Editors' Note: The VLC Media Player source code is also available.
What's the top media player? Opinions differ, but if you mean one that's open-source freeware, plays more files than the others, can be totally customized and configured to suit, and is not only updated frequently but also regularly offers new features and options created by a huge community of programmers and users, the answer is VLC Media Player.
Our default media player for years, VLC has managed to stay ahead of the competition in features and performance, if not always looks, though that's easy enough to fix if you want to. VLC and its source code are maintained by the all-volunteer VideoLAN Organization.
VLC is quick and easy to install. You can make VLC your default media player for various (or all) file types, but if you just want to try VLC without giving up your current player, you can skip the file associations. We clicked the familiar orange-and-white traffic cone icon to open VLC's famously plain interface, which is also a model of efficient layout design (and completely customizable, in any case: clicking the skinned player option in VideoLAN's Start Menu folder opens VLC in a sleek new view).
Effects? VLC has 'em: Audio, Video, and Synchronization effects, including a graphic equalizer with many presets; totally customizable dynamic range compression; an audio spatializer tool; AtmoLight video effects; interactive zoom; logos and overlays; and even special effects like blur, wave, water, and mirror effects. VLC's minimized interface hides the player's controls until you need them, and a raft of hot keys make it easy to toggle between views and to quickly access any of VLC's features. Playback quality is as good as it gets. We've used VLC to play MP3s, WAVs, CDs, DVDs, Flash video, and other formats. As for support, few programs of any sort can match VLC's Help files and wikis, and its dedicated community of users, forums and other online resources.
From myriad file types to playlists to codecs and video capture, if it's useful to have in a media player, VLC has probably got it or soon will. VLC plays everything: if there's a media file it can't play but should, just ask!
VLC (initially VideoLAN Client) is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats, including MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, MP3, and OGG, as well as for DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It also can be used as a server for unicast or multicast streams in IPv4 or IPv6 on a high-bandwidth network.
What's new in this version:
Version 2.0.1 includes fixes for HTTP Live Streaming, CDDB, UDP/RTP support, Support for MxPEG files and streams, and fix for splitted RAR files playback.