Today, we review Audials Play, an incredible piece of freeware for Windows that allows you to regain control over how you consume audio/video media. Aggregate your favorite streams together with your local file library together in one attractive interface; mix and match tracks into versatile playlists, and make high-quality (legal!) copies for offline play. We’ve barely scratched the surface, so check out the full Audials Play review below.
Media Streaming – What We’ve Gained, and What We’ve Lost
Remember the days of yore when we actually managed our own media? We would centralize our audio and video files onto hard disks and burn entire libraries of CDs. It was a digital wild west of new music discovery and sharing, and it was awesome.
Slowly but surely, though, we’ve moved into a new age where mega streaming sites and apps curate our content for us. And many have unquestioningly welcomed this unprecedented convenience as a boon.
Some of us, however, remember what it once meant to build your own media library. It’s about more than convenience; our podcast and music collections are emblematic of our unique tastes and personalities. And having agency over a self-built archive of digital media gives us the freedom to enjoy its contents however and whenever we want–Internet connection and subscription fees be damned.
It’s not just nostalgia talking. Convenience ends where a crowded marketplace begins. Netflix, for example, no longer holds a virtual monopoly over movie streaming. Now, every major network seems to have its own proprietary app. The modern media landscape is thus highly segmented and, more often than not, gated off behind monthly premiums–which add up quick the more services you use.
And what happens when a streaming service decides it no longer offers a particular series, podcast, or discography? You lose access, just like that–even if it was on your daily playlist.
Not so convenient, after all. Clearly, we’ve lost something in the process of streamlining our media consumption.
Enter Audials Play
Audials Play for Windows rejects the notion that you have to give up agency to enjoy TV, music, and podcasts on demand. And equally importantly, it alleviates the pain of managing separate content libraries across disparate streaming apps.
Imagine having access to SoundCloud, YouTube, Amazon, and many other streaming services within a single streamlined interface. That would be cool, but Audials Play steps it up several orders of magnitude, promising access to virtually any track, TV show, or podcast in the world.
That’s an exciting claim, but not particularly ambitious in the age of Big Data. What puts Audials Play over the edge is its ability to save all of this media onto local or cloud-based storage. From there, you’re free to manage your library as you see fit, sending playlists and albums directly to your smartphone from your computer via the Audials Play Android app.
Additionally, there are smart features built-in which allow Audials Play to make truly tailored recommendations to fuel your media discovery. And no, it’s not just another predictive algorithm that makes broad assumptions about your taste–but we’ll get to that later.
Audials Play Key Features
We’ve given you an overview of Audials Play for Windows, but let’s take a closer look at what makes the app worth your time.
No, playlists are nothing new. However, how many apps can you recall which allow you to compile media from across different platforms?
Audials Play offers a slick interface in which you can import your favorite audio/visual tracks from YouTube, Spotify, Vimeo, Amazon, plus all the world’s major TV and Radio networks and so many more sources besides. Already got a sizable media collection on local storage or DropBox? Easily extend your music collection even further with a quick add to your Audials Play playlists.
Once you’ve added tracks to your playlists, you can manipulate them as though they were natively available within the app. Play, fast forward, rewind, pause, increase/decrease speed, equalization; it’s all possible with Audials Play–even if some of these functions aren’t available on a track’s original app.
In short, Audials Play playlists offer a seamless way to consume media from all the different apps, stations, and services that you use. Did we mention you can also add files from local storage and physical media just as easily?
We’ve already alluded to the fact that you can use Audials Play to tap into existing content libraries, but it’s worth stressing just how much access you have.
Millions of Podcasts
The number of podcasts on offer is measured in millions, with every conceivable genre well-provisioned for. Sports, history, science, tech, religion, culture, comedy, crime, news… it’s all here.
Every Radio Station in the World
Additionally, you can tune into well over 100,000 radio stations from across the world. To put that number into context, estimates say that the total number of radio stations globally isn’t much more than 100,000. It’s perfect for discovering content in other languages, or keeping up with the news back home when you’re abroad.
More TV Channels than You’ll Know What to Do With
Audials Play might as well be the final nail in the coffin for cable TV, with access to every major television network in the US. Think ABC, Fox, CNN, Comedy Central, and much more.
There’s also myriad niche channels to pick from, plus English-language and foreign programming from around the world, too.
And here’s something to make you feel warm on the inside: Audials Play labels any stations that feature ads. Thus, you can navigate stations without fear of being bombarded with obnoxious radio ads.
Every Music Artist Discography
As for music, you’re spoiled for choice. Because Audials Play is essentially an aggregator (albeit one with exceptional quality of life upgrades), you have access to a dizzying array of albums, singles, and compilations from virtually any artist. Any discography that you can find online, you’ll also have access to via Audials Play.
And for everything else, you can easily import tracks from your physical media and mix it in with the rest of the stuff you got from online. It’s absolutely seamless.
One thing many people probably won’t miss from the old days of building a media library by hand is updating the metadata by hand. You either hated doing it, avoided it altogether, or treated it as a Zen exercise.
Sites like Spotify tend to take care of this for you. And Audials Play was designed to take advantage of that fact; thus when you add a track or album to your library, it will automatically import ID3 tags, album art, and lyrics.
Of course, you can also manually change this metadata to suit your organizational preferences as well. Additionally, Audials Play provides a robust tag editor which allows you to easily categorize and sort your library.
Discovery via Styles and Music Zoom
Having access to basically everything might be overwhelming without some way to parse that massive dataset. Fortunately, Audials Play has got you more than covered with Styles and Music Zoom.
Styles functions similarly to “the algorithm” in that it makes recommendations based on what you’re watching or listening to.
However, the big difference here is agency. Rather than having a bot monitor your every move, you specify which artists, tracks, podcasts, and stations represent your tastes. From this pool, Audials Play makes tailored recommendations more likely to float your boat.
Additionally, there’s Music Zoom. Data visualization geeks will recognize this as a massive correlation matrix, but everyone else will appreciate the practical aspects of music discovery it offers. Imagine having a big, digital web linking every artist in the world together based on association. That’s what Audials Play’s Music Zoom is–wrapped up in a slick, attractive, intuitive visual interface that makes data deep dives not only easy, but fun.
Saving and Recording Media
Low key, this is the reason to use Audials Play. Rather than relying on an internet connection to allow access to a streaming library, you can create copies of audio tracks and save them locally to physical media–or else save them to your choice of cloud storage.
There are limitations, of course, as Audials Play is freeware. However, you can pay for modular upgrades that allow you to record video from the likes of Netflix, as well as advanced recording options for Spotify, Deezer, Audible, and more.
But on its own, Audials Play is quite capable. Any track in your library can be click-and-dragged to copy to hard disk, flash memory, or the cloud. You can also send it directly to your phone’s local storage to enjoy your playlists and podcasts on the go.
Oh and here’s a flashback for you: Audials Play lets you burn your mixes to CDs with a built-in disk image writer.
Of course, you’re not actually downloading the original tracks–that would be illegal (and technologically difficult to implement at any rate). Audials Play instead makes a high-quality copy for your personal use, metadata included.
Copy mode is particularly useful when paired with Radio. Here’s why:
Ever jump into the car, only to catch the tail-end of an interview or an amazing new song you’ve never heard before? More than likely, you were left forever wondering how you could find those tracks again.
With Audials Play, you have a timeline of stuff you’ve listened to–even partially. Audials Play retrieves all the data associated with that listen, giving you a chance to replay it from the beginning and even record it for later consumption. That is powerful stuff!
Wait… Isn’t that Illegal?
Not at all. Copy-protection measures like DRM only guard against direct downloads of media in its highest-definition form. Audials Play makes lower-quality facsimiles for personal use only, which are not under the purview of copyright laws and DRM.
That said, for all but the most discerning audio buffs, you’ll find the quality of copies made is quite good–It’s just not the maximum resolution or bitrate that is commercially available. Yes, it’s a bit of a tradeoff, but one well-worth the time you invest into learning and using Audials Play’s amazing features.
Looking Beyond Audials Play for Windows
We’ve mentioned several times that Audials Play is freeware. It’s incredibly robust, and doesn’t try to upsell you with gated features. Right out the box, it will quickly become one of your most-used Windows apps.
There are versions of Audials Play for MacOS, Android, iOS and even a web-app you can access within your browser. But, they’re not quite as fully featured yet. For now, the Windows version is definitive.
However, Audials does have other products in its stable beyond Audials Play:
Generally speaking, each of these modules offer advanced options for copying media. The most basic (but undeniably useful) is the ability to copy faster than 1x playback speed. Depending on what you’re copying and where you’re sourcing it, you might get between 5x and 30x. You can also set up scheduled and multiple parallel recordings.
Moreover, these modules allow you to tap into an even broader range of online sources, including Netflix, Hulu, Audible, Tidal, Amazon, and many more.
Audials One is the big Kahuna, roping in all the functionality of Play, Radio, Music, and Movie into a single integrated interface. Of course, Play works beautifully with any single piece of expansion software, so don’t feel obligated to go all-in due to FOMO.
Radio, Music, and Movie all cost less than $30, though specials will run the prices even lower. One represents an incredible value at under $60. But the best bang for buck is Play, costing you nothing but giving you so, so much in return.
Audials Play Miscellaneous Thoughts
At this point, it should be pretty obvious that we rate Audials Play pretty highly. But we always like to consider the broader experience beyond just the app in our reviews.
In our opinion, apps live and die by their support. Fortunately, Audials features a cavernous Troubleshooting, FAQ, and tutorials section that will help answer almost any question you might have. And beyond that, email support is available and pretty fast to answer queries even from freeware users.
One nitpick: Audials Play has a beautiful user interface, but their website is a little more utilitarian. While the design is functional, it’s not fully reflective of the effort they put into their apps. It’s a bit of a shame because they’re underselling themselves. Make no mistake though, Audials Play itself is slick and intuitive as they come.
Audials Play makes copies locally, so you will probably be fine without a VPN to encrypt your traffic. That said, there’s about a million other reasons you ought to be using a VPN, so you might as well switch it on while using Audials products for full peace of mind.
Audials Play Review: Verdict
This was an easy review to write, because what Audials Play offers hits home. We remember the days when iTunes and WinAmp were the centralized media management solutions. There was a lot of manual labor involved, but you were free to curate a local library and to really make it yours.
These days, digital ownership is a fuzzy proposition. Yes, it’s convenient to pay a monthly fee to a streaming service and have them take care of the rest. But you don’t get the benefit of having it all in one place, and paying for multiple subscriptions gets expensive fast.
Moreover, you have zero control over metadata; you can’t mix and match media from disparate sources; and there’s nothing you can do when streaming giants decide it’s time to stop airing your favorite podcast, radio station, or artist discography.
Audials does away with the true inconvenience brought by modern “convenience”, and helps you regain agency over your personal media library. It also makes use of Big Data visualization techniques to help you discover new artists and stations and curate your feed of recommendations.
In short, Audials Play leverages modern technology to bring back an older, better way of consuming media. Yes, that’s an opinion–but one many audiophiles and TV buffs are sure to share. For literally no money or obligation, Audials Play gives you a ton of agency over how you build your library. That’s priceless, and we’re glad it’s still a thing in an age where copyright trolls and greedy tycoons otherwise dictate how you interface with the broader media landscape.
Have you ever used an Audials product? What are you listening to these days? Got a hot playlist? Be sure to share your thoughts below!
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