When it comes to media players, there is almost nothing that can go up against Apple’s formidable iTunes, a player that currently has approximately 80 percent market share amongst music players. Nevertheless, there are handful of audio players that come with almost the same set of features.

Helium Music Manager is a free audio player that supports various audio formats. However, the player doesn’t support playback of video files. The player features a neat interface, which contains a Music Explorer towards the left, while the right half of the screen gives a summary of the files within the library. Here, you can choose to view songs either by artist, file name, title or album, thereby allowing easier navigation. The top section allows you to switch between the application's Music Explorer, playlists and search (either by album, artist, title, or a number of other options) function. Here, you can also specify the audio length that needs to be searched for, however this sort of search usually generates too many search results. You can also locate files by using the search bar that’s placed towards the top-right corner of the screen. What it lacks is the ‘search as you type’ feature that other audio players such as iTunes and Winamp feature. So unless you press [Enter], the file search doesn’t begin scanning.

The Coverflow set up isn't too well organized

Songs can either be viewed by track details, album, album cover, or as a coverflow. The coverflow, however, feels a little too cluttered and obtrusive when navigating between songs. For instance, the songs that need to be played and the songs that are viewable via the album are placed in the same row. This leads to a lot of confusion between album songs and files that are required to be played. Another aspect that needs to be worked on is the manner in which files are added to the play queue. While the process is really simple, requiring you to just double-click the files that need to be added, there's no way for the player to prevent duplication. For example, if a song named ‘A’ is clicked twice or even thrice, the file gets added that many times. So repetition of songs in the play queue is quite possible.

Watch Music Videos from YouTube

Having said that, the player's Music Explorer allows you to sort songs quite well in accordance to the album, title, genre and rating. In addition to this, there are another 13 preset playlists that help in navigating through various audio files. The Music Explorer is also home to some nifty little options that allow renaming of multiple files, editing tags, creating audio CDs and synchronization with a variety of portable devices. In addition, the user gets to specify the audio formats that need to be transferred. The option of converting an unsupported audio format is also made available via the Options menu. Here, you can choose which format you'd like to convert files to. Supported formats include MP3, WAVE, FLAC and Ogg Vorbis. The audio bit rate is also adjustable, but is limited to 160 kbps in the free version, which is a little too restrictive.

A very notable feature in the free version of Helium Music Manager is the ID3 tagging option. Here, the player is not limited to just one download site, but has access to multiple sites such as Amazon, Discogs, FreeDB, Google Images, LastFM and Yahoo. This not only allows you to gain track information from multiple sources, but it also downloads album art, artist pictures and group information which is displayed during playback. The useful tag editor also allows you to export tracks to an excel fi le, thereby allowing you to keep a list of your music collection.

The Tag Editor allows you to not only download track information for a particular song or album, but also to downloading lyrics.

The free version of Helium Music Manager might not be the best amongst audio players, but it does have a few features that cannot go unnoticed. Moreover, the premium and network versions have a bunch of additional features, such as an equalizer, batch tagging, and a configurable application for the iPhone, iPod and iPod Touch, which allows you to remotely control the music manager.

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