Sometimes reviewing software is going from the ridiculous to the sublime.
Having suffered through a totally unresponsive and un-fun program with
my last review, it is now my pleasure to write about a truly fun and well
executed program, Winamp Version 2.80. This a well known and widely used
freeware program used primarily to listen to audio files, such as MP3,
wav, and CD audio.
But it does so much more. It is capable of adding beautiful and mesmerizing
visual effects to your monitor screens, it has a built in equalizer, it
is very intuitive and user friendly, and is highly configurable. Listening
to your audio files with Winamp is extremely satisfying and best of all,
it doesnít cost you a single penny. Free, a beautiful concept. It is freely
available for download, and it is not a crippled or time limited program.
It is also full featured with used created plug-ins which are constantly
updated at the Website. The program itself is also a work in progress and
has been constantly upgraded, each time adding new features and compatibilities.
Now that Iíve sung the praises of Winamp, allow me to backtrack just
a bit. In case the readers donít know what MP3 files are, let me say that
they are computer digitized sounds which are then compressed into smaller,
easy to archive computer files. Prior to MP3, the files of choice for digitizing
sound to your computer were primarily wav and midi files. The problem with
these files were that they lacked both quality and compactness. MP3 changed
all that and has revolutionized both the computer and music industries,
but that is a wholeother topic that we wonít go into now. Suffice to say,
MP3 is a good thing.
Once the sounds are digitized and compressed, we need a program to play
them through your computerís sound card and speakers. This is where Winamp
comes in. Winamp plays most Windows sound files including MP3, wav, voc,
wma, cda (CD audio), and midi. Since this program is downloaded from the
net, it doesnít come per se with a manual, but the Web site provides theuser
with all the help he or she is likely to need. As I previously stated the
interface is very intuitive and the average computer user is likely to
have no trouble in running the software.
System requirements are a Windows OS of Windows 95 or better, at least
a 486 processor (although a Pentium or better is preferred), probably at
least 16 MB of RAM, less than 1 MB of hard drive space, and of course a
PCI sound card and computer speakers. For full enjoyment I would also recommend
a good video accelerator card. This would be for taking full advantage
of the visualization plug-ins that are widely available online. These plug-ins
once activated are like an extension of the media experience by adding
eye-candy for your pleasure. It is difficult to explain on paper so I will
just saythat they really add to the overall experience. Once loaded, the
program is easy to use, you simply click on the drop down menu at the upper
left hand corner and select whether to play a single selection, a play-list
that you can create, or an entire directory of music if you wish. You can
also access the other options such as the order of music, whether to shuffle
the playlist, repeat selections, and the skin selection. Oh yes, the skin
selection. Did I fail to mention the skins? Well if you donít like the
appearance of the interface, you simply change its look by activating a
new skin. These skins are found online at the Website, as are the visualization
plug-ins. There are many skins available, and you can customize the look
of your program virtually any way you like. Like the Aggies? Just pop on
your A&M skin and viola! Gig Ďem! Longhorn fan? Click again and poof
the eyes of Texas are upon you. There are literally hundreds of downloadable
Adjacent and docked to the main program is a window which gives you
information about the selection you are playing. This window is synchronized
to the Web and instantly gives you the name of the artist, the name of
the selection, album it came from, year of release, and sometimes even
a complete discography of the artist or even lyrics to the song. Itís all
good. For my money this is music nirvana. Installation is a snap, and the
program operates smoothly.
Support is excellent at the NullSoft
Website. There are FAQís and walkthroughs available at the Website, as
are the plug-ins. There are many audio players available on the Web but
in my opinion, none of them can match Winamps ease, reliability, configurability,
quality, and sheer ďcoolnessĒ factor.
If you are an audiophile, do yourself a favor and check this program
out. I promise you, you wonít be disappointed. P.S., Iíve been listening
to Winamp during the entire time that I wrote this review.