The Best iTunes Alternatives for macOS

iTunes is hot mess. Bloated and ponderous, iTunes continues Apple’s ongoing trend of having lost its design mojo. But fear not: there are some pretty good iTunes alternatives for macOS Sierra.

RELATED: The Biggest Design Mistakes Apple Has Made in the Past Two Years

Our requirements for replacing iTunes are fairly simple: a replacement needs to be easy to use and painlessly play our music, and it should include a media library for organizing everything. The applications we’re going to discuss today all meet these basic requirements—some do so minimally while others are packed with more features. All, however, let you put your music first.

Here then are twelve standout replacements for Apple’s media behemoth.

Musique: Beautifully Simple Player

If you want a simple music player with a library, but also really like looking at cover art, Musique is well worth a look. This player creates its own library, and even downloads pictures of every artist. You can browse your collection by artist or album, or even go old-school and browse by folder.

There’s also an information panel, which shows you some background about the artist and album alongside the lyrics for the currently playing song.

It’s a very nice package that feels native on macOS—something you can say for every option on this list. Musique became free recently. The only catch is that it subtly promotes an ID3 tag cleaner named Finetool.

Plexamp: Simple Yet Robust (Once It’s Set Up)

Plex has certainly been ambitious lately, and Plexamp is just one recent example. As the name implies this is a mini-player in the style of Winamp, all powered by a Plex server.

We know: setting up Plex just for a music player seems like a pain. But it really isn’t, and once you have Plex set up, you have access to a really great player that can stream your music from wherever it’s stored. The main interface is clean, showing the album art for what’s currently playing along with the track and artist name.

When nothing is playing, you’ll see some recently played artists alongside some recently added albums.

Most times, this is all you need to quickly put on some music. If that doesn’t work, you can search your collection or use the library radio function, which is kind of like Pandora but uses only your collection. This isn’t going to be perfect for everyone, but it’s a unique music player that stays out of your way. It’s really worth checking out if you want something that’s strictly for music.

Set up a Plex server on your Mac and you can use Plexamp offline. If you always have an internet connection, you could store your music on a home server and access it anywhere.

Clementine: Tons of Features for Any Power User

Clementine is a full-featured, cross-platform, open source music application that plays audio CDs, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, and more. You can set it up to search and play music from your local library or content you’ve uploaded to cloud storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Box. Clementine also features support for a number of Internet radio streaming services, including Spotify, SoundCloud, and Grooveshark.

In other words, Clementine is a power user’s music player. It offers robust tagging tools, album cover artwork, an equalizer, visualizations, lyrics, and podcast support. Creating and curating playlists is particularly emphasized, with options to add not only files and folders, but internet streams as well.

Clementine will even work with your music player like iPhone, iPod, and other mass storage devices, easily letting you transcode and transfer your music files.

Of all the iTunes replacements on this list, Clementine might be the most feature-rich right out of the box. You can see a full list of its features here, and it is indeed impressive, but these features never interfere with it’s one critical focus: your music. And that’s how it should be.

The one downside: it really doesn’t feel like a native Mac app. Some users won’t care, but some might find it annoying.

VOX: The Little Player that Can Do Everything

1_3_17__11_27_AM

Vox finds its way onto many lists like this, and with good reason. By all appearances, Vox seems simple enough—with its mini interface almost reminiscent of Napster-era Winamp—but it’s really packed with scads of features. Top among these is the ability to import your iTunes and personal library, and integration with SoundCloud and YouTube. For a $10 in-app purchase, you can even get access to over 30,000 Internet radio stations (no, that’s not a misprint).

If that’s not enough to pull you in, Vox also includes an equalizer, gapless playback, and Sonos and Airplay support. It also lets you download playback control extensions, so you can listen to Vox with your Apple EarBuds, create playback shortcuts, or incorporate your Apple TV Remote.

Vox is free to download and use (apart from the radio feature), though it reminds you frequently to try its LOOP Music Cloud Storage, which gives you unlimited storage you can use to upload as many files as you want and listen to them wherever you go. LOOP isn’t cheap, however ($4.99 per month), particularly when compared to other cloud storage services.

Recent versions of Vox are more aggressive about promoting LOOP, but you can alleviate this by downloading an old version of the player.

Nightingale: Simple and Customizable with Tons of Plugins

Nightingale is another open-source iTunes alternative that’s actually a little reminiscent of older versions of iTunes. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Nightingale’s appeal lies in its simplicity. It excels at the basics: playing your music and organizing it into a library complete with artwork, tag editing, and…well, that’s about it. Oh, it will also play video files, but simple really is the name of the game here.

Nightingale plays the most essential audio file formats: MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, Apple Lossless, and WMA.

One of its more unique features is its built-in web browser, which means if you want to listen to something else for a while—say, Pandora—you can do so without ever leaving your main music app.

If Nightingale’s stark simplicity isn’t your cup of tea, you can really make it sing with its voluminous add-ons. These let you extend the application into almost anything you desire, including skinning options known as “feathers,” equalizers, file ratings, tagging tools, playlist extensions, and much more. Just don’t be surprised if you get carried away with how many powerful features you can add to it!

Quod Libet: Organize and Play Your Music the Way You Want

If you thought NIghtingale was basic, wait until you get a load of Quod Libet. Carrying on the trend of cross-platform, open source music applications, Quod Libet—which means “whatever you wish” in Latin—will likely appeal to many who prefer its simple, spartan interface. It emphasizes the “Just Play Music” mentality that many iTunes converts crave.

There’s not a whole lot going on with Quod Libet on the surface, which is a good thing. It’s feature set is pretty routine, including album covers, lyrics, automatic tagging, and multiple file format support (MP3, Ogg, FLAC, AAC, etc.). Rounding things out are multimedia key support, truly powerful tag editing, and a whole bunch of plugins that extend the application into almost anything you require.

Beneath its humble appearance, however, lies the heart of a truly powerful music application. The software is highly customizable and scalable, with the ability to handle large libraries numbering in the tens of thousands.

Quod Libet supports multiple ways of interacting with your music—playlists, album lists, or album collections. It also features built-in Soundcloud integration, podcast support, and perhaps one of the most extensive gatherings of Internet radio stations out of all the applications on the list.

Finally, Quod Libet places a lot of emphasis on letting you organize your music your way, and regular expressions make searching your collection this application’s most outstanding feature. You should definitely read up on all the ways you can search through your music, because it is truly impressive.

Tomahawk: Combine Streaming and Social Services Into One Program

Tomahawk is a little different from the other music players on this list. It’s a sleek, fast, open-source application that not only plays your tunes with no fuss, but also has features not found on other players, including:

The emphasis of Tomahawk is the social aspect, and as such, you can create your own custom stations, listen to what your friends are playing, drop and share songs, and even check your Inbox to see what people have shared with you.

Finally, you can install any number of plugins that will let you further extend Tomahawk’s functionality and power. There’s almost too much to explain and yet, Tomahawk still manages to observe that Cardinal Rule of music players: thou shalt not interfere with one’s enjoyment of thy tunes.

Swinsian: A No-Nonsense Music Player with Tons of Features

Swinsian is an Old English word meaning “To make a (pleasing) sound, make melody or music.”

Swinsian is a lightweight iTunes replacement. It can import your iTunes library, add watched folders for automatic importing of new tracks, and let you subscribe to podcasts. Swinsian supports formats like MP3, FLAC, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, and others. It also lets you connect music playing devices like iPhone and iPad for easy file transcoding and transfers.

Another standout feature is automatic sample rate switching, which means Swinsian will give you the highest quality playback from your music files.

Much of Swinsian’s appeal, however, lies in its music library organization skills, which includes powerful features such as a duplicate file finder, auto dead file deletion, and global find and replace for your music tags. The library includes multiple views, such as art grid, columns, track inspector, and a separate playlist window. It also autocompletes tags and downloads cover art.

Swinsian is a deceptively powerful but simple Mac-only music player for $19.95.

Fidelia: An Old-School Vibe with Lots of Sound Tweaks

Fidelia pays homage to hi-fi audio systems of the past with a sleek, shiny interface resembling an old-school premium head unit. It looks pretty and displays track details, audio wave forms, and stereo levels. It also offers four size options, including a mini player.

Fidelia takes that premium hi-fi theme one logical step further by offering powerful Audio Unit effects such as equalizers, compressors, and something called the CanOpener headphone modeler, which basically makes your headphones sound more like loudspeakers. You can apply up to three of these effects to your music playback at a time.

Fidelia plays all the usual file formats, including MP3, AIFF, WAV, AAC, Apple Lossless, Ogg Vorbis, and FLAC. It includes some extra goodies to round it out, including a playlist window, music library that will import your iTunes library, and AirPlay support.

Fidelia isn’t cheap ($29.99), but you can try it for free.

VLC: The Simple, Jack-of-all-Trades Media Player

Last, though definitely not least, is the venerable VLC, which besides playing pretty much every file format in existence, is also a surprisingly capable iTunes replacement.

Chances are you already have VLC installed on your Mac for playing video files not supported by other apps. But while VLC is fairly simple and no nonsense, it can do more than just play the odd video or audio file.

There’s a fairly robust media library, and you can also create playlists, download cover art, and edit tags. It’s not the fanciest, most feature-packed app of the bunch, but what VLC lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up with simplicity.

If you’re still not sold, consider that you can also extend VLC’s functionality with add-ons, including playlist parsers, a song teacher (an extension that teaches you lyrics), music rating, and others. Finally, VLC has a few streaming radio options and offers podcast support.

It may be a little basic, but VLC does the job. If you’re just looking for something simple and free, it’s an excellent option.


There was a time when iTunes on the Mac was the only game in town, and finding a suitable replacement was nearly impossible. Those days are long gone, and in fact, the ten music players represented here are but a sample of the growing number of music players for Mac. Still, what we’ve talked about today are among the best. They’re all robust, capable, and easy to use.

So, if you’re looking to ditch iTunes for something with a lot less baggage, give one these ten options a shot. You and your music will be glad you did.

Photo credit: sergign/Shutterstock.com

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.


Justin Pot is a staff writer for How-To Geek, and a technology enthusiast who lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.