadsheet! Come on lets have something more dynamic!!!<br />
      <br />
      I've been playing with this and its ok. Not much in the way of advanced audio features though.<br />
      <br />
      Maybe V.2?
    1. mtan002's Avatar
      mtan002 -
      I gave it a go and uninstall. Reason - no way to select your playback device. It uses the Windows default playback device. In my case, my default device is the cheap computer speakers. Serious listening via the soundcard and the big iron. May be next version.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Fortunately there are different looks you can give the application. I certainly don't want to look at spreadsheet while listening to music!<br />
      <br />
      mtan - you'd have to make your sound card the default device. If you're using the pc as a music server only then this is no problem. If not I can see your point.
    1. cfmsp's Avatar
      cfmsp -
      <br />
      <br />
      Not even close to being an Itunes replacement on a Mac. <br />
      <br />
      I guess you got my hopes up Chris, 'cause now they are dashed.<br />
      <br />
      Doesn't support AIFF or WAV files, not even Apple Lossless?!?!?<br />
      <br />
      I don't seen anything here yet for an audiophile running Mac OS.<br />
      <br />
      Maybe I'm missing something?<br />
      <br />
      clay<br />
      <br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Clay - I think you are missing something. I'm listening to AIFF only through Songbird. Full high resolution and all. I just tried some Apple Lossless and it's perfect as well.<br />
      <br />
      don't give up on this one yet Clay! It's got huge potential.
    1. Lizard_King's Avatar
      Lizard_King -
      I saw this up yesterday and recommended it to a buddy who uses a Mac Book. He tells me it has some bugs, like song skipping and others. He is very pleased and so am I that it supportsd FLAC, the best and most widely used lossless encoded files.<br />
      <br />
      Should I decide to run Linux in my sytem, I may go with this.
    1. VincentH's Avatar
      VincentH -
      Looks great, Chris! Thanks for bringing yet another great potential to our attention! FLAC support is fantastic.<br />
      <br />
      But.. is it also bit-perfect on Windows Vista? E.g. does it use WASAPI exclusive mode, like Foobar2K with the WASAPI plugin?<br />
      <br />
      <strong>WASAPI Exclusive mode support</strong><br />
      If I look at: http://getsatisfaction.com/songbird/topics/wasapi_output the official rep says this:<br />
      <cite>"A WASAPI plugin shouldn't be too hard; I want to look into doing this some time in the next few months. <strong>It's not super-high-priority for us though</strong>."</cite><br />
      <br />
      To me that signifies a mindset not very audiophile. Bit-perfect not a priority for a cross-platform player? I agree with the original requestor's response:<br />
      <br />
      <cite>"Thanks, but you [Songbird team] does realize that at Songbird's current state there is no way to get bit perfect data out via digital means.....ie no ASIO, Kernel Streaming or WASAPI support. <strong>This effectively eliminates Songbird as a possibility for serious listening</strong>. Almost every computer media player has at least ASIO support...."</cite><br />
      <br />
      Now, if anyone reading this also thinks bit-perfect on Vista IS a good idea, you can go to http://getsatisfaction.com/songbird/topics/wasapi_output and <strong>click on "I Like this Idea"</strong> to make it happen sooner. I was the second person to do this, let's get that count up!<br />
      <br />
      <strong>ASIO support</strong><br />
      Bit-perfect for some cards on Vista could also be achieved by supporting ASIO... which Songbird also does not have yet. ASIO is also a requested songbird feature: http://getsatisfaction.com/songbird/topics/asio_plug_in_needed<br />
      <br />
      And if you follow up on the status of that feature on http://bugzilla.songbirdnest.com/show_bug.cgi?id=10711<br />
      It says:<br />
      <cite>"Nobody's written a gstreamer ASIO plugin. Someone could, I suppose, if they<br />
      cared. <strong>I'd be incredibly surprised if there was any user-visible benefit for doing<br />
      this, in reality.</strong> There's a gstreamer sink in gstreamer bugzilla for Vista's new audio API<br />
      though; that might actually be worth using."</cite><br />
      <br />
      If you look at the songbird roadmap at http://wiki.songbirdnest.com/Roadmap you can see that there is no mention at all of WASAPI, ASIO, or bit-perfect.<br />
      <br />
      Again, looks to me like bitperfect is not on the radar of the people at songbird.... so let's change that.<br />
      <br />
      Btw I really do like the transparent and community-oriented approach these guys are taking to software development. Three cheers for that. Now we as audiophile community can do our bit. <br />
      <br />
      Once Songbird does bit-perfect on Vista I'll sure look into upgrading. I'd really like to have a better UI than Foobar, but for me SQ wins over usability on this one...
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      <i>"Again, looks to me like bitperfect is not on the radar of the people at songbird.... so let's change that."</i><br />
      <br />
      I agree 100% I'm going to see who I can contact there to express the needs of audiophiles. Not sure it will go anywhere, but it's worth a shot.
    1. VincentH's Avatar
      VincentH -
      Great Chris, I just knew I could count on you making an effort here :-)<br />
      <br />
      And anyone can go to http://getsatisfaction.com/songbird/topics/wasapi_output and click on "I Like this Idea" to get the feature bumped up.
    1. Elprior's Avatar
      Elprior -
      Hi,<br />
      <br />
      so finally this is neither bit-perfect on Windows XP, right ?<br />
      (Since this requires pretty much the same support).<br />
      <br />
      Elp.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      I have a feeling I'll be able to get bit perfect output on both Windows platforms, but it might take some tinkering. This application is worth the effort. I will let everyone know as soon as I have a chance to dig in to this more.
    1. TerryG's Avatar
      TerryG -
      I have only been using it for a few days, but so fat no hiccups and the best interface for my flac library. Looking forward to your investigations, Chris. Keep up the awesome work and thanks for the tip.<br />
      <br />
      Terry
    1. Lars's Avatar
      Lars -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      Can you get MediaFlow to work with OSX Leopard?
    1. ldolse's Avatar
      ldolse -
      I'm guessing this has the same limitation as iTunes with regard to sample rate, correct? Does one still need to set audio midi manually beforehand?
    1. jimim's Avatar
      jimim -
      Ok I give up. I am trying to get music into my library. I go to add media and I can't select any of my music whether it's on my HD or on my networked drive? Am I missing something here?<br />
      <br />
      jimi
    1. davidR's Avatar
      davidR -
      Jim, it is an odd layout for adding. Once you were in the folder of your desired music, you just click open. It won't actually let you select the music files, they are grayed out. This threw me off for some time! Hope that helps. I actually feel SongBird sounds better than Itunes for casual listening ( I have looked into this and Itunes handles your files in a different manner for playback which doesn't sit well with certain DAC's ) but Pro Tools is my reference for serious listening, it's in a different league altogether.
    1. cfmsp's Avatar
      cfmsp -
      <br />
      <br />
      Can you elaborate, David?<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      "I have looked into this and Itunes handles your files in a different manner for playback which doesn't sit well with certain DAC's"<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      thanks<br />
      clay<br />
    1. davidR's Avatar
      davidR -
      Well I have tried different players for Mac including Itunes of course, Song Bird, Amarok, and Play and noticed different sonic signatures which left me puzzled, because most feedback I've read says there are only 1's and 0's being transferred how could it possibly influence the sound? Well I wish it was that simple as everyone from manufactuers to listeners would have it much easier. I continued using Itunes for its ease of use and organization though and put my findings on the backburner telling myself it's all in my head. However, the most bothersome moment began a couple of weeks ago when I played the same AIFF file in Itunes and then Pro Tools immediately after which I use for recording music. Now don't get me wrong here Itunes does not sound bad by any means and I do not want to start debates or rant or anything of that nature because Itunes is a fine program. I enjoy learning and exploring different solutions though, and the playback in Pro Tools was clearer, more defined, less grainy, easier to hear seperate instruments without straining; I could turn the volume up much louder without it hurting my ears a bit while hearing more detail, more music. Everything sounded "better" in the truest sense. I did some reading on the Benchmark site, the company who offers the well known Benchmark DAC1, and discovered they have done a good bit of research on computer audio and Itunes playback. They provide a wonderful article here: http://benchmarkmedia.com/feedback/issues/122007.php#article1 discussing playback in Itunes internally. I am no expert on this subject but basically what I have gathered and personally understand from the Benchmark article and another post in the Apple forums from a fellow who has heard the same differences as I have in Apple Logic / Pro Tools compared to Itunes, is that my DAC (Digi Design 003 interface) uses 32-bit floating point processing but does "SRC" [sample rate conversion] to 24-bit during playback; Itunes uses its own SRC which is pretty good but not great or the best by any means to down sample the audio if the playback device's sample rate is not matched up with it. So my audio is being processed twice before it gets to my ears in Itunes, whereas in Pro Tools it is one conversion with BETTER software, less math, and partly something I have yet to figure out and need help with from others. Hardware matched with software. In my opinion its a partial, simple explanation for the Amarra server Chris has listened to which he said was clearly better than Itunes. A perfect mating of software with hardware. There is alot more going on than meets the eye between audio software and hardware interacting and I truly feel as music enthusiasts and audio lovers we don't give full credit to computer audio as a whole only to simplify things which frankly aren't that simple. I wish it was myself! It is a complicated matter and after many head scratches and cups of coffee I am beginning to grasp the subject. Phew! I welcome people with much more knowledge and understanding to chime in for clarification! This is what this forum is for!
    1. serengetiplains's Avatar
      serengetiplains -
      David and others, do you know if iTunes' SRC always operates? If Midi is set to 96KHz, and I play a 96KHz file in iTunes, is iTunes (or CoreAudio, for that matter) SRCing as in: 96KHz (original file) ---> 96KHz (SRC'd file) ---> DAC ?<br />
      <br />
      FWIW, I've compared iTunes (can't remember if 6 or 7) to Foobar running Rabbit Converter and the latter was easily better. iTunes sounded less distinct, more blurred, duller, softer, etc.
    1. cfmsp's Avatar
      cfmsp -
      <br />
      Thanks David, for the reminder that even with digital bits, there can be unnecessary manipulation of the 'bits' which can affect the sound. so much for those arguments that 'bit perfect' by definition means 'the sound remains the same' (with apologies to Messrs. Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones)<br />
      <br />
      I had read this Benchmark article months ago - the result of an investigation by Benchmark in response to a review Stereophile did of the Benchmark Dac.<br />
      <br />
      As I understood the issue, Core Audio's SRC was poor and was used in cases where Audio Midi had changed sample rate without a concommitant update in iTunes - most commonly caused by not re-starting iTunes AFTER a sample rate change in Audio Midi.<br />
      <br />
      If I am to understand another post earlier today, iTunes now will pick up Audio-midi sample rate changes 'on the fly' - with no restart necessary. I think the most dreaded aspect of improper SRC on Mac OS (by CoreAudio) is now rendered obsolete for the most part.<br />
      <br />
      This may still not completely eliminate the possibility of unnecessary SRC conversion affecting the sound to an extent that it is detectable in a high resolution system, but it will at least eliminate the egregiously poor SRC being done by Core Audio.<br />
      <br />
      As a side note: a rather vocal member of another well known very aptly named forum refers to this Core Audio SRC issue as 'i-mixer', and likes to poke fun at this annoying 'feature' in any sort of mock debate about Windows vs. Mac as OS for music servers.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks for sharing,<br />
      <br />
      Clay<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />