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Playing Music in Linux

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There are a lot of music players available for Linux. If most of them were junk it would be easy to choose one to use regularly, but that's not the case. There are many good quality players, but they all have different features. This article is meant to assist you in choosing the one that's right for you. Try different ones to see which you like best.

This list, of course, is by no means complete but it should give you an idea of what's available.



This is the old war horse of graphical music players on Linux. There are a ton of plugins to extend its functionality as well as skins to change its appearance. The interface is simple if you just want to play music, but it is a bit clunky once you start getting into more advanced features. There are a lot of people that still use this one, but it is dated and some distributions (such as Gentoo) aren't including it anymore.   



Another simple media player for KDE. Plugins are available, and it is skinnable. It uses simple playlists and isn't a bad choice if all you want to do is play music.



This is the player I use. In my opinion it is the most advanced player out there for Linux. Smart playlists, lyrics, album covers, tagging, information about the artists from Wikipedia, transfer music to and from digital audio players, an integrated music store (Magnatunes.com), and way more that I can't describe in the space I have.



Juk will organize your music into playlists, and can include album covers as well. It will also burn playlists as audio or data cds through K3b.



This is a decent music management program. You can create smart playlists, fetch podcasts, and create audio cds from playlists. The most recent versions support iPods and other portable audio players, although it did give me problems with my iPod Shuffle.

Quod Libet

Quod Libet

No smart playlists, but it does allow powerful searches using regular expressions,and has plugins for Wikipedia information on artist or album, album covers, burning to cd, and lots more.



Banshee will burn selected songs onto an audio CD, supports cover art, and with plugins supports smart playlists, song recommendations through Lastfm.com, podcasts, and more. If Banshee was able to transfer music to my iPod Shuffle this is the player I'd be using, simply because it allows limiting the size of playlists based on MB.


If all you want is something that just plays music from a simple playlist, Noatun is the way to go, although XMMS still has its fans.

If you want to be able to sync your portable audio player and want a music management system like iTunes, Amarok is a great piece of software.  Banshee would be my recommendation if you don't need support for a digital audio player.

What did I miss? Do you have any other recommendations, or do you disagree with mine? Let me know by leaving a comment or emailing me.

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About Steve R.

  • Ced

    You could have included the promising SongBird. It’s evolving fast 🙂 though still in early beta stage.

  • dam

    Here you can find a list for all alternatives of Xmms player:

    Steve I think that you have miss some of them 🙂

  • Ced- I haven’t tried Songbird myself, but I’ve heard interesting things about it. Interested people can find it here: songbirdnest.com

    dam- I’ve missed a lot of them, on purpose! A complete list would have dozens and dozens of players. Thanks for the list, though. Muine is another nice simple player to use instead of XMMS.

  • lalejand

    Hi, forgot Exaile and Listen

  • Boris

    What about MPD?

  • David D

    I prefer Amarok myself, even under Gnome, but Exaile is GTK based player that’s modeled after it. This recent review was the first I’d heard of it. Seems pretty decent.

  • mike G.

    You missed Audacious and Muine as well.

  • groggyboy

    my personal favourites have already been mentioned (Banshee & Listen), but for the sake of mentioning them all, here are some more: BMP is a fork of XMMS (like Audacious). It’s being replaced by BMPx (aka BMP2). Also, RealPlayer has a (crappy) linux version which is based on Helix Player.

  • joe mom

    cmon man , only 7 apps?

    im sure there are at least 100 different music players on linux (except 99 of them suck)

    at least there is amarok

  • dkeav

    banshee works just fine with mp3 players such as all ipods and some creative devices supported via the libnjb library, as long as its not horribly outdated, or support was not compiled in, take this up with your package maintainer

  • I vote for MPD
    It’s awesome to have it start at boot and continue playing even if xorg crashes or needs to be closed.

  • What? No SongBird Love? It’s my second favorite piece of music software(after iTunes)

  • Anonymous

    Songbird Rules!

  • frits

    I can’t stand music players that don’t support the concept of albums. In Banshee for example, i have to make the albums myself by making playlist based on album titles. That is not the same.

    Since i really only play albums, Muine is the best choice for me, by far.

  • nemoder

    I’m definitely in the ‘keep it simple with xmms’ crowd. It works with the old winamp skins, doesn’t require a ton of kde libs or sound system installed, doesn’t eat up a lot of resources so I can play 3d games while it’s running in the background, and it has plugins for more audio formats than any other player I’ve seen.
    mp3/ogg/flac/speex/wav/ape/mp4/mod/it/snes/nes/ and more

  • ROFLMao

    I’m using xmms2. it can do everything mpd can do and many more things

  • Senthil Kumar

    Do any of the players here have the ‘Enqueue’ functionality like Winamp has?
    This one missing feature (important to me) is preventing me from switching over to OpenSuse(frm Win XP) for casual browsing.

  • Camel

    Amarok can do it (I do not know about the others, since I do not use them)

    As kind of a proof:Queue Manager help page

    I must admit I never saw that screen, since I always use the “Queue Track” context menue. 😉

  • FrdPrefct

    You can also use VLC which works really well, and lets you pause streaming music.

  • Han

    I’ve been using cplay for ages now. I never want anything else.

  • Casual visitor

    Kaffeine is a full featured media player for UNIX(-like) machines running the KDE (K Desktop Environment).

    By default it uses xine-lib as the backend. It can also use MPlayer if installed. With the release of version 0.7 the developers made a GStreamer KPart, therefore it now supports the 3 most used media frameworks for Linux.

  • Rick

    XMMS2 is pretty amazing, but ‘hard’ to use (for some). You missed Listen. It is probably better than JuK and Rhythmbox.

  • mudfly

    I have been using Quod Libet quite a bit over the last 2 months and it is hands down the best music management program I have ever used. The power comes from its incredible tagging abilities. The interface responds fast, even with a massive collection, and if you are missing tags, you can tag your files using musicbrainz.

  • Joe

    You’re obviously a KDE user… those GTK-based apps look terrible in your screenshots. If you’re going to review GTK apps, you should probably do it in GNOME. Or at least set a decent theme. Most distros try to make the looks consistent when they can.

  • Good write-up, after using Rhythmbox for years I was amazed at the good alternatives. I can sync my iPod (20Gig 4th Gen) with Rhythmbox, Banshee as well as gtk-pod just fine, but I can also do that with Listen and Songbird. Songbird is cool, but still new and seems to be kinda slow if you have 1000+ mp3s out there, Listen is just great, but seems to be moving pretty slowly — so we’ll see.

    Overall I prefer Banshee, and dev seems to be moving right along with that, right now I use that or the latest Rhythmbox with cover art for my tunes in Linux.

    As always, it’s nice to have options, and I will try out Quod Libet now that I’ve heard of it, thanks!


  • Uhm…. Mplayer? Totem? Xine?

    Worst. List. Ever.

  • You left out VLC? WTF?!?!

  • So how many music players are there for Linux anyway? And is having 256 different players, each with strengths and weaknesses, really considered a good thing by anyone? Anyone?

  • Bur

    You should have to include Exaile to the list!

  • sachin rase

    dude u forgot to mension cmus.
    and mplayer , xfmedia , vlc