By Team Digit Published Date
01 - May - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - May - 2006
Winamp, surprisingly, has endured. It arrived sometime in 1997, and survived the slew of competing media players that came up after that-some of them Winamp clones-and kept adding features, such as support for video and much more. Now, in version 5.2, its music management and other features are more advanced and useful than ever. Here, we try and get a little into some of the lesser-known aspects of Winamp's features-going beyond just creating playlists and playing them, as it were.

Some Basics
On the front panel, the preamp is something like a volume control for the equaliser-when you set it right up, all the frequencies you control via the equaliser are pumped up, and the effect of sliding a particular frequency will be more pronounced. The other setting you might not know about is the "Auto" button: when you stumble upon an equaliser setting you like for a particular song-that is, a good equaliser-song match, select Presets > Save > Auto-load preset… The next time that song plays, the settings you chose will automatically load. Something interesting about equaliser presets: you can load a preset from a .eqf file-which is an exportable equaliser preset. So you make a setting and save it as a .eqf, then send it to someone-how cool is that?

In the main window of the General Preferences page- accessible by right-clicking anywhere in the Winamp window and choosing Options > Preferences-there's an option called "Allow multiple instances." Yes, you can have two Winamp windows open at the same time-and create your own remixes! You could, for example, play a drum track in one window and a slow classical track in another, making for a jhankar-beat rendition of Mozart (ugh!). Another, exotic use for multiple instances is to create an eerie, psychedelic reverb effect: you could enqueue the same track in both windows and start one just about half a second (or less, or more) later than the other. Try it!

Priority And Jitter
You'll find "Priority class" in the same window as above. The higher this setting, the greater the CPU power Winamp will use. Keep it at Idle or Normal for most purposes; if you have a slow computer, and opening a document makes a track skip, you might want to change it to High. Realtime is hardly ever recommended, unless your tracks keep skipping all the time.

Under Video in General Preferences, you'll see something called "Allow YV12 overlay mode." Without going into the details, checking this option allows Winamp to use the YV12 overlay mode, which can result in better video performance. Under Video, you'll also see "Synchronize video to screen refresh rate." This increases the fps of the video to reduce jitter and artefacts, if any.

Playing With Lists
Take a look at Predixis MusicMagic. The MusicMagic Mixer is a library manager that can compute the key acoustical attributes in music tracks. It's sort of a power tool to create dynamic playlists. The software analyses your collection, and builds custom playlists from analysed songs! You need to be connected to the Net for this.

Why would you want a playlist to be created for you? Well, say you have a music collection that runs into thousands of songs. You're having a party and you need to create a long playlist that will last the length of the party or so. MusicMagic analyses your library using information from its database, which holds "acoustic fingerprints" of all the songs that have been analysed thus far. It gets these songs from folks like you: if you try and add a track that hasn't been analysed yet, MusicMagic analyses it and adds its fingerprint to the database. So what you do is, select a song you like , and press MusicMagic Mix. This will create a playlist full of tracks that are related acoustically to the song you chose as the base.

Syncing With Devices
Winamp has taken a cue from iTunes in its 5.2 version, and you can sync your device with Winamp. Under Portables > Advanced Sync Settings, you'll find options for the plugins that allow you to manage your iPod or other music device from within the Winamp Media Library. There's a button called "Edit query": it's pretty easy to use, and you can use it to configure what media types Winamp will sync with your portable device. For example, you can tell Winamp to only sync songs that are larger than 5K and that also have a bitrate higher than 256 kbps.

The Autofill settings on the same page are self-explanatory once you know what Autofill is. So what is Autofill? It's a cool little feature that leaves you wondering what'll end up on your portable music player! When your music device is synced with Winamp, the Winamp Media Library will sometimes transfer some songs to and from the device. From the device is OK, you can expect that-but what's interesting is that it also transfers songs to the device without telling you! The settings here include options that control the transfer-leave them untouched if you really want a surprise the next time you press Play on your iPod. Otherwise, you can choose to, for example, transfer only high-rated songs to the device.
Metadata And More
The Media Library holds all your music-rather, it keeps track of your collection. From the menu on the left, you can bookmark items just like in a browser, view recently played and most-played items, and so on. At the top, you can search for items in the library. Here, explore the "Metadata reading settings," even though it's been reported to be buggy (as of now). This is a button at the bottom of the Watch Folders tab. Metadata is added to files by certain programs, for example iTunes, and is basically information about the file such as album and length and so on. Once you press Configure, the options are self-explanatory-you can, for example, choose to "smartly" detect metadata such as track number, artist and title. This, again, is useful when you have too large a music collection, and don't want to go through each song and manually look at what it is. So if you've synced with someone else's iPod, Winamp can display song information you haven't even entered!

Going To Where You Want
"Jump To File"-also under General Preferences-can be very confusing, with its horrendous number of options. This is an implementation of the JTFE plugin, whose function is to allow you to queue your files to play in an order you specify. There are two methods to achieve this, and a third method "is being worked on." The first is "Enqueue," and the second is "Move after current..." This latter places the selected file(s) after the currently playing file. For example, under Jump To File > Enqueue Options, you have "Double-click mode": use this to specify whether double-clicking a song will play it (removing everything else in the playlist), move it to after the currently playing song, or simply enqueue it.

The "third method being worked on" will allow you to enqueue files to play at a given time, with the ability to control when they will be played-based on options such as day of week. It gets exotic: there will be the ability to add a "virtual file" into a "timed queue," which will allow you to close Winamp and/or the system at a given time.

In our opinion, the JTFE plugin has been overdone-there are too many options. However, it can be useful if you have an extremely large music collection. Visit jtfe.html for more information on the plugin.

Buffering, Fading, Silence
Under Plug-ins > Input, look at Nullsoft MPEG Audio Decoder 3.5. This is what decodes your MP3s. The first tab lists "Full file buffering"; set this to a high value if you want your MP3s to get into RAM and play from there. This is useful if you have a lot of RAM, and have no patience with the tiniest amount of skipping. Then there's the option between logarithmic and linear for the equaliser. "Logarithmic" (the default) is the opposite of "exponential," and means that increasing a certain frequency boosts it by a reasonable amount. Setting it to linear will enable more drastic playing around with the equaliser settings.

If you want songs to play continuously without a gap, here's a way: go to Plugins > Output > DirectSound output, and click Configure. What you need to change is the "Buffer-Ahead on track change." If you set the Buffer-Ahead to 5000 ms, Winamp will begin reading the next track when the current track has five seconds left, allowing for a seamless transition. But if your computer is low on memory, you're better off leaving this setting at the default.

Another interesting setting here is Fading, in the Fading tab. It's irritating to have a song end abruptly, and you can control that here. There are too many options for us to discuss here, but suffice it to say that you can control every aspect of fading you can think of-including whether or not to fade while you're seeking!

The options under Other in DirectSound output are interesting. Here you'll be able to remove the silence at the beginning or ending of tracks-and you can specify what Winamp interprets as silence. You can choose to have the volume control behave in a smooth manner (great if you don't want a song to blast you off your chair when it starts), and you can choose between a logarithmic and a linear volume control.

SHOUTcast, Skins, Etc
If you like Internet radio, remember that Winamp has SHOUTcast support, and can ably act as your SHOUTcast client. SHOUTcast is free radio-visit there's all the genres you can think of, and when you click on a result with Winamp on, it just plays! You can be a broadcaster as well-just check the documentation on the main page for details. Of course, you can also use other media players to listen to SHOUTcast streams.

There are lots and lots of skins and plugins available at, and new ones keep coming out. Keep checking the site to find what interests you. Then, consider DFX 7.5 for Winamp ( dfx/), which really makes your MP3s sound much better on Winamp-you won't believe your ears! At $19.99 (Rs 900), we think it's worth it. And finally, if you're rich, consider going Pro. There isn't much of a value add except for ripping and encoding features, including ripping to AAC and WMA, but for $19.95 (Rs 895), you'll be supporting development of the world's favourite media player! 

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