Do you remember all of those Nokia phones that hit the market in the late 90s? Everyone had one of those, didn’t they? Well, you know what that reminds me of? It reminds me of Winamp and Windows Media Player. Everyone seems to have those too. Well, just like the Nokia phones, bigger and better things have come along since then. This is not to say that these two players aren’t terrific. The sheer volume of their downloads confirm their reputation in itself. However, we are human beings. We get bored of playing with the same toy no matter how many skins and plug-ins we have at our disposal. Hence, I am going to take a quick dive into the huge sea of media players and pull out a gem for you. Translated in English, that means, let’s go ahead and take a look at an option available to us.
I am talking about Foobar2000!
What do you do if you have 20,000 songs on your hard drive and you have to load all of them up at once? Well, experienced users will rant about how it takes ages to load their playlists and how it becomes slow, especially when you are scrolling up and down the playlist. Well, Foobar2000 is the only simple answer I can come up with to this problem. Its minimalist interface ensures that the problem of slow functioning will not arise. Load as many songs as you want and Foobar will handle them with ease. In my case, I loaded up just about 26,000+ songs and didn’t encounter any problems when using Foobar.
First of all, you need to download Foobar2000 from their Web site. You can do that here.
Foobar supports multiple audio format playback for formats like WAV, AIFF, VOC, AU, SND, Ogg Vorbis, MPC, MP2, MP3, MPEG-4 AAC, FLAC, OggFLAC, Monkey’s Audio, WavPack, Speex, CDDA, TFMX, WMA and SPC. That’s quite a handful, isn’t it?! It also supports third party plug-ins and on the fly extraction from RAR, it can handle zip and 7-zip archives. You also have the option of a customizable playlist display and customizable keyboard shortcuts. The main window doesn’t depict most of the features this program has, but they are accessible through the main menu and the Preferences section.
To say Foobar gives you a lot of power would be an understatement. As I said earlier, it’s very useful for people with a huge collection of music. Not only does it organize your songs according to different categories, it makes it very easy to change tags on songs too. You can have different kinds of tag types for a file. Apart from the usual ID3 tags that Winamp users are familiar with, it also lets you write APEv2 tags, which is an updated tagging system that offers the speed and flexibility like our beloved ID3 tags. Foobar gives options to write multiple kinds of tags, which ensures that even if these files are played in a different media player, the information is depicted and will be used correctly. The information it gets from the tags is used very efficiently in the display panels and if you’re a professional who needs a lot of information about a track, you will totally love this!
For better organization, you can even build an album tree for all the music you load in a playlist. This means that if you want to listen to the OST of your favorite movie, all you have to do is locate the album in the album tree and click Play. Similarly, you can add different directories on your hard drive and make a similar album tree out of it. This is very useful if you want to have different play lists depending on genre and artist types, or if you simply want to make a playlist of a certain mix of music. To do so, you just need to go to Preferences, Media Library, Album List. You can right click and the menu will show you a whole range of useful actions that you can do.
Now do you see what I am talking about?
One very useful feature that Foobar2000 comes with is ReplayGain. It basically means not having to adjust a track’s volume. ReplayGain pretty much eliminates the need to readjust the volume of levels of playback, owing to different volume levels of different songs. ReplayGain doesn’t actually modify your tracks. However, it stores the information like an ID3 tag. Advanced users can fine tweak the ReplayGain properties manually as well.
Like most other media players, Foobar also comes bundled with a few DSP effects. One of the plug-ins that most people are likely to use is the equalizer. By default, Foobar doesn’t come bundled with EQ presets, but you can download a preset pack from the following link: http://sjeng.org/ftp/fb2k/eq_presets.zip. (Just click OK if it asks you if you would like to continue). These presets can be loaded by the load presets button in the main equalizer window. Once you set it up, don’t forget to check the “Equalizer enabled” checkbox to activate it.
Another popular DSP effect is Crossfeed, which is primarily meant for people who listen with headphones. It mixes the delayed section of the left channel with the right and vice versa, hence creating a more earthly sound for the headphone wearing users.
Like any other media player, a lot of plug-ins are available for this one too. However, I found that the plug-ins were much better than what I had been using for Winamp. Especially the plug-ins that enhance the visuals. You can fiddle around endlessly with the arrangement of panels and sub-windows. It might seem a little tedious, but with a bit of an effort, you can create an arrangement that is not only easy to navigate through, but extremely good looking too! As you can see in the screenshot below, there is no such thing as cluttered space with Foobar.
When you install Foobar, It will look just like a plain text based media player, but with a large range of various downloadable plug-ins, you can add multiple panels like Lyrics, Album Art, Now Playing Popups, etc. They beautify the player and are so handy too. Linked below is a site that has a lot of goodies essential for making the beautiful powerhouse that Foobar is meant to be. Check it out! http://pelit.koillismaa.fi/fb2k/index.php
Also, do checkout Foobar’s homepage  for a lot more on customization.
The bottom line is that Foobar2000 is a media player for the advanced power user that comes with a lot of functionalities not found in many other players. It’s not the most easiest program to play with when it comes to initial use, however, once you get used to fiddling with it and understand its purpose, I can bet you that you won’t want to use another media player ever again!
~ Yogesh Bakshi