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Home > Music making > A media player with waveform view? (foobar2000)

A media player with waveform view? (foobar2000)

Anyone who has worked with an audio editor like Audacity or Traverso DAW would know that for something normally invisible like sound, a picture really paints a thousand words. Even if you’re the casual soundcloud listener, you know right away from the waveform when a sound will be loud or silent. If you are transcribing or learning a song, scrolling through the waveform is much more intuitive than just looking at the track time. It may also come in handy if you want to quickly inspect the samples in an sfz or kontakt instrument.

Nonetheless, despite its usefulness, many popular media players (e.g. VLC, Windows Media Player) do not have such a feature. After all, a normal person is not likely going to stare at a sound player. Perhaps this is why soundcloud has its waveform view. To keep your attention. Imagine soundcloud using horizontal scrollbars instead. Ew…

As I have been editing tracks and samples recently, I thought that seeing the waveforms of songs I regularly listen to might improve my skills and intuition. Although I can somehow use Audacity for this purpose it is not designed as a player that will go through your play lists. You have to wait a little for it to load a file.

foobar2000 waveform

foobar 2000 with a wave seek bar component.

Fortunately, there is an audio player that has this capability, foobar2000. I’ve already been using foobar2000 for its other praised features such as playing an audio file unadulterated. But I haven’t dug into it’s menus and preferences to notice that it has a spectrogram visualization. Foobar’s shipped spectrogram is not exactly what I had in mind though. It’s too quick as it is zoomed into a fraction of a second. For something with a wider view, similar to soundcloud’s visualization, use wave seek bar component instead. It also allows you to jump to different regions of a track, visually, instead of blind trial and error as with most media players.

Did I mention that foobar2000 is an “audio player?”. Yes, we’ve gotten so used to “media players” playing both audio and video, but this is not really necessary. Of course a video player must also be able to play the audio contained in the video file so it is just thoughtful to extend this feature to videos without pictures. But there are audiophile developers who would rather make a great audio player than have something generic for both. And since there is a tight competition with all the good media players out there, chances are, you’ll get one for free.

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Categories: Music making
  1. June 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Did you try Nulloy? It’s more like a sound cloud and looks way better than foobar2000. http://nulloy.com

    • June 23, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Thanks for the tip Sergey. Nulloy looks interesting and has the wave seek bar out ot the box. I hope to write about it soon.

      • June 23, 2013 at 10:39 pm

        I’m sorry, I should have mentioned that I’m the developer of Nulloy. It would be great to hear your opinion on it :) Thank you.

      • June 26, 2013 at 8:52 am

        Hi Sergey, no problem and cheers for your great program. I have tried nulloy on my win8 tablet while I was away the past few days. I like how it is much simpler, immediately displaying waveforms without tweaking anything. Though I think my tablet is not fast enough that I can see the rendering process of the waveform, but I don’t mind. It fails to load the gstreamer plugin on my old winXP laptop, but since your website has a screenshot on winXP, that’s probably just me. There could still be some little improvements (maximize window button?) but I generally like nulloy. I’ll “properly” write about it when I get some time. :-)

      • June 26, 2013 at 12:13 pm

        Yeah, the render process takes time. I tried on many machines, it never was lightspeed. FLAC renders faster than mp3 however. I tried to optimize the rendering, but GStreamer is the bottleneck. I will try to look again to this problem.

        XP is supported indeed. Haven’t tested since version 0.4.5, could be that I broke something. Thanks for letting me know. I will test again this week.

        About maximize button, I always thought it will look ugly on a big screen. But of course I will add it to my todo list :)

      • November 2, 2013 at 8:26 pm

        Hi. Just to let you know, I have implemented maximize button, sort of. Native skin will have the button, other skins can be maximized by double click on title bar. It will come in the next release around Xmas :)

        About your XP machine. The reason why Nulloy doesn’t work is not specific to XP. I have two more users who have had same problem on Windows 7. I will try to come up with a debug version for WinDbg.

  2. September 2, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Sorry for late reply, just got time to test in XP, it works. It would be great if you have time to help me to figure out why it doesn’t run on your old laptop :)

    • September 20, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Hi Sergey, Sorry for a much more late reply. I’ve been on hiatus since my phd thesis and defense, and haven’t been gaining enough momentum for writing yet :(… I only have one windows xp machine, unfortunately, everything else is win 7 or 8 where nulloy works just fine. I tried investigating what may be wrong with my machine, but I guess I don’t have the right tools. Maybe a debug version that makes detailed error logs would help? But if it works with other xp machines, maybe this is just a “can’t replicate” bug specific to my old laptop… In any case, thanks for considering what I think about it :-)

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