Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Audio Apps

Standards, Methodology, Test System Specs, And Legend


This is a collection of easy-to-install applications intended for those making, or even thinking about making the switch from Windows to Linux. These apps must fall in line with the realistic expectations of an average end-user in either a home or office desktop environment.

The three main criteria for the applications are: usability, quality, and popularity. Our test bed includes the top three Linux distributions (distros): Ubuntu, Fedora, and openSUSE. For an app to even appear in this article it has to be available in the official software repositories (repos) of one of these distros, or as DEB or RPM files from the software vendor's official Web site.

If you need a refresher, please reference Desktop Linux for the Windows Power User for an explanation of package management. Apps with too many bugs, crashes, or fails were left out. The quality of an app is determined by comparing its feature set to the industry-leading title in that category (whenever one exists). In the event that there are no clear industry-leading apps to compare against, don't worry. Anything that looks like it came out of a Win9x time-capsule doesn't pass.

Since Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is in a constant state of bug reporting and fixing, the most popular apps will have the most complete sampling of users, in turn producing an even better title. Also, because support is mainly handled by the community of users, popular software naturally has more documentation and fewer issues with compatibility. Therefore, popularity greatly influences the order in which equally usable apps of comparable quality are listed. This includes extra weight given to multi-platform applications. For a more comprehensive explanation of the standards applied to these applications please reference the Standards and Methodology page from the first segment: Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup: Internet Apps.

Exclusion #1: Web Apps & Online Services.

Almost every article showcasing Web-based apps and online services is applicable to Linux as well as Windows, even if not specifically stated.

Exclusion #2: Windows Apps

Though we will include a page on virtualization and emulation, it is to showcase the actual virtualization/emulation software. We do not go into details for getting any specific Windows apps running in Linux.

Exclusion #3: Preferences

User preferences like 3D desktop effects, screen savers, panels, and launchers are not covered in this series. There is a planned how-to piece for preference options.

Exclusion #4: Games

Native casual games, free games, indie games, retail games, as well as virtualized platforms and emulation will be covered in a future rundown of Linux gaming.

Exclusion #5: Servers

This is a follow-up to the first article, and therefore concentrates on Linux as being an alternative OS for consumers. This means desktops and notebooks; not servers.


This article is the fifth part in Tom's Definitive Linux Software Roundup and the test system has gone through a few upgrades since the series began. The latest hardware and software configurations are listed in the tables below.

64-bit Desktop Test System Specs

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Host OSUbuntu Studio 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" (64-bit)
ProcessorIntel Core i5-750 @ 2.80Ghz (quad-core)
MotherboardGigabyte GA-P55A-UD7 (F7 BIOS)
Memory8 GB Crucial DDR3 @ 1333 MT/s (2 x 4 GB)
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 4870 Reference Board (512 MB GDDR5) PCIe 2.0
StorageSeagate Barracuda 7200.12 500 GB SATA 3 Gb/s, 7200 RPM, 16 MB Cache
OpticalAsus DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS
Power SupplyCorsair TX750W (750 W max)
ChassisZalman MS1000-HS2
CPU CoolerScythe Mugen 2 Revision B

In order to determine Ubuntu compatibility we used a fresh and updated virtual machine (VM) installation of Ubuntu 10.10 (32-bit) with the default GNOME graphical user interface (GUI). For Fedora, we used Fedora 14 (32-bit) with GNOME. To check openSUSE compatibility, we used openSUSE 11.3 (32-bit), with KDE.

Virtual Machine specs:

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VersionOracle VirtualBox 3.2.10 r66523
Guest OS 1Ubuntu 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat" (32-bit)
Guest OS 2Fedora 14 "Laughlin" (32-bit)
Guest OS 3openSUSE 11.3 (32-bit)
CPU1 CPU--AMD-V, and Nested Paging enabled
Base Memory1536 MB
Video Memory128 MB--3D Acceleration Enabled
Storage8 GB--Dynamically Expanding
AudioPulseAudio Audio Driver

In order to test drive the feature set of the applications (and to determine 64-bit friendliness), we fell back on the host OS, a native (non-VM) and fully updated installation of 64-bit Ubuntu Studio 10.10. The version number that we looked at appears in parenthesis next to each application's name. This may not necessarily be the latest version, or the same version available via your distribution's software repository.


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An applications logo links to its homepage (e.g. Firefox =

indicates availability in the default Ubuntu repos.

indicates availability in the default Fedora repos.

indicates availability in the default openSUSE repos.

links to an available .deb package download.

links to an available .rpm package download.

links to an available Windows download.

links to an available Mac download.

* The icons used in this article were borrowed from the hydroxygen icon set by deviantdark and hosted on, along with a ton of other high quality theming elements.

  • nevertell
    Great stuff, I'll try out some of those.

    Although I had tried Banshee a few years ago, and it just couldn't deal with 30 gb of music.
  • machvelocy
    D'oh.... i didn't know before if you can sync ipod in linux (yes i'm a linux n00b).
  • pelov
    Linux has always been quite robust in the audio segment, particularly if you consider that the majority of apps are completely free and hog less resources. Move over apple.

    Though some apps are .deb or .rpm, or what have you, depending on the linux distro you can still open/install them just fine.

    Good writeup :)
  • haplo602
    I miss xmms in the list, just for nostalgia.

    Audacious fits my bill for a music player. Simple yet capable.
  • nukemaster
    does Audacious take winamp 2 skins like xmms does?
  • admiral_grinder
    I have tried several of the Winamp clones on my Ubuntu box, but I'm using Audacious to be the better. Out of all the clones I have found the playlist sorting options are a bit weak. While you can sort by Artist or by Title, you can't do both. They do have the important one of sorting by path and filename though so you can que up albums in the right order.
  • Nice review! I look forward to looking at how gaming works on linux
  • castlefox
    Thank you Toms for doing a linux article !!!!!

    I didnt know those ipod syncing programs actually worked. I cant wait to try out Banchee in Ubuntu 11.04

    PS> Type O Negative and all the other metal put a smile on my face :)
  • Crazy Hitchhiker
    Nice to see that you are still doing linux articles! I'm a little curious why several programs were left off, though: VLC, Audacity, and WinFF. Oh well, just keep up the good work!
  • castlefox
    Crazy HitchhikerNice to see that you are still doing linux articles! I'm a little curious why several programs were left off, though: VLC, Audacity, and WinFF. Oh well, just keep up the good work!
    VLC is more of a video thing.... it does stand for "video lan client"