WinAmp 5.3 took some long-needed steps to improve the old-school media player, with support for AAC encoding, CD burning, and a robust file-management system. WinAmp 5.56 ups the ante with strong support for portable devices, including iPods, the ability to sync non-DRMed files to your PC from your device, an optional new interface layout and a built-in browser for media discovery.
We liked that clicking on an artist's name will get you related headlines and Web sites in a separate pane. There's also Podcast support, device synchronization that lets you tweak the sync list while in progress, and continued support for AOL's excellent Shoutcast. The new Bento layout is worth mentioning, too, because it gets the venerable llama away from the old modular format. The joined panes for the browser, media player, artist list, album list and more make WinAmp instantly more visually appealing. There's also an Auto-Tag feature, which will download metatags from the Gracenote database, and Winamp's proprietary music scrobler called Orgler, with links back to AOL Music.
If you want MP3 encoding and full-speed CD burning, you have to shell out $19.95 for the Pro version. However, there are other problems. Automatic album art download support is spotty at best. More importantly, there are some stability issues when playing videos, and occasional program crashes were far more common than they should be.
WinAmp 5.56 is no iTunes killer--not yet. It has become, however, a strong alternative and should be of interest to those looking for something with more meat on its bones. Llama meat, that is.
Winamp is a free multimedia player made by Nullsoft. It supports numerous audio and video formats. It also plays streamed video and audio content, both live and recorded, authored worldwide. It has an extremely customizable media library, and allows you to rip and burn your favorite music CDs. Winamp has thousands of skins and plug-ins that allow you to change the look-and-feel of the player, as well as add new features. The player also has access to thousands of free songs, videos and online radio stations from SHOUTcast Radio and AOL Radio with XM.