The Best iTunes Alternatives for macOS
Our requirements for replacing iTunes are fairly simple: a replacement needs to be easy to use and painlessly play our music, and it should include a media library for organizing everything. The applications we’re going to discuss today all meet these basic requirements—some do so minimally while others are packed with more features. All however, let you put your music first.
Here then are ten standout replacements for Apple’s media behemoth.
Clementine: Tons of Features for Any Power User
Clementine is a full-featured, cross-platform, open source music application that plays audio CDs, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, and more. It can be set up to search and play music from your local library or content you’ve uploaded to your cloud storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Box. It also features support for a number of Internet radio streaming services including Spotify, SoundCloud, and Grooveshark.
In other words: it is a power user’s music player. It has robust tagging tools, album cover artwork, an equalizer, visualizations, lyrics, and podcast support. Creating and curating playlists is particularly emphasized, with options to add not only files and folders, but internet streams as well.
It will even work with your music player like iPhone, iPod, and other mass storage devices, easily letting you transcode and transfer your music files.
Of all the iTunes replacements on this list, Clementine might be the most feature-rich right out of the box. You can see a full list of its features here, and it is indeed impressive, but these features never interfere with Clementine’s one critical focus: your music. And that’s how it should be.
VOX: The Little Player that Can Do Everything
Vox is one of those iTunes replacements that finds its way onto many lists, and with good reason. By all appearances, Vox seems simple enough—with its mini interface almost reminiscent of Napster-era Winamp—but it’s really packed with scads of features. Tops among these is the ability to import your iTunes and personal library, and integration with SoundCloud and YouTube. For a $10 in-app purchase, you can even get access to over 30,000 Internet radio stations (no, that’s not a misprint).
If that’s not enough to pull you in, Vox also includes an equalizer, gapless playback, Sonos and Airplay support, as well as the option to download playback control extensions, so you can use Vox with your Apple EarBuds, create playback shortcuts, or your Apple TV Remote.
Vox is free to download and use (apart from the radio feature), though it will remind you frequently to try its LOOP Music Cloud Storage, which gives you unlimited storage meaning you can upload as many files as you want, giving you access to your music wherever you go. LOOP isn’t cheap, however, particularly when compared to other cloud storage services.
Nightingale: Simple and Customizable with Tons of Plugins
Nightingale is another open-source iTunes alternative that’s actually a little reminiscent of older versions of iTunes, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Nightingale’s appeal lies in its simplicity. It excels at the basics: playing your music and organizing it into a library complete with artwork, tag editing, and…well, that’s about it. Oh, and it will also play video files, but simple is the name of the game here.
Nightingale plays the most essential audio file formats: MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, Apple Lossless, and WMA.
One of its more unique features is its built-in web browser, which means if you want to listen to something else for a while—say, Pandora—you can do so without ever leaving your main music app.
If Nightingale’s stark simplicity isn’t your cup of tea, you can really make it sing with its voluminous add-ons, which let you extend the application and turn it into virtually whatever you desire, including skinning options known as “feathers”, equalizers, file ratings, tagging tools, playlist extensions, and much more. Just don’t be surprised if you get carried away with how many powerful features you can add to it!
Quod Libet: Organize and Play Your Music the Way You Want
If you thought NIghtingale was basic, wait until you get a load of Quod Libet. Carrying on the trend of cross-platform, open source music applications, Quod Libet—which means “whatever you wish” in Latin—will likely appeal to many who prefer its simple, plain, spartan interface, which emphasizes the “Just Play Music” mentality that many iTunes converts crave.
There’s not a whole lot going on with Quod Libet on the surface, which is a good thing. It’s feature set is pretty routine, including album covers, lyrics, automatic tagging, and multiple file format support (MP3, Ogg, FLAC, AAC, etc.). Rounding things out are multimedia key support, truly powerful tag editing, and a whole bunch of plugins that extend the application into virtually whatever you require.
Beneath its humble appearance, however, lies the heart of a truly powerful music application. The software is highly customizable and scalable with the ability to handle large libraries numbering in the tens of thousands.
It supports multiple ways of interacting with your music such as through playlists, by album list, or by album collections. It also features built-in Soundcloud integration, podcast support, and perhaps one of the most extensive gatherings of Internet radio stations out all the applications on the list.
Finally, Quod Libet places a lot of emphasis on letting you organize your music your way, and regular expressions make searching your collection this application’s most outstanding feature. You should definitely read up on all the ways you can search through your music, because it is truly impressive.
Tomahawk: Combine Streaming and Social Services Into One Program
Tomahawk is a little different from the other music players on this list. It is a sleek, fast, open-source application that not only plays your tunes with no fuss, but also has features not found on other players, including:
- Support for streaming services like YouTube, Jamendo, and BandCamp.
- Subscription services like Spotify, Rhapsody, and Tidal
- Cloud streaming options including Amazon Music, Google Play Music, and OwnCloud.
- The ability to plug into social connections like Jabber and Hatchet.
- Chart support for Billboard, iTunes, Metacritic, and more.
The emphasis of Tomahawk is the social aspect, and as such, you can create your own custom stations, listen to what your friends are playing, drop and share songs, and even check your Inbox to see what people have shared with you.
Finally, you can install any number of plugins that will let you further extend its functionality and power. There’s almost too much to explain and yet, Tomahawk still manages to observe that Cardinal Rule of music players: thou shalt not interfere with one’s enjoyment of thy tunes.
Swinsian: A No-Nonsense Music Player with Tons of Features
Swinsian is an Old English word meaning “To make a (pleasing) sound, make melody or music.”
Swinsian (named after an Old English word meaning “To make a (pleasing) sound, make melody or music”) is a lightweight iTunes replacement. It can import your iTunes library, add watched folders for automatic importing of new tracks, and let you subscribe to podcasts. Swinsian will play MP3, FLAC, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, and others. It will also allow you to connect your music playing devices like iPhone and iPad for easy file transcoding and transfers.
Another standout feature is automatic sample rate switching, which means Swinsian will give you the highest quality playback from your music files.
Much of Swinsian’s appeal, however, lies in its music library organization skills, which includes powerful features such as duplicate file finder, auto dead file delete, and global find and replace for your music tags. The library includes multiple views such as art grid, columns, track inspector, and a separate playlist window. It will also autocomplete tags and download cover art.
Swinsian is a deceptively powerful but simple Mac-only music player for $19.95.
Fidelia: An Old-School Vibe with Lots of Sound Tweaks
Fidelia pays homage to hi-fi audio systems of the past with a sleek, shiny interface that resembles an old school premium head unit. It looks pretty and will display track details, audio waveforms, stereo levels, and has four size options including a mini player.
It takes that premium hi-fi theme one logical step further by offering powerful Audio Unit effects such as equalizers, compressors, and something called the CanOpener headphone modeler, which basically means your headphones will sound more like loudspeakers. You can apply up to three of these effects to your music playback at a time.
Fidelia will play all the usual file formats including MP3, AIFF, WAV, AAC, Apple Lossless, and also Ogg Vorbis and FLAC. It includes some extra goodies to round it out including a playlist window, music library that will import your iTunes library, and AirPlay support.
Fidelia isn’t cheap ($29.99), but if you’re really into the interface and the idea of Fidelia’s effects, then you can try Fidelia for free.
VLC: The Simple, Jack-of-all-Trades Media Player
Last, though definitely not least, is the venerable VLC, which besides playing pretty much every file format in existence, is also a surprisingly capable iTunes replacement.
Chances are you already have VLC installed on your Mac for playing video files not supported by other apps. But while VLC is fairly simple and no-nonsense, it can do more than just play the odd video or audio file.
Aside from being able to organize your music library, you can also create playlists, download cover art, and edit tags. It’s not the fanciest, most feature-packed app of the bunch, but what VLC lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up with glorious simplicity.
If you’re still not sold, consider that you can also skin VLC’s appearance, and extend its functionality with add-ons, including playlist parsers, a song teacher (an extension that teaches you lyrics), music rating, and others Finally, VLC has a few streaming radio options and podcast support.
It may be a little basic, but it will do the job and if you’re just looking for something simple and free, VLC is an excellent option.
Once there was a day when iTunes on the Mac was the only game in town, and finding a suitable replacement was nearly impossible. Those days are long gone, and in fact, the ten music players represented here are but a definitive sample of the growing number of music players for Mac. Still, what we’ve talked about today are among the best. They’re all robust, capable, and easy to use.
Thus, if you’re looking to ditch iTunes for something with a lot less baggage, give one these ten options a shot. You and your music will be glad you did.