It's now easier than ever to download and play music on your computer, with every Tom, Dick and Harry software company providing some sort of MP3 player. But there are only a few that provide, high quality features.
I've already written about two of them - RealJukebox from RealNetworks and the Microsoft Media Player. Since then I've come across a third: MusicMatch Jukebox 6.0 from MusicMatch Inc (downloadable from "http:www.musicmatch.com" for $29.95).
Although it lacks some of the advanced features of the other two, when it comes to converting (ripping) compact disks to MP3 format or customizing your own MP3 radio, service, this moves to the top of the list.
MP3 radio is a completely different experience from the standard Internet radio we've become used to. Essentially, it allows you to select the music you enjoy from a selection of 18 programmed stations selecting from several musical genres including, blues, classical, rock and country. Then you just sit back and enjoy the music.
As with the others, you can burn CDs, create customized play lists and use any of the standard playback features we all expect (shuffle, repeat and replay). But the folks at MusicMatch have added the ability to create and print your own album covers for your CDs. Taking this a step further, they've included a utility that creates "scrolling" wallpaper of actual CD covers.
Truthfully, the only thing it lacks is a service that automatically downloads music you like to your hard drive, which is what makes RealJukebox unique. Other than that, MusicMatch is definitely ready for prime time.
What makes this program really special is MusicMatch Radio. With it you can:
Access music in 18 popular genres personalized to the listener's taste.
Create a personal radio station, called My Station, containing a selection of music selected according to your listening habits.
Artist Match, which creates a station based on your favorite artist, playing music by him/her or similar artists.
Station Match, which gives you the power to be your own disk jockey by mixing music from different radio stations.
Other features of MusicMatch pretty much parallel those of its competitors, including:
The ability to download music to an MP3 player or other portable device.
The availability of third-party plug-ins to enhance your listening experience.
Listing of performers, titles, album names and genre in the playlist.
Standard CD-player controls - play, stop, repeat, shuffle, etc.
A media window displaying covert art, visualizations and streaming video.
A "track info" button that provides additional data on the song that's playing, including the artist's discography and biography and how and where you can purchase the CDs.