Test three: Music search

How fast can you find favourite songs?

Search

Album Flow is almost surreal with its search. It's very slow, and on those instances it does provide results, they're terrible. Given that there's no other easy way to navigate, this is a particular letdown.

Fidelia looks magic by comparison, despite having only a basic list that can be filtered. Having to first select a library to search seems old-fashioned.

Ecoute is more impressive, its search field rapidly providing results grouped by album, artist, composer, genre and track. However, it's beaten by Sonora, Swinsian and Enqueue.

Sonora's search is similar to iTunes 11's, but significantly faster; in a snap, you get album, artist and track results for your search term, and you can also use the sidebar to navigate to specific artists.

Swinsian is also extremely speedy, and live filters all its views (browser, list, art grid) at once. Enqueue is perhaps a touch better in this respect, although it's somewhat slower; selecting a track from a search result loads all related tracks into the sidebar, ready for you to browse.

Verdict

Album Flow 1.0: 1/5
Ecoute 3.0.8: 4/5
Enqueue 1.0.1: 5/5
Fidelia 1.2: 3/5
Sonora 2.0 (beta): 5/5
Swinsian 1.7.1: 5/5

Test four: Useful features

What further goodies do the apps offer?

Fidelia

With the exception of Fidelia, all of the apps on test respond to media keys on relatively modern Apple keyboards, and can go full-screen in Lion and Mountain Lion. Ecoute, Enqueue and Swinsian also offer definable system-wide shortcuts for important actions. Sonora and Swinsian support Notification Center, and all bar Album Flow and Fidelia will scrobble played tracks to Last.fm.

Going beyond the basics, Album Flow pulls in artist biographies, and Enqueue has nicely integrated top artists/songs bar charts. Ecoute and Swinsian have a desktop info window (the former also boasts themes), and Enqueue, Swinsian and Fidelia have mini-players - Fidelia's being particularly welcome, since the remote-like mini-player is far more appealing than the default hi-fi interface.

Fidelia has 'high def' leanings, which involve optional AU plug-ins, processing and resampling, although activating them all costs a wallet-busting 70 quid through in-app purchases. Its lack of more basic features is therefore baffling.

Verdict

Album Flow 1.0: 2/5
Ecoute 3.0.8: 3/5
Enqueue 1.0.1: 3/5
Fidelia 1.2.1: 2/5
Sonora 2.0 (beta): 3/5
Swinsian 1.7.1: 4/5

The winner: Ecoute

Ecoute

In an ideal world, we'd be praising Sonora. The application is elegant and simple, and certainly in a manner iTunes will never be. However, with its inability to import iTunes libraries with any degree of success and development having stalled, we're forced to look elsewhere for our winner. Enqueue, also broadly impressive, similarly stumbles badly regarding importing iTunes data.

Of the remaining apps, Ecoute almost wins by default, largely in being able to seamlessly work with existing iTunes content rather than messing up an import, and additionally through having an interface that's not only pleasant to use but that's also not trying to clone iTunes in some manner. That it's also free to use doesn't hurt either.

Final verdict

Album Flow 1.0: 2/5
Ecoute 3.0.8: 4/5
Enqueue 1.0.1: 3/5
Fidelia 1.2.1: 2.5/5
Sonora 2.0 (beta): 2/5
Swinsian 1.7.1: 3/5