Friday, August 04, 2006

Making most from Winamp

Winamp : make more music to your ears!

One of the big reasons for invasion of PCs in homes is because of its ability to play multimedia files, particularly Music files. And, by and large, on every other PC, music files, especially MP3 files are handled by one and only application called Winamp. Winamp is arguably the most preferred, freely available MP3 player among PCs and considering its clones; it is equally popular in Linux/Unix World. Its plug-in support makes it capable to play virtually all kinds of media files. It is fully customizable since it also supports third party plug-ins including Skins and Visualization plug-ins.

There are various versions of Winamp that has been released periodically. Currently, the latest version is Winamp3, which is still in beta stage. For Winamp3, it has been claimed that it is a brand new version built with the help of brand new methodology of coding called Wasabi. With Winamp3, you will get complete customizability of media playback experience via system of component programming. The skinning system is completely revamped that can be dynamically blend and rendered on the fly. Further, newer version is going to be released for Linux platform too. The new Wasabi coding platform is going to be easily compiled for other Operating Systems and architectures and its Skins need not be modified for platform specific settings.

Here are some tips that you can apply to your Winamp to make more music to your ears. Take note that some settings may not be available or need different tweaking according to your version of Winamp. However, most tips work for latest full version of Winamp (i.e. Winamp2.75).

· The feel & look good factor:

You hardly give a second look to anything if it isn’t feeling good to your eyes. So, beautify your Winamp by applying your preferred Winamp skin. There are hundreds and thousands of Winamp skin freely available across Internet that you can download and use. You can also find numerous Winamp skin in i.t. CDs. So, get these skins (which are specially edited compressed picture files) and copy them to your Winamp’s Skin folder. By default, it is under Program files/Winamp/Skin directory. Restart Winamp. Right click anywhere on Winamp player, and point your mouse pointer to Skin menu that appears. You will see the names of all the Winamp skin that is available in that folder including recently copied skins. Click on the particular skin which you want to apply on your Winamp player and instantly you will see that your Winamp player has been revamped to a new life! If you have dozens of skin collection, then you can organize these to different folders too. In that case, simply set skin directory indicating to that folder. To set skin directory, follow above steps and instead of clicking a particular skin, click on ‘Skin Browser’. Now click on ‘Set skin directory’ button and select the folder you want and click OK. Next time when you restart Winamp, the skins from that directory will be available for you to choose. Further if you want to randomize the skin automatically, you can select the ‘Random skin on play’ checkbox. If size does matter to you, than you can increase to double the size of your Winamp player from Clutterbar that is available at the top left corner of Winamp player. Alternatively, right click on Winamp player and go to options. Click on ‘double size’ (pressing shortcut keys Control and D simultaneously while playing Winamp will give similar results, and every aspect of Winamp can be controlled by keyboard shortcuts that you can see by right clicking on Winamp player and selecting Nullsoft Winamp/ Keyboard Shortcuts ). You will see your lovely player’s face in real size now! And in rare cases, if you are still not satisfied with the available skins that ranged from Aishwarya to Zeba and from Tintin to Taj Mahal, then you can create your own Winamp skin with some freely available Winamp skin maker applications. Making Winamp skin doesn’t require much expertise and you can quickly make Winamp skin from your beloved one’s images in no time. In Winamp3, you can apply your choice of color scheme to your player’s skin by applying different RBG values.

· The sound & light factor

Winamp is a player that has more control over your music than any other player. It has built in Ten Band graphic equalizer capable to control sound from 60 Hz to 16 KHz; that is effective and can be applied on the fly. The Winamp software pre amplifier has good range from -20 db to +20 db. It has panning bar that can be applied real time. Latest version of Winamp comes with more than a dozen equalizer presets ranging from Classical to Rock that you can choose from. You can record your own customized preset and save them for use at other time.

To load Winamp equalizer preset, click EQ button of Winamp player if equalizer window is not visible already. Then click Presets button on Winamp equalizer window. Go to ‘Load’ and then click on ‘Preset’. You will see a list of installed and saved equalizer presets. Select one and click on it. It will load instantaneously if you have set ‘ON’ button which is indicating by green light over ‘ON’ button of Winamp Equalizer window (it is clearly shown on base skin, may not be visible or distorted on other skin). For recording your own equalizer settings, simply move respective bar of each frequency to either up or down position to suit most to your ear, and click on Presets button. Then go to Save, select Presets and type the name by which you will later recognize your setting and click on save. It will be there until you delete it. The equalizer setting can be made either Linear or Logarithmic.

Winamp has built in visualization window that shows you visualization effect corresponding to music being played. It also supports more advanced visualization plug-ins that are astonishing and mesmerizing in visual effects.

Refine sound:

There are settings & preferences that you can change and apply for further refinement to music. Right click on Winamp player and go to Options and click on Preferences menu. You will see various menus in left window pan that appears and corresponding entries in right window pan for further customization. For example, under Plug-ins/ Input menu, you can see entries for installed plug-ins like MPEG audio, WMA, MP3, MIDI, MOD, CD audio and VOC/WAV etc. By default, Winamp plays your MP3 files through Nullsoft MPEG Audio Decoder plug-in. So select that entry and click on Configure button. A settings window called ‘MPEG audio decoder settings’ will appear having various settings tabs. Click on general tab. You will see a section named Full file buffering. If you have sufficient RAM, than you can increase the settings for ‘Buffer entire file from disk if file is smaller than … Kilobytes’. Here, you can increase the value up to 99999 KB. But, choose a safe value but definitely more than default 128 KB (this setting is for better playback and less hard disk activity). Now click on Decoder tab. You will see Output and Quality sections. If you have old computer with old sound card, you may uncheck ‘Allow stereo output’ and ’16-bit output’ and lower the quality to ‘Half’ or ‘Quarter’ for less CPU usage. Similarly, the Equalizer setting can be changed from Linear to Logarithmic. Next, click on streaming tab. In ‘Streaming Data Buffer’ section, you can increase default 64 KB value to 256 or more KB if you have high end system for smooth playback of music over Internet.

Now click on ‘Output’ menu and select Nullsoft waveOut plug-in that is responsible for giving you sound output. Click on configure button. In Output device section, you will see a dropdown tab where installed devices are present. There, you may see entry for your sound card also. Though, Winamp recommends Wave Mapper device, you can choose your sound card device for better performance if it is high end type card. Click OK to apply these settings. Similar settings can be made for other Input and Output devices.

Refine Visualization:

To get most out of visualization plug-ins like Winamp’s Advanced Visualization Studio, follow these steps: Start Winamp preference window by right clicking on Winamp player. Then go to Options and then click on Preferences. Under Plug-ins section, click on Visualization and select Advanced Visualization Studio. Click on Start button that appears at right pan. Depending on your previous settings, Visualization window will appear, along with Winamp AVS Editor. Right click anywhere on visualization window and select newpicks (if it is installed with Winamp then it will be there). You will find numerous visualization entries here. Click on any one of it. The selected visualization will start. You can further customize the selected visualization through Winamp AVS editor. Depending on the selected Visualization, context sensitive menu will appear in the editor window’s left pan. Click on each and try to change values and mathematical expression on the right pan that include color settings to blending and rendering and shapes etc. You may derive a new, dashing Visualization for you. If you find difficulty in finding Winamp AVS editor, then try this: right click on Visualisation that is playing and select ‘Dock in config’. The visualization window will be docked in Winamp AVS editor. You can always play visualization in full screen mode, but your Desktop can also play visualization. For this, click on Settings tab of Winamp AVS Editor and click on Display menu. Ensure ‘Overlay mode’ and ‘Set desktop to color’ check box remain checked. Similarly, for better visualization, select Beat detection settings to ‘Advanced’ (in Winamp AVS editor/settings/Beat detection). The output of visualization window can be directed to overhead projector for a party or for DJ-ing.

With all these settings, Winamp is ready to rock you. The time for playing some serious music has finally arrived. So fire your Winamp and shake your entire surrounding with great sound and light from it. And if you find difficulty in finding your taste of music then there is mini browser right there in Winamp that can download your taste of music from Internet.

Snapshot Descriptions:

  1. Winamp1.bmp: Visualization settings can be changed for personnel preference and building entirely new visualization by Winamp editor.
  2. Winamp2.bmp: Winamps3 has various dock able windows for different settings including skin switcher media library etc.
  3. Winamp3.bmp: Beautify your Winamp through various Skins.
  4. Winamp4.bmp: Go to Options > Preferences for customizing Winamp’s settings.
  5. Winamp5.bmp: Winamp preferences window where every aspect of winamp is customizable including icons, file types etc.
  6. Winamp6.bmp: Enable Winamp agent if you want Winamp in your system tray, ready to sing for you with a single mouse click.
  7. Winamp7.bmp: MPEG audio decoder setting: Increase the value of full file buffering if you have high end multimedia system.
  8. Winamp8.bmp: You can lower down settings of Winamp if you have older Computer and sound card having less resources.
  9. Winamp9.bmp: In wave out plug-in setting, you can assign output device to your sound card if you have better one. Increase the buffer and block size for better, un-interrupted playback.
  10. Winamp10.bmp: Winamp recommends Wave mapper as default output device. But you can experiment by applying your own sound card.
  11. Winamp11.bmp: Winamp has built in visualization window and its settings can be changed.
  12. Winamp12.bmp: Winamp3, able to customize in all respect including Skin color that can be set by applying RBG values.
  13. Winamp13.bmp: Winamp AVS editor lets you change the way the visualization look and perform for you with every beat of music.
  14. Winamp14.bmp: You can find several visualization plug-in with Winamp 2.75 full version. You have to test each and every to know what they deliver and which one matches your taste.
  15. Winamp15.bmp: Winamp AVS editor’s built in compiler has built in functions that can be changed dynamically for desired output.
  16. Winamp16.bmp: Select desired Plug-ins through Presets > newpicks in Winamp AVS editor.
  17. Winamp17.bmp: You can change Mathematical expressions and value of coordinates to customize Winamp visualization.
  18. Winamp18.bmp: Set Winamp’s beat detection to ‘Advanced’ for better visualization.
  19. Winamp19.bmp: Winamp has a mini browser that lets you download music, free skins, free plug-ins, play radio and more from Internet.
  20. Winamp20.bmp: If size does matter, double it by pressing CTRL + D while playing Winamp.
  21. Winamp21.bmp: Winamp has numerous built in graphic equalizer presets.
  22. Winamp22.bmp: Right click on visualization which is playing then click on ‘Dock in config’ in context menu that appears for invoking Winamp AVS editor.

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