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WinAmp: Review

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Winamp, surprisingly, has endured. It arrived in 1997, and survived the slew of copeting media players that came up after that-some of them Winamp clones-and kept adding features such as support for video and much more. Now, in version 5.2, its music management and other features are more advanced and useful than ever.



On the front panel, the preamp is something like a volume control for the equaliser - when you set it right up, all the frequencies you control via the equaliser are pumped up, and the effect of sliding aparticular frequency will be more pronounced. The other setting you might not know about is the "Auto" button: when you stumble upon an equaliser setting you like for a particular song - that us, a good equaliser song match, select Presets>Save>Auto-load preset... The next time that song plays, the settings you chose will automatically load. Something interesting about equaliser presets: you can load preset from a .eqf file-which is an exportable equaliser preset. So you make a setting and save it as .eqf, then send it to someone.



In the main window of General Preferences page - accessibly by right-clicking anywhere in the Winamp window choosing Options > Preference - there's an option called "Allow multiple instances." Yes, you can have two Winamp windows open at the same time-create your own remixes! You could, for example, play a drum track in one window and slow violen track in another. Another, exotic use for multiple instances is to create an eerie, psychedelic reverb effect: you could enqueue the same track in both windows and start one and a half second later than the other. Try it!


Priority and Jitter


You will find "Priority class" in the same window as above. The higher this setting, the greater the CPU power Winamp will use. Keep it at Idle or Normal for most purposes; if you have a slow computer, and opening a document makes a track skip, you might want to change it to High. Realtime is hardly ever recomended, unless your tracks keep skipping all the time.


Under Video in General Preferences, you'll see something called "Allow YV12 overlay mode." Without going into details, checking this option allows Winamp to use the YV12 overlay mode, which can result in better video performance. Under Video, you'll also see "Synchronize Video to screen refresh rate." This increases the fps of the video to reduce jitter and artefacts, if any.


Playing With Lists


Take a look at Predixis MusicMagic. The MusicMagic Mixer library manager that can compute the key acoustical attributes in music tracks. It's sort of a power tool to create dynamic playlists. The software analyses your collection, and builds custom playlists from analysed songs! You need to be connected to Net for this.


Why would you want a playlist be created for you? Well, say you have a music collection that runs into thousands of songs. You're having a party and you need to create a long playlist that will last the length of the party or so.

Syncing With Devices


Winamp has taken a cue from iTunes in its 5.2 version, and you can sync your device with Winamp. Under Portables > Advanced Sync Settings, you'll find options for the plugins that allow you to manage your iPod or other music device from within the Winamp Media Library. There's a button called "Edit query": it's pretty easy to use, and you can use it to configure what media types Winamp will sync with your portable device. For example, you can tell Winamp to only sync songs that are larger than 5K and that also have a bitrate higher than 256 kbps.


Metadata and More


The Media library holds all your music-rather, it keeps track of your collection. From the menu on the left, you can bookmark items you just like in a browser, view recently played and most-played items, and so on. Also, you can search from the top options.


Buffering, Fading, Silence


Under Plugins > Input, look at Nullsoft MPEG Audio Decoder 3.5. This is what decodes your MP3s. The first tab lists "Full file buffering"; set this to a high value of you want your MP3s to get into RAM and play from there. This is useful if you have a lot of RAM, and have no patience with the tiniest amount of skipping. Then there's the option between logarithmic and linear for the equaliser. "Logarithmic" (the default) is the opposite of exponential, and means that increasing a certain frequency boosts it by a reasonable amount. Setting it to linear will enable more drastic playing around with the equaliser settings.


If you want songs to play continuously without any gap, here's away: go to Plugins > Output > DirectSound output, and click Configure. What you need is the "Buffer-Ahead on track change". If you set the Buffer-Ahead to 5000 ms, Winamp will begin reading next track when the current track has five seconds left for a seamless transition.


Anothrt interesting setting is Fading in the Fading Tab. It's irritating to have a song end abruptly, and you can control that here. There are too many options to set in here.


The options in Other tab of DirectSound output plugin, allow to be able to remove the silence at the beginning or ending of tracks-and you can specify what Winamp interprets as silence. You can choose to have the volume control the behave in smooth manner, and you can choose between a logarithmic and linear volume control.


SHOUTcastm Skins, etc.


If you like Internet radio, remember that Winamp has SHOUTcast support, and can ably act as your SHOUTcast client. SHOUTcast is free radio.


There are lots and lots of skins and plugins available at winamp.com, and new ones keep coming out. Keep checking the site to find what interests you. Then, consider DFX for Winamp which really makes the MP3s sound much better.


Support Development


If you are Winamp user, you can always support the development of Winamp by purchasing the PRO version of Winamp priced at $19.95 only. Though, you get get only two extra features, viz., ripping and encoding to AAC and WMA, but then you'll be supporting development of world's favourite media player.




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Syncing With Devices


Winamp has taken a cue from iTunes in its 5.2 version, and you can sync your device with Winamp. Under Portables > Advanced Sync Settings, you'll find options for the plugins that allow you to manage your iPod or other music device from within the Winamp Media Library.


I used WinAmp years ago and loved the software. But I've been using iTunes lately because that program sorts my library and does all sorts of other neat things. The new WinAmp (the full free version) has some great additions, though. I'm glad that I can still use the classic interface and the extended library options are also really sweet.


However: the "Syncing With Devices" doesn't apply to my iRiver. I'm very, very sad about that. I was hoping that WinAmp would be compatible with my MP3 player because I'm not the biggest fan of the software that came with the device.


Oh, well. Other than that, WinAmp's pretty cool. I'll keep playing with it for the next few weeks or so to regain the feel of the thing. *grins*

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