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Software Review of:
Version 2.80


Richard Villafana is a local practicing Physician, who recognizes a good thing when he sees it and isn't afraid to shout it from the hilltops.

From the September, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

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 skins available. 

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.

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