Foobar2000 is a freeware audio player for Windows. It’s a player that is probably far more flexible and powerful than looks would suggest.
Behind its rather ordinary, if not unflattering, appearance lies a wealth of hidden features.
In this review, we will be taking a look at everything Foobar2000 has to offer.
Our verdict on Foobar2000
It’s difficult to be too harsh with freeware that is so flexible. But, it’s also hard to get away from the fact that there are easier options out there.
If you’re a beginner who just wants to arrange playlists and enjoy your favorite tunes, it might not be for you. However, if you’re more of an audio tech-enthusiast or audiophile, you might just love everything about Foobar2000.
We sit somewhere in between the two, and for that reason, it gets a solid score from us.
- Ultra-flexible interface.
- Advanced tagging.
- Third-party plugins/extensions.
- Modular design with advanced audio components.
- Pretty steep learning curve.
- Interface (although flexible) may deter beginners.
Design and GUI
As we mentioned already, the look of Foobar2000 can be a little off-putting. Initially, it seems like it has a somewhat dated image, and it’s unclear exactly how things work.
However, that soon changes when you start to populate the player with music, and it starts to look a little more conventional.
Foobar2000 has a modular design, which is made up of many different components. So, essentially, that means that your layout can be very simple or far more complex.
While that sounds like you are getting the best of both worlds, there is a downside. The downside is that making changes isn’t as straightforward as a less tech-savvy user might hope.
There is a Theme Editor, but it does take some time to get used to, and you can easily see minutes turn to hours.
We are left in a somewhat tricky position; on the one hand, the design will be far too convoluted for many users.
On the other hand, we should acknowledge the fact that it offers such depth and advanced flexibility.
There’s no doubt about it, Foobar2000 comes with a reasonably steep learning curve. And, in discussing the GUI, we have been pretty firm in making that clear.
But, what we should make clear now is that despite not being entirely beginner-friendly, it’s not completely unsuitable for beginners.
In other words, if you’re willing to put a little bit of time into it, you’ll get the hang of it, and everything will make sense.
It would be wise to start with the basics (unless you are an audio/tech wizz) and introduce new components as you progress.
Otherwise, looking too far ahead at features you don’t fully understand yet will only confuse you and put you off.
With that in mind, if we take Foobar2000 at its most basic, we have an audio player that can arrange our music by artist, album, or playlist.
Once you figure out how to direct Foobar2000 to your watched folders (where you store your music), you’ll see that everything you add to those folders later will automatically be available in the player.
Once you have a library filled with music, it’s easy to make playlists, and you can actually have multiple playlists available at once, each with its own tab.
So, can it be used as a simple music player? Absolutely, yes, but whether you will want to is another question.
Again, we don’t want to be too critical because it offers a lot for advanced users that you won’t get from other players.
For that reason, we are somewhat stuck on the fence again. But, considering most audio player users just want to listen without hassle, we have to score down a little.
Foobar2000 does far too many things for us to list here, and if you want a more in-depth list, check out the components page on the website.
Here are some of the most important features.
Supports many audio formats
The last thing you want is an audio player that has a very short list of supported formats. There’s no chance of that with Foobar2000; it supports the following:
MP3, MP4, AAC, CD Audio, WMA, Vorbis, Opus, FLAC, WavPak, WAV, AIFF, Musepack, Speex, AU, SND, and even more if you add extra components.
That’s enough, right?
Gapless playback means precisely what the name suggests; there’s no additional gap between tracks.
Playback of consecutive tracks or live music is heard just as engineers mastered the tracks.
Highly customizable interface
Highly customizable is an understatement; it’s huge if you consider the number of available components.
However, we aren’t sure if we agree with the developers that it’s easily customizable, and enough users would certainly share that opinion.
Advanced tagging gives you even more control over how your music is arranged and found.
Audio CD ripping
A basic function these days, but one that most users will use often.
Open component architecture
One of the most interesting things about Foobar2000 is that third-party developers can create new plugins and extensions.
If you’re a beginner who just wants essential functions, then having the option to download third-party extensions might not be too appealing. But, if you are a developer (even a hobbyist), it’s the ultimate way to personalize your player.
Useful tweaking effects
Without getting too deep into the advanced components, there are effects like EQ, resampling tools, and crossfade that even beginners will put to good use.
Compared to other audio players
Here are some more options if Foobar2000 isn’t your cup of tea.
MusicBee is arguably the best free audio player available. It does have some less than endearing quirks, but it can handle over 500,000 tracks without issue (reportedly).
Out of all the audio players right now, AIMP is probably the best when it comes to tagging. Yes, Foobar2000 has advanced tagging options, but it’s not as clear or well presented as AIMP.
VLC Media Player
VLC Media Player might be aimed at video more than audio, but it’s been around for years. Sometimes, tried and tested is the best way to go.
Note: While the alternatives are more straightforward, they don’t all offer the complex feature set of Foobar2000.