March 30, 2009

Review: Amarok 2.0.2 - Better Than 1.4?

Amarok always had the reputation of being the most popular and powerful audio player available on the Linux platform, and it really deserved that position. I myself am a fan of Amarok for over three years now, and there was nothing I could think of which Amarok 1.4 did not have.

Usual instance of Amarok 2.0.2 playing

For this review I used Amarok 2.0.2 (which was released to the public on March 5), included in Kubuntu 9.04 Beta (with all the upgrades to date) and I scanned several Ogg Vorbis and FLAC albums, all of them with correctly filled-in tags. I also included a compilation with several artists, which from the start messed up the entire playlist. That is, the albums from a single artist were correctly displayed, while the compilation album was spread in the entire playlist (see the screenshots below). In fact, Amarok only tries to organise tracks on the compilation depending on the artist. So if we have three artists with two songs each, they will be spread in the playlist, sorted by artist's name. Although I like how the single-artist albums are displayed in the playlist, when it comes to compilation this approach tends to mess things up and look inconsistent.

A compilation album including several different artists is spread in the entire playlist

The current version of Amarok 2 does not include all the features 1.4 had, like the equalizer, statistics or queue manager, however it is a new foundation for the releases which will follow. The introduction of widgets is very useful if you ask me, and I also liked the new interface. I know there were a lot of people complaining that the central widget space is a waste and takes up too much of the area when the playlist could have been, but I think it's useful this way. The new approach gives Amarok a more organised look and a logical way of finding all the information one needs at any given time.

Last.fm configuration


Another thing which I miss from Amarok 1.4 series is the ability to go directly to the next and previous tracks in the tag editor. That was a cool feature which made Amarok my audio tag editor of choice. Still, it allows for mass-tagging, which is a good thing. Of course, I'm sure these things will be implemented in the future.

Amarok correctly auto-detected the covers inside the albums' directories and displayed them in the middle panel, which proves to be very useful if used with a lyrics widget, for example.


The collection tab resembles pretty much the one in 1.4, however instead of organizing artists from the compilation albums inside that album's title, they are spread all over the place. This can get extremely annoying if you have large compilations of, say, 50 or more artists, and only a few songs from each of them. Or at least, I liked more the approach in 1.4. After an application restart Amarok did not remember the position of the left tabs, which were disabled (the Collection, Internet, Playlist and Files tabs).

The Add Media... option in the Playlist menu will only allow to add files to the playlist, so I had to use the right-click menu option Load (or Append to Playlist) from the Collection or the file manager tabs.

Some of the old features are still available, like the cover manager (which hasn't changed a bit) and the file manager. I was happy to see the old bug which froze Amarok (at least on Debian Lenny - stable) when right-clicking on a song and going to Edit Track Details in the file manager disappeared. Well, since it was rewritten it is normal to be this way.

A whole bunch of other features are now included in Amarok. Except for the widgets, the Internet tab provides access to no less than seven services, like Last.fm song submission and integration, music from Magnatune.com and Jamendo.com, OpmlDirectory (for lists of podcasts) or Shoutcast Directory (for lists of online radio stations). The script manager also allows to download other scripts from the Internet directly from within Amarok, and they are installed automatically, just like in 1.4 (and with a refined interface, cutting off the additional - and useless - steps when you had to click twice OK - once when the script was downloaded and the second time to notify you that the script was successfully installed).

Amarok now uses only QtScript, so all the scripts for 1.4 had to be rewritten. No more support for languages like Perl, Python or Bash.

Conclusion
As an Amarok 1.4 fan, I must say I also liked Amarok 2 a lot, but there are a lot of things which really need to be fixed and features to be added. What I like the best is the new approach (yeah I know there are a *lot* of people who don't like the new look), but it seems to me the way the widgets are organised and the space management is much more compact and useful now. The playlist is definitely another plus, since it looks twice as good as that simple list in Amarok 1.4 and offers a more clear view on which album belongs to which artist. It is visually more appealing. Instead, it really needs a fast way to jump to song using the keyboard.

Amarok 2.0.2 and KDE desktop effects enabled

I'm looking forward to Amarok 2.1 and I hope only for the best from the team behind this loved and popular player.

Additional screenshots

Cover manager - nothing new or changed here

The new splash screen

Last.fm integration, together with song submission and radio stations access

Magnatune.com music

New and improved script manager

18 comments:

faemir said...

Well 2.1 brings heavy ui customisation so all those who despise the middle area (not me, I love it!) can get rid of it and sat on 1.4 in the meantime (or use mpd or something).

CJ said...

Amarok 2.0.2 is an unholy mess! 4 years ago when I 1st used Linux, SuSE 9.2, Amarok was the app that I gushed over to my Windows using friends. I'm currently an Ubuntu user but Amarok is still my music player of choice. I even briefly installed the latest version on my machine but quickly got rid of it. It is unorganized and looks ugly! I'm sure there are those that love it but I'm not 1 of them.

Anonymous said...

Amarok 1.4 was the only media player that handled embedded album art properly. For some stupid reason the Amarok developers didn't think it was important enough to include this in Amarok 2.

Anonymous said...

I tried using other audio software when I bought my Dell Mini w/ the Gnome desktop but after 2 days, I had enough and DLed Amarok and VLC to take care of all my audiovisual needs. Still havent found anything that tops those two programs.

Amarok 2 is not bad but Im gonna wait before I move from 1.4. (Some people in FLOSS feel the need to have the latest even though its not ready. Case in point, KDE4. There was no need to switch from 3.5 until you felt 4 was ready and a year after it came out, 4.2 is finally ready for mom and pops).

Honestly, I could stay on 1.4 forever since I have no need, nor do I use most of the features like album art and so on.
Worst of all, I dont want a music player to take up 99% of my screen space. I dont like Songbird and I dont like Itunes.
I want small, compact and unobtrusive. I just need the time playing/remaining to be shown, play/stop and a small playlists space... you know, the way Ive been using Winamp on Windows for almost a decade.
I havent found it yet in Amarok 2 so maybe they havent got to it but many software have minimalist versions too, I hope 2 will have it too.

I like everything in 2 but the size of the interface.

Stephen said...

I too experienced the shock and horror that was Amarok 2.0 when I ugraded from Fedora 8 to Fedora 10. Even going so far as to make the comparison, in my mind at least, of WinXP -> Vista (blech..), KDE 3.5 -> KDE4, etc.. (you see what I am getting at). Seems like some things changed for the sake of changing, and some key functionality that made Amarok the perfect solution, was gone. I even looked up and found the how-to and files to wipe 2.0 and install 1.4. Definitely a trying time of adjustment. But that is where it stopped. Because I realized something. Over the 2-3 years I have been using Amarok, the project has had one of the most aggressive update release cycles of any of my most used applications. So in the 3 months I have been using the new Amarok there have been at least 2 updates, possibly 3, but who's counting. The Amarok team has not let me down, I know the application is getting better. Just my 2 cents...

blinkingeye said...

Hated Amarok 2.0 so much I switched to Songbird which, once I got ipod support working, is really really good.

Matthijs said...

I have to say that I have come to hate Amarok 2.0,
The most annoying thing is, I used Amarok as my manager and organizer. The fact that it could play music was just an added bonus. What I really hate (and I don't use this word often) is the fact that Amarok 2 can't recognize the tag's I've made with 1.4. When I pressed "organize collection" all hell broke loose which I'm still trying to repair in my Music folder.

I really really really want my lovely Amarok 1.4 back, and to the 9 hellz with that stupid widget area etc.

Nicholas said...

Wow, Simply amazing how bad this is. Amarok 1.4 was fantastic. I can't even get 2.0 to play music! It throws up an error when I start it and I have no clue where to look up hardware settings for the sound card. The kicker is I've been trying other music players to see which I like best and every single one works perfectly fine with the audio. Here's a short list, minirok (Amarok 1.4 based player), Exaile, Songbird, Rhythmbox, Listen and even mplayer and mpg123. To top it off, the interface is not very intuitive, it messed up my organization for my music and the overhead is huge. I have an older laptop I run it on as well and it takes forever to load and eats up quite a bit of memory. Also, where did all the configuration options go? I used to be able to customize so much and tweak it just how I liked it! Now I go in the menu options and you can't do a thing with it. Ughh! Maybe I'd like it more if I could get it to play music, but for now, I am going to try and downgrade back to 1.4.

Anonymous said...

On 1.4, I got a lot of non-linux people interested in crossing over just to use this awesome app. It could handle my 110GB music collection with ease by utilising mysql. It saved me from the havoc an old version of iTunes wreaked on my music filesystem. I loved it.

Like many others have already stated, 2.x is complete worthless garbage. It chokes on sorting, it looks like crap. It hasn't got the features it used to have. It basically does not work and it gets in my way.

I am now looking for another application to replace it.

Maybe later releases will work, but in the mean time.. Amarok has lost the plot. What Kool-Aid did they drink?

Wangberg said...

i also feel the pain as many others do. 2.x is a piece of trash and still cannot understand how the same developers who created something as amazing as 1.4 pushed out something as horrible as 2.x.

ditto on:

-no configuration options
-widget area is far to large / waste of space
-scripts bug out
-GUI is totally counter intuitive with the Rewind,Play,Pause,& FF buttons in the furthest location away from the 1.4 location (on the top left side of the screen)
-no equalizer

Amarok will loose major music player market share if they don't do something at critical speed to remedy this disaster!

how disappoining.

Rewarp said...

Amarok 2 made me download and try other music players.

I hate the fact that there is no obvious way to edit my own saved playlists (I still can't figure out how to edit the bloody thing without the hassle of loading the playlist, editting, then saving it).

The old Amarok allowed me to drag and drop files into playlists I had created.

What I wanted was a music player that allowed me to quickly and easily organise my music files, something 1.4 did very well. The automated playlists etc were nice, but unnecessary.

This has been very disappointing.

mischorradas said...

I think Amarok 2.0 is rubbish. I will downgrade to 1.4. I don't find configuration options too, as told by others.
How was this shit created?

vp said...

I have tremendous trouble on AMD64 FC10 having Amarok 1.4 installed, but in a conflicting way preventing any useful library updates. Why can't there be two brands of Amarok available as with Audacity (another useful application which was somehow screwed recently)?!

vp said...

How about launching a petition in order to have Amarok 1.4 available also in the future releases of any distribution of any OS?

Anonymous said...

I'm a major podcast and streaming radio listener and I loved Amarok 1.4

I could create subfolders and then organize my podcasts by topic area.

I could also organize my radio streams by network for example...a folder for CBC streams, BBC, ABC, NPR etc.

Amarok 1.4 was great! I can't do anything like this in Amarok 2.0 ... or if there is a way, I haven't figured it out yet.

I'm running Linux Mint 7 on my notebook...fortunately on my desktop I'm still running a bit older version of Ubuntu Studio Edition and therefore using Amarok 1.4 and I can still do things the "old" way.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious a fork of Amarok 1.4 is needed. Keep the interface as it is but convert it to Qt4 so it works ok with KDE4. I haven't a clue about C++ but I'm willing to learn haha.

Anonymous said...

I got tired of wasting hours trying to use Amarok 2 every few months so I forked 1.4.10

https://launchpad.net/pana

Anonymous said...

Amarok 1.4 was the best audioplayer ever (even though it had it's quirks).

Amarok 2.0 is just a useless piece of junk.