Even the staunchest Apple fan has difficulty defending iTunes, but it does so much that it’s hard to live without for Mac users. As well as playing music, it also manages movies, TV shows, and home videos; and books; and the apps for your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; and the photos; and podcasts; and iTunes U episodes.
It’s also the store so you can buy more of these things. And it acts as the default backup, update and restore tool for iOS devices, making it pretty important.
But what if you can't stand iTunes and want a third-party app to listen to music and watch videos? While it's a bit of a niche in 2018, there are still a handful of great Mac-based media players available for download. Here are some of the best media players for Mac that we've come across.
Everybody knows Spotify, but it's worth re-iterating that a great alternative to managing an iTunes library, or indeed any music library, is to simply abandon buying music in favour of streaming it.
While Apple Music and iTunes come hand-in-hand, there’s another great music streaming option available for those that require it. And, as a bonus, Spotify offers higher bitrate streaming than what's offered by Apple's default media player.
Google Play Music
Google Play Music is a web-based service that provides a good alternative to iTunes, Apple Music and Spotify. Its free service enables you to download all your music into Google’s cloud servers, where you can search and access it online. The web-based interface is nicer than iTunes, but not as clean as something like Spotify, and it does feel like it’s trying to direct you via the store an awful lot.
But it’s a free way to get your music in the cloud and you can access it from anywhere, and a premium service offers Spotify-like all-the-music-you-can-eat functionality. It doesn't support video playback though, something worth noting if you have a large video collection.
Tomahawk music player
Tomahawk is a multi-platform media player available for Linux and macOS that’s feature packed without being overwhelming or confusing to use like iTunes.
The biggest draw to Tomahawk is that it wants to be the all-in-one solution for the various music services available online. It allows users to add accounts including Spotify, YouTube, Google Play Music, Deezer and even Amazon Music, allowing for universal playback from a single source. It goes further than that too, offering integration with free services like Soundhound too.
The developers want to push the social element too, offering you the ability to view and listen to your friends' music libraries too. The best part? It’s completely free.
Vox music player
If you’re looking for a minimalist media player for macOS, then look no further than Vox Player.
It’s simple to use with a rather attractive, clean UI and comes with everything you’d expect for a music player– it even supports FLAC playback and other high-resolution audio files.
You can also opt for the premium variant that boasts built-in radio with options to connect to streaming services including SoundCloud, YouTube, Apple Music and Last.FM, along with cloud-syncing between Vox for iOS. It's audio-only though, bad news for those with large video libraries.
While the app was originally locked to a free (timed) trial before requiring a paid upgrade, the developers have since created a subscription-based model. This way, you can find out if it's worth the premium upgrade before you hand over your cash!
Clementine music player
While Clementine may look like a lightweight media player, it’s actually incredibly feature packed. The main draw to Clementine? Music management. It comes not only with a cover manager but a queue manager, playlist management tools, a music format transcoder with FLAC support, CD ripping tool and an advanced tag editor for batch editing music files. Impressive, right?
Like Tomahawk, it offers integration with services like Spotify, SoundCloud and others, along with cloud storage solutions like Dropbox. The only downside is that the player isn’t that good looking, and with the latest update being over two years ago, that’s not going to change anytime soon.
VLC Media Player has to be one of the most popular third-party media players available for Mac (as well as PC, Android, iOS, etc) due to its compatibility with a breathtaking number of audio and video files. Chances are that if you've got a movie or album in a scarcely-supported format that won't load in QuickTime or in iTunes, it'll work in VLC.
Many also assume that VLC is a video player; while that is half of what VLC offers, it's also able to stream music, create playlists, boasts Blu-Ray support and, for those internet streamers, the ability to play web channel streaming services without ads.
Despite translating from Latin to “whatever you wish”, Quod Libet is a media player that has been around since 2004 and still receives updates to this day. While not many people have heard of the media player, it’s a simple piece of software that’s incredibly simple to use and practical – the exact opposite of what many claim iTunes provides.
It features support for various media formats including FLAC, along with smart replay gain, ratings-weighted random playback, Unicode tags, built-in Internet radio, a configurable UI and more.