Best free MP3 software: 10 programs for playing and managing your music

Play it, sort it, convert it and more with these top free programs

6. MP3Tag

Digital music veterans shudder when you say "ID3 tags" to them: they're the tags that describe each music file, and that audio apps use to organise music. Unfortunately incorrect or inconsistent tagging can cause chaos when half your REM tracks are tagged "R.E.M.", collaborations are tagged as separate artists and nobody can never make up their mind about how to spell Red Hot Chili Peppers.

MP3tag ain't pretty, but it's pretty handy to have

The good news is that MP3tag can look at the mess, tut loudly and sort it all out. It can fix inconsistencies and errors, spellcheck your tags and cross-reference them with Amazon and Freedb.

7. MP3jam

For digital natives, the place to discover new music isn't Spotify or iTunes: it's YouTube. Artists haven't been slow to notice that, and as a result you'll find music on YouTube that isn't available anywhere else – not to mention endless covers, tributes, live versions and parodies, as well as music from undiscovered new artists.

Use MP3jam to find the music you love on YouTube

That's a lot of audio – more than 20 million tracks – and YouTube doesn't always make it easy to discover. MP3jam is designed to help you find exactly what you want among YouTube's ever-growing library of content, and it can download the audio to your PC too.

8. FreeMake Audio Converter

In an ideal world, every audio player or device would recognise every kind of audio file. Unfortunately this isn't that world, but you can get closer to it with Freemake's Free Audio Converter.

FreeMake Audio Converter
Free Audio Converter makes converting audio files a breeze. Brilliant

It has a music player that can handle more than 40 different audio formats, and it can also convert from one to another – so if you need to convert your FLACs into MP3 or AAC, convert Ogg Vorbis to Windows Media, compress music to save space or merge multiple tracks together for gap-free listening, Free Audio Converter can do the job quickly and without fuss.

9. Foobar2000

If you're looking for a fast, flexible and really powerful music player for Windows, you really ought to check out Foobar2000. It supports all the key formats – MP3, AAC, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC and many more – and can rip audio CDs, plus it has excellent tagging capabilities, a customisable user interface, gapless playback and customisable keyboard shortcuts.

Foobar2000 is the perfect audio app for power users

The available extensions add all kinds of features: fancy decoding 8-bit Atari chiptunes, decoding Nintendo sound files or adding the same reverb that PlayStation games use? It's a little over the top for just playing the odd Taylor Swift track, but it's a great app.

10. Audacity

If you make music as well as listen to it, or if you want to convert old analogue formats into shiny digital files, then Audacity should definitely be part of your audio arsenal. It can record and export in a ton of different file formats, remove unwanted noise, clicks and hisses, adjust frequencies, add fades, cut and paste waveforms and use both VST and Audio Unit effect plugins.

We can't believe the brilliant Audacity audio editor is free

It's particularly good for jobs such as digitising vinyl records (the filters do a great job of removing unwanted turntable rumble) and mastering audio files for production. We're amazed it's free.